What are the requirements to become a CFI?

cfi requirements

There is a straightforward way to gain more hours by becoming a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI).

Assuming you got your commercial pilot license, don’t fret over finding your first job. You are pretty close to landing your airline job, but you have to count one more step: Building hours as CFI.

Having a CPL and Instrument Rating means you already fulfill most requirements to become a CFI.

I discussed most of the CFI requirements in this post:

  • PPL, CPL, IR;
  • Total 250 hours flying time;
  • How many hours of ground instruction is necessary?;
  • What tests must you take to apply for a CFI certification?;
  • Is there any checkride for the CFI rating?

What are the CFI requirements?

To become a certified flight instructor, one must be 18 years old and acquire the initial pilot licenses.

Likewise, to acquire all the licenses and a CFI rating, pilots must have adequate money.

You might likely become discouraged from continuing flight training without having adequate money. Many students delay their flight training and eventually spend a lot more than they are supposed to because of a lack of funds. So apart from money, the crucial requirements to become a CFI are listed below in order.

What pilot licenses are required to become a CFI?

To become a CFI, a pilot must have a commercial pilot license and an Instrument rating. A private pilot cannot apply to become a CFI. A private pilot must obtain his CPL and IR to be eligible for a flight instructor rating.

Becoming a flight instructor is a challenging job.

Your task as a flight instructor will be to train competent pilots. Therefore, your students and the flight school will expect you to have excellent knowledge of safe aircraft operations and aviation regulations.

A private pilot doesn’t need to have extensive aeronautical knowledge as much as a commercial pilot. Additionally, Instrument rated pilots are in a different league than many pilots think.

Hence, it is required for CFI’s to have a commercial pilot license with an instrument rating.

Would I like to learn from a private pilot with only 70 flight hours or from an IR-rated commercial pilot with 500 hours?

It’s not that private pilots cannot learn as much as commercial pilots, but they don’t need so much information for their limited flight operations.

On the contrary, commercial pilots learn advanced maneuvers and aircraft controls because they plan to fly airliners someday and be responsible for hundreds of lives.

Likewise, the FAA requires aspiring CFI’s to have a CPL and Instrument rating before applying for a flight instructor’s license so that the students learn from more experienced pilots.

It is mentioned in multiple places online that a pilot with ATPL is also eligible for a CFI rating application. I understand that a pilot with an ATPL already has a commercial pilot license with an Instrument Rating.

An airline transport pilot licensee takes tough exams to acquire the right. As a result, these pilots have extensive aeronautical knowledge and understand subjects in depth.

What is the medical requirement?

A CFI applicant must have a third-class medical certificate. I find it strange that commercial pilot license applicants must hold a second-class medical certificate. On the contrary, the FAA eased the medical requirement for certified flight instructor trainees a bit.

Thus, by having a 3rd-class medical certificate, you are good to work as a CFI in the United States.

What is the minimum hour requirement to apply for a CFI rating?

A pilot must have at least 250 hours of actual flying time before applying for a CFI rating.

This requirement may vary depending on the country’s Civil Aviation body. But typically, the condition is 250 hours.

In the United States, pilots get a commercial pilot license between 200 to 250 hours. Thus it is easy for pilots in the United States to apply for a CFI rating after they complete their commercial pilot license and obtain an Instrument rating.

If a pilot doesn’t have 250 hours, the pilot must build additional hours to fulfill the FAA requirements.

For instance, a pilot that finished training in Part 141 school may not have 250 hours as a commercial pilot. Such pilots must build up to 250 hours to be eligible for a CFI rating.

Similarly, once a pilot is eligible to apply for a CFI rating, they require 10-12 hours of training to fly the aircraft from the right seat.

During this 10 hours training, the trainee will demonstrate multiple maneuvers to the instructor. During this time, the CFI trainee learns to teach flight skills to the students articulating information. The CFI trainee learns spin awareness, spin entry, and recovery techniques.

This training is essential for CFI students to understand the basics of flight training and techniques to teach new student pilots.

This minimum 250 hours requirement for CFI rating is another way to prove that the pilot is adequately skilled to teach new students.

How many hours of ground instruction is necessary for CFI trainees?

CFI rating applicants take the ground school to understand the fundamentals of teaching as a flight instructor. There is no ground class requirement to become a CFI, but CFI rating applicants require sign-off on instructional proficiency. Thus without ground school training from a flight school, you can’t get such endorsement.

Flight schools structure such ground training usually for 50 hours.

After taking the 50 hours ground classes, you can have your endorsement to take CFI knowledge tests.

If you have a passion for teaching and love flying, you will enjoy your job as a certified flight instructor, and ground training will not be tedious for you.

However, most pilots work as a CFI to build hours and then apply in airlines in the future.

CFI trainees can also observe other flight instructors in the flight schools while teaching on the ground. Many CFI trainees follow hours after hours how experienced flight instructors teach new student pilots on the basis.

Observation classes are an excellent way for newly certified flight instructors to learn how to be better flight instructors.

What tests must you take to become a CFI?

The pilots in the United States take two different tests for the CFI rating. The FAA requires all CFI rating applicants to take:

  • Fundamentals of Instruction test;
  • CFI knowledge test.

Passing these two tests will take you very close to obtaining your CFI rating.

The Fundamentals of Instruction test checks your teaching skills, and the CFI knowledge test is an advanced aeronautical knowledge test. In both trials, the applicants must score a minimum of 70% to pass the tests.

Nevertheless, a CFI applicant having a teacher’s license in the United States doesn’t require to take the Fundamentals of Instruction test.

This type of applicant is only required to pass the CFI knowledge test, and they are ready for the final step of obtaining the CFI rating.

The final step is the CFI checkride.

Once you pass the two knowledge tests for CFI rating, you are ready to take the checkride.

The FSDO inspectors conduct CFI rating check rides. Sometimes the FSDO inspectors are not available, and they suggest a DPE conduct the checkride.

Either way, the checkride for a certified flight instructor rating requires 1.5-2 hours. During the checkride, the check pilot will test your fight instruction skills.

The skills may include:

  • Safe operation of flights;
  • Spin entry, spins, and spin recovery;
  • Ability to articulate information to student pilots;
  • Demonstrating student pilots aircraft operation from the right seat;
  • Handling in-flight emergencies.

During the checkride, the check pilot is less likely to ask fundamental questions about airplane flying because, at this stage, the check pilot expects you to know all the PPL and CPL fundamentals.


The CFI training is one of the challenging fight training. During this time, you will learn to teach other pilots. Teaching is not an easy job, and teaching others to become pilots is far more tricky.

The CFI requirements may not seem like a lot; however, the journey to becoming a CFI might take some time.

The fresh commercial pilot graduates often work to get a CFI rating as quickly as possible, yet it sometimes requires six months r even more. Nevertheless, if you genuinely intend to share your knowledge with new student pilots, you will never find this job tedious, and likewise, students will enjoy training with you.

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