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Old 02-22-2016, 03:59 PM   #1  
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Smile Career Change: Engineer to Pilot?

Hey guys,

I want to give a little background on myself first:

I am 22 years old. I graduated in May 2015 with my Mechanical Engineering degree - did it in four years and ended with almost a 3.6 GPA. It was a big accomplishment for me. I currently work for a large company that is very involved in the aerospace industry (I don't want to say any names in case someone is watching me ). I am actually a Materials Engineer and work exclusively on space products (satellites, Orion Spacecraft, etc).

Now I haven't even been out of school for a year, but I just don't know that I will ever get used to sitting at a desk staring at a computer for 8 hours a day. I feel bored. Not to mention most the real engineering work is reserved for the guys who are much smarter than I ever will be - this can be a bit discouraging. Anyways...

I started my PPL recently (I have four hours of flight ). What a blast. I absolutely love it - I passed my written with a 97% and have read the PHAK, AIM, AFH, and I am currently reading Stick and Rudder. I have always had the thought of making a career out of flying (in case engineering didn't work out), but since I started my PPL this thought has become more and more serious. Some of you may be saying, "Well you just started your PPL and only have 4 hours of flight! How can you make such conclusions already?!"

Maybe that is a fair statement. I know financially it would be a big sacrifice. I would have to finance this. I have thought about other methods of paying for this (such as continuing my job as an engineer and paying for it that way - and maybe that is feasible up through my Instrument Rating). I can just see myself really enjoying this as a career. I know I would be broke for quite a while - but I would rather be broke and love my job than have money and hate my job.

I will be with this job at least another 6 months (for various reasons) so a career change decision won't be made immediately - but it is something I am going to be thinking about.

Anyways...I thought I would get your guys' thoughts and opinions on this. Any feedback, suggestions, etc are much appreciated.
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Old 02-22-2016, 04:12 PM   #2  
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You sound very much like me... I was a ME grad from a top US engineering school, with a 3.5 gpa. I worked my way through school and was/am very proud of the accomplishment.

I worked in aerospace for several years, and also a couple of years in the power industry. I started flying for fun, and like you devoured any source of aviation knowledge I could find and loved it!

After working as an engineer for about five years, I made the switch to professional pilot. That was almost 10 years ago, and I am now a captain at a large regional. I really enjoy it, and am VERY glad I made the switch. I'm now working towards getting on at United or Delta this year.

Anyway, feel free to ask me any questions... You can also send me a PM, and I'd be glad to exchange phone numbers and talk to you about it. It's a big decision, and I know you probably want to make sure you think it through thoroughly. Best of luck!
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Old 02-22-2016, 04:23 PM   #3  
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You sound very much like me... I was a ME grad from a top US engineering school, with a 3.5 gpa. I worked my way through school and was/am very proud of the accomplishment.

I worked in aerospace for several years, and also a couple of years in the power industry. I started flying for fun, and like you devoured any source of aviation knowledge I could find and loved it!

After working as an engineer for about five years, I made the switch to professional pilot. That was almost 10 years ago, and I am now a captain at a large regional. I really enjoy it, and am VERY glad I made the switch. I'm now working towards getting on at United or Delta this year.

Anyway, feel free to ask me any questions... You can also send me a PM, and I'd be glad to exchange phone numbers and talk to you about it. It's a big decision, and I know you probably want to make sure you think it through thoroughly. Best of luck!
Oh wow awesome! Yea we will definitely have to exchange numbers. This will definitely be a big decision.

If you don't mind me asking...did you use your engineering job to pay for all your training?
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Old 02-22-2016, 04:36 PM   #4  
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Oh wow awesome! Yea we will definitely have to exchange numbers. This will definitely be a big decision.

If you don't mind me asking...did you use your engineering job to pay for all your training?
That's exactly what I did. When I made the switch, I had no debt which helped immensely.
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Old 02-22-2016, 04:44 PM   #5  
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That's exactly what I did. When I made the switch, I had no debt which helped immensely.
Wow that is impressive...it would take me many years to save up the cash for it...not to mention getting all those hours in a decent amount of time on top of a full time job would be crazy!
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Old 02-22-2016, 04:58 PM   #6  
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Wow that is impressive...it would take me many years to save up the cash for it...not to mention getting all those hours in a decent amount of time on top of a full time job would be crazy!
It wasn't that bad... I did everything at a part 61 school/small FBO, always few the cheaper old planes, and I did a lot of self study. That's where you, as an engineer with good study habits, have a huge advantage. Once you're done with your PPL, you can save tons of money on your IFR/Comm/CFI this way. Also, using a desktop flight sim for your IFR rating will literally save you thousands of dollars and really get you prepared. Just don't use one until after your PPL, otherwise you can pick up bad habits.

