I am curious. Out of 100 new students that walk into the average flight school, how many only need a standard CFI, how many do instrument training, and how many do multi-engine training? Additionally, how much work does an AGI get? I’m trying to compare the cost of these ratings against how often they will be utilized.

Also, for the sake of data that makes some kind of sense, let’s exclude the recent Covid-19 market activity and go with pre-February 2020 numbers.

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    $\begingroup$ AGI and IGI test you on the same knowledge that you need for CFI and CFII. There are a few questions on helicopter operation but you can miss those and still pass or spend a couple of interesting hours reviewing FAA books. Cost of these is just the cost of the three tests and some study time. I’ve never earned money from mine so I can’t comment on the demand for ground instructors. $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 14:06
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    $\begingroup$ Forgot to add, If you don’t live near a FSDO, you’ll need to add in the cost of flyng there to do the paperwork required to get your certificate. $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 14:12
  • $\begingroup$ @JScarry, what you just said aid is basically the issue in a nutshell. AGI and IGI may only cost a few hundred dollars, but if you’ve never gotten any work from them, maybe the money is better spent elsewhere. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ @AaronHolmes for most people, their main motivator for obtaining a ground instructor cert is that it's a prerequisite for a Gold Seal. Other than that, it could be used by those who lose their privilege to fly for medical issues so they become full-time ground instructors. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ I added the USA tag since this seems to be a US-focused question. If I'm wrong about that, don't hesitate to change the tags and/or edit your questions. Please remember that this is not a US-only site, and we strongly prefer questions to identify the country or regulations they're asking about. If that's relevant to the question, of course! $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


First off, it depends on what kind of flying you want to do. Remember a flight instructor certificate is not required to fly an aircraft, either personally or professionally. The problem comes in that most professional flight jobs, either under part 121 or 135 require over 1000 hours total flight time and in some cases over 1500 hours TT. For a budding pilot with no other sources of income, this becomes almost insurmountable without doing flight instruction, as you’re legal to do this with 250 hours TT, a CPL, INST-A, and a CFI. If you do go the instructor route, the ratings you get for a flight instructor certificate all depend on what you’re going to do as an instructor. Instructor pay is based upon 1) the number of ratings that you have and 2) your dual given time. Remember, the more ratings you have the more flexible your employment options are; CFIs with 152/172 time are a dime a dozen. MEIs command the greatest salaries, though some schools only pay top dollar for multi engine dual instruction hours. Many schools today won’t employ you without at least a CFII (welcome to the insanity of flying for a living!). As to AGIs or IGIs, it again depends on the size of the flight school and the number of ground courses being offered. You can also do this as an independent contractor, but you will also have to recruit clientele, this is work in and of itself. Large Part 141 flight schools may have dedicated ground instructors for ground school, or may simply require new hire CFIs to hold ground instructor ratings. Ground instructor ratings are relatively easy to obtain; some home study followed by a testing fee of $300 or so for both the FI and AGI will get you one. Typical ground instructor pay is lower, on average, than flight instructor pay, but it all depends on your ratings and experience.

If you’re interested in making money as a CFI, my advice is to specialize. As I said before a CFI with dual time in Cessnas is so common that it doesn’t command much in pay in and of itself. Someone who can do, say, multi-engine, tailwheel, basic and advanced aerobatic training, CSIP certified, type ratings, seaplane rated, mountain flight training, warbirds, helicopters, gyroplanes, etc. can command over six figures as a CFI. The downside is that obtaining these additional ratings will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars so entry becomes prohibitive.

Now as to the numbers of people who become pilots and then flight instructors vs come through the door with an interest in flying, I’m not sure but I’d venture a guess that around 75% won’t even solo. Most people take a general interest in learning to fly then quit after a few flights from 1) the cost and time required to train, 2) medical or other barriers which prevent them from pursuing flight training and 3) the difficulty of flight training - many people expect something similar to the standards of US Driver’s Education or an MSF basic rider course and become disenchanted with flying when they can’t learn in a weekend by reading a 40 page booklet with a few flights. In the United States there are only about 600,000 licensed Pilots in a country of 300 million. Doing the math this works out to be about 1 in 500 people hold a Pilot certificate. Pilots holding instrument ratings are around half of the total ie about 300,000. Commercial, and Airline Transport Pilots - professional people who fly for a living - are around 100,000 and there are about 100,000 active flight instructors in the US as well. You can check the FAA’s Airmen Statistics for more precise figures. So if we go by the numbers of students at a typical flight school, out of 100 new people off the street, on average, only 25 will become licensed pilots. Of those 25, 12 will get instrument ratings and 6 will go onto obtain commercial certificates and flight instructor ratings.

  • $\begingroup$ The words "pyramid scheme" comes to mind. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn’t call it a pyramid scheme per se; more of a supply and demand thing. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 23:51

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