Flight Instructors


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Remember that if you want to work as a flight instructor, you'll have to become a pilot first. So take classes in high school that will prepare you for college. Chemistry, physics, algebra, geometry, and other advanced science and math classes are important to take. Since a career in this field demands extensive use of technology, be sure to take computer courses. To help you develop your teaching skills, take English or communications classes—these will improve your writing and speaking abilities. You may also want to take acting or drama classes as well as psychology. These classes should help you with teaching skills such as commanding an audience and learning to understand others.

Postsecondary Training

Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not require flight instructors to have a particular degree, a college education is highly recommended. You may want to attend a university with a specialized aviation program, such as the one offered at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. If you prefer, though, you can take a broader course of study at any college. Continue your math and science studies, taking courses such as aerodynamics, physics, and college algebra. Classes in geography and meteorology are also helpful. If your school offers classes in the fundamentals of teaching or instruction, take these as well. And, naturally, keep up with your computer skills. Another option is to get your pilot training in the military, and you may want to contact your local recruiting offices for more information.

If you do not attend a specialized aviation program or get your training in the military, you will need to get flight instruction, either from an instructor who offers private lessons or through a flight school, also known as pilot school. The FAA provides information on pilot schools; visit https://www.faa.gov/training_testing/training/pilot_schools to find out more. As you learn how to fly, be aware of your school experience as well. What does your instructor do that you like or find helpful? Do you like the size of the school and the equipment there? After all, answers to questions like these may help you determine where you want to work eventually as an instructor.

Other Education or Training

Throughout their careers, flight instructors continue to hone their flying and instructional skills by taking additional flight training and pursuing continuing educations workshops, seminars, and webinars. These educational offerings are provided by flight schools, local aviation organizations, and technical colleges.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

To become a flight instructor, you will need to get FAA flight-instructor certification. To do this, you must have a commercial pilot's certification for the kind of aircraft (single engine, multiengine, instrument, and so on) that matches the flight instructor rating (designation) you want to have. You must have accumulated a certain amount of flying time and have your logbook properly endorsed. You must have completed training that covered topics such as evaluation of student flight performance, lesson planning, and how to properly instruct on stall awareness, spin entry, spins, and spin-recovery methods. In addition, you will need to pass a test with written and oral sections as well as a flight test. Certification renewal is on a two-year basis.

The National Association of Flight Instructors offers the master flight instructor accreditation and the associate master flight instructor accreditation. These certifications are voluntary and demonstrate commitment to the profession. To earn these, an instructor must meet certain requirements, such as being a member of the association, having a minimum number of flight instruction hours, having FAA flight instructor certification, and completing a certain amount of continuing education credits or activities. Visit https://www.nafinet.org/about-nafi-mcfi for more information. 

Other Requirements

You must pass a physical exam and be certified fit to fly. Naturally, anyone controlling an aircraft needs to have good vision. So you must have eyesight of 20/20 or better in each eye, although you can wear glasses or contact lenses to get this. Good hearing is also a requirement.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Several years of experience as a pilot are needed to be eligible to become a flight instructor. In addition to physical and intellectual requirements, flight instructors need to be calm, have excellent judgment, have good character, be able to deal well with people, and, of course, have a love of flying. Other important traits include strong communication and teaching skills, self confidence, and a willingness to continue to learn throughout their careers.