"my college is paid for"
You had better review your benefits and eligibility and read all the fine print. Assuming you have 100% eligibility under the Montgomery GI Bill you can be reimbursed up to the full cost, but only if you enroll in a flight training program at a state college or university in your home state and you are enrolled in a degree program. If you go to an out-of-state institution or a private university they're not going to come close to covering all your costs.
Second is that you won't be eligible for flight training benefits until you earn a private pilots license at your own expense. That will set you back $10,000 to $12,000 on average.
Third is that to fly for a major airline, you'll need a 4 year degree and then 5-10 years experience as a working pilot. If you're not single, how are you going to support a family while you're in school? And, after you graduate, how are you going to survive several more years on the low entry-level wages you will earn? It's going to take a couple years as a flight instructor or in some other entry-level job just to get the qualifications to earn an ATPL so that a regional airline can hire you. By that time, your GI bennies will have expired, so the ATP course will be paid out of your own pocket. And then, assuming that you do get hired by a regional airline, where starting salaries are under $25,000 per year, you're very likely going to spend a minimum of 5 years on co-pilot pay before any major airline will take an interest in you. In that 5 years or so, you'll barely see the north side of $40,000.
So right here you're already about 10-12 years down the road. Assuming you get that far (I hope you have a patient, hard-working and understanding wife), the starting wage for a first officer at a major airline is still a bit less than $40k for the first year while you're on probation. If you make it through the 1 year probationary period without doing something that gets you invited to find another job, then the salary will jump above $50k, but it will easily take another 5 years to get close to a six-figure salary, and around 10-15 to see the captains seat. Assuming that you're about 22 now, by that time you'll probably be 45-50 years old. That would still give you a lot of years earning a great salary, but are you willing to wait for it? Is your family? There's a high divorce rate in the flying biz due to long years of struggle and a husband who is away from home a lot.
So, those are the facts. Whether it is "worth it" is up to you, and you also have to understand the risk that you may never get hired by a major airline, which means you can look forward to significantly less earnings as a pilot. You can still do OK, but you also need to assess whether working in an industry where job comes first and family comes second means you'll be away from home an average of 50% of the time, you'll work a lot of weekends and holidays and odd hours, especially in the first half of your career as a first officer, and then again for the first half of your career as a captain. Yup, thanks to the seniority system used by all airlines, you get to experience the sh*t end of the stick twice. Junior FO's and Junior Captains get the least desirable routes and schedules.
On top of all that, you've got to remain healthy so you can hold a first class medical until you're 65, and you have to stay out of trouble. A DUI can destroy a career. So can a flying accident where you're found at least partly responsible. So can a serious violation of flying regulations (even if inadvertent), and a number of other things. These and many other things can bar you from getting a major airline job in the first place or can cut a career short. There is absolutely no guarantee that you will even make it to a major carrier. None. .
But lets say that none of this phases you. I'd recommend that you think about going to a 2-year community college flight program so you can earn the licenses and ratings faster than at a 4 year school. Graduate with all the instructor ratings so you can start working, and then transfer to a 4 year state college so you can finish a Bachelor's degree while working part-time as an instructor. Assuming that this is an option family-wise and you have the energy and drive to do it, you can speed things up by 2 years. You also might consider becoming a helicopter pilot instead, or going into another sector of aviation where advancement doesn't take so long.
Well, Skippy… You have four years of college ahead of you, and then about TEN more years of working for peanuts to build flight hours before you can even qualify to be an airline pilot. You could make more money flipping burgers at McDonalds. In fact, you will probably HAVE to flip burgers at Mickey D's just to feed your family.
Even if you DO manage to hold on long enough to become a REAL airline pilot, there's no guarantee that you will EVER reach the level of earning a six-figure salary. MOST commercial pilots these days are forced into retirement long before that happens.
They make decent money. One of my brother in laws is an airline pilot and has a pretty nice house and his wife don't need to work and can take care of my 2 nephews full time. They are about my only relatives that don't ask me for money, but that's another story.
I saw a program about this – the salary paid these guys is horrible! The work is hard and long hours – and the pay is crap! So check it out carefully.
Depends on what you consider liveable I guess and if you're captain or co-pilot. A co-pilot ($21K-36K) earns considerably less than the captain ($123K-165K).