I started my PPL training in 2004, and was working as a debt free CFI by 2007. I bet I could have done it a little quicker even, but I was dealing with some other stuff.
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Old 02-22-2016, 05:30 PM   #7  
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It wasn't that bad... I did everything at a part 61 school/small FBO, always few the cheaper old planes, and I did a lot of self study. That's where you, as an engineer with good study habits, have a huge advantage. Once you're done with your PPL, you can save tons of money on your IFR/Comm/CFI this way. Also, using a desktop flight sim for your IFR rating will literally save you thousands of dollars and really get you prepared. Just don't use one until after your PPL, otherwise you can pick up bad habits.

I started my PPL training in 2004, and was working as a debt free CFI by 2007. I bet I could have done it a little quicker even, but I was dealing with some other stuff.
Interesting...I think once I get my PPL I will immediately start to save up again for my Instrument Rating...I will have to check out the simulator for that. Maybe my best option is to continue working as an engineer (gaining experience as an engineer) while doing flight training...I guess this will give me the best of both worlds in getting experience in both fields and then I can go from there...

I am not the most patient person sometimes so I tend to want to jump on one wagon or the other...but maybe that isn't the best option here.

I just don't want to sit at a desk all day ahhh haha

So how in the world did you build up all those hours as a CFI working full time as an engineer?
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Old 02-22-2016, 06:00 PM   #8  
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Pay as you go. Don't jump ship for something that might not be there. If, in the end, you can't find a job flying, you'll still be proficient in your engineering job. And you'll be debt free to boot.
Again, do as much as possible while working as an engineer.
(Or save enough to fully pay for a place like AllATPs).
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Old 02-22-2016, 06:12 PM   #9  
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Interesting...I think once I get my PPL I will immediately start to save up again for my Instrument Rating...I will have to check out the simulator for that. Maybe my best option is to continue working as an engineer (gaining experience as an engineer) while doing flight training...I guess this will give me the best of both worlds in getting experience in both fields and then I can go from there...

I am not the most patient person sometimes so I tend to want to jump on one wagon or the other...but maybe that isn't the best option here.

I just don't want to sit at a desk all day ahhh haha

So how in the world did you build up all those hours as a CFI working full time as an engineer?
Believe me, I know ALL too well that feeling of impatience! More than once I was tempted to just get a big loan and make it happen... But I'm glad I didn't. The main reason is the debt situation we already talked about, but the second (and possibly more important) reason was that I spent some time enjoying my training and time building.

You asked how I built that time up? I just flew when I could, and turned the occasional vacation into a time building experience. For example, one year my little brother and I wanted to fly down to FL to have Christmas with our aunt and uncle. So I rented a plane, and we flew from Denver to south FL and back. That was an AMAZING experience that we still talk about, and I learned so much (this was right after my instrument rating, so I was able to experience real world IFR flying to new airports).

That was by far the biggest trip I did, but I definitely flew a lot of "$100" hamburger flights with friends and family. It was really a lot of fun sharing my love of aviation with people in my life, and I've always felt so sorry for the quickie ATP style students that missed out on that stuff. That really is the fun part, and it's also invaluable for building that all important confidence and independent decision making you'll use for the rest of your career.

I should also add that I left engineering once I was a CFI. I didn't want to have a foot in each profession, it's just too difficult to do that and really not that necessary when you're young with little responsibility other than yourself.
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Old 02-22-2016, 06:13 PM   #10  
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Pay as you go. Don't jump ship for something that might not be there. If, in the end, you can't find a job flying, you'll still be proficient in your engineering job. And you'll be debt free to boot.
Again, do as much as possible while working as an engineer.
(Or save enough to fully pay for a place like AllATPs).
Yep, good advice. Having a few years of experience with that engineering degree will always be a good thing to have in your back pocket.
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