This article here explains the differences between the privileges and limitations of a FAA Flight Instructor and a FAA Ground Instructor Certificate, and 10 reasons why you should get your Advanced Ground Instructor (AGI) certificate along with your CFI initial certificate.

Basic Differences

Flight Instructor Certificate

A flight instructor certificate is needed when one needs to teach another pilot applicant the flight maneuvers (flight training) or the aeronautical knowledge (ground training) for the issue of a pilot certificate. In other words, a Flight Instructor certificate holder is authorized to teach both the flight and the ground portion of a pilot training course.

Ground Instructor Certificate

A ground instructor certificate is needed when one needs to teach in a pilot training course only the ground portion of the course, i.e. aeronautical knowledge portion only. No flight training at all, period.


If I can teach both the flight and the ground portion of a pilot training course with a CFI certificate, then why do I need to have a separate ground instructor certificate?

I have always recommended that when you are working on getting your CFI certificate, might as well get your ground instructor certificate as well. It’s just a matter of taking one extra written exam (knowledge exam), which is about $100 extra cost and that is it! Here are TEN reasons why I recommend it:

  1. Adds extra credentials to your professional pilot CV. One extra FAA certificate in the list of your pilot qualifications looks better, and reflects better authority, professionalism, and dedication towards your profession.
  2. Does not have any expiration date. CFI certificate expires every 24 calendar months. And many a times, during your career progress you may not be able to renew it in time. The reasons are as varied as one can imagine. Too busy flying for the airline, too busy getting marital life together, was out of country, completely forgot, medical reasons….and so on. If you have a ground instructor certificate, you can still teach the ground portion while you are working towards getting your CFI certificate renewed.
  3. Does not need a medical certificate. Foresightedness is wisdom. And planning for the old age, or simply the rough times is a smart thing to do. Imagine if there is ever a time where you are not able to renew your pilot certificate (yes, CFI certificate does not require a medical, but a pilot certificate does, and the CFI certificate is only valid when accompanied by a pilot certificate) due to medical reasons, you may not be able to exercise the privileges of your CFI certificate, but the ground instructor certificate will still be valid.
  4. Is required for a gold seal instructor award. If you ever want to qualify for the FAA gold seal instructor (who wouldn’t) award, then a ground instructor certificate is a requirement, and not an option.
  5. Reduces liability and risk. In today’s world we have to think and manage the liability issues as well. Right now you may be young with no assets and probably with thousands of dollars worth student loans. But things are not going to stay the same throughout your life. Down the road, if you ever teach someone just the ground portion of the training, use your ground instructor certificate (especially when signing off the FAA written exams) for the signoffs and endorsements. In case anything ever comes back to haunt you, it will be your ground instructor certificate at the risk of being suspended or revoked by the FAA, and not your CFI certificate.
  6. NAFI Master CFI and Master Ground Instructor. NAFI recognizes both the flight instructor and the ground instructor as Master Instructors. When you are working on getting one, might as well get the other too. In most cases, if planned ahead of time, you should be able to qualify for both with not much extra effort. Now you could be a dual Master Instructor! Imagine that!

    IGI can teach on Simulator

  7. Simulator Instructor job requires IGI. Simulator based training is getting more and more mainstream way of training pilots nowadays. To the point, that even the basic training of the pilots is shifting towards heavier usage of the simulators. And there are many jobs available, from basic to type rating instructors which can be yours, and here again for the reasons mentioned in # 5 above, you can use your Instrument Ground Instructor (IGI) certificate, and spare your CFI from unnecessary exposure.
  8. It’s easier to get it now than later. Let’s say you did not get your AGI certificate now, and later on down your career path you decide, or are forced by one of the circumstances stated above to get one; at that time it won’t be simply a matter of extra $100 expense. You will have to sit and review the entire FIA / AGI FAA question bank all over again to get prepared.
  9. It’s cheap, easy and effortless. When you take your knowledge exam for the CFI course (the FIA – Flight Instructor Airplane), at the same time (and right after the FIA exam) take your Advanced Ground Instructor (AGI) exam as well. No extra preparation is required (same question bank). Just pay the CATS or LaserGrade testing center extra $100 or so for the extra exam and that’s it. And take the results of the FOI and AGI to the local FAA FSDO and get your Advanced Ground Instructor certificate.
  10. Doesn’t require any other pilot certificate. To be a ground instructor, there is no eligibility requirement to hold any pilot certificate. That means, you can be a ground instructor even before you get your student pilot certificate. So, if you have a passion for aviation, and want to master the art of learning and then teaching aviation, and possibly even get yourself an employment (and source of funding) in aviation industry, you may want to become a ground instructor.

If you are interested to read more about How to get your Ground Instructor certificate and/or rating, read my post that talks about it here.

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  • kimoking

    Yeah I wish I did my AGI and IGI when I took my exams because it helps save time in the end. As a CFI I believe I can pass the exams, but I want to make sure it will be a definite pass because whether I spend the time before or after the exam it will still take the same amount of time in preparing to pass the exam.

  • sns3guppy

    Some excellent comments. However I disagree on one point: using a ground instructor certificate while providing ground instruction does not necessarily insulate you from liability, nor does it protect your other certificates. When enforcement action is taken, it's taken not against an airman's certificates, abut against the airman. Further, when liability is concerned, civil liability is a key issue. No jury and no court particularly cares whether you signed off your student as a ground instructor or flight instructor. Litigation won't be against your certificate, but against you. The best insurance against the bad side of the liability tree is to ensure the job is done very carefully, very thoughtfully, and with the full sense of liability in mind at all times. Attempting to use one's ground instructor certificate to protect one's flight instructor certificate is a little like hoping an ATP with multi privileges, with single-engine commercial privileges will only get dinged at the commercial level during enforcement action when flying a single engine airplane. It doesn't work that way. The FAA takes action against the airman, not his certificates. Simulator instruction, incidentally, does not require the IGI. Otherwise, very good comments, and I agree; there's no reason not to go for the ground instructor certificates.

  • dsa

    At some aviation universities, the AGI and IGI will give you a ton of credit toward a degree… another reason to get it!

  • C172Pilot

    You motivated me to get my IGI and AGI last year. I ended up coteaching a ground school class with another CFI. The CFI also allowed me to give private instruction to his students. I was making more per hour than most CFIs as the pilot puppy mills. Thank you and I hope this success story encourages others to do it as well!

    • CFI

      Glad to hear your success story C172Pilot. Way to go!! I know some who have made great careers out of teaching ground schools. John and Martha King for example 🙂

      • raffaello bonanni

        I GOT MY AGI AND IGI but not experience yet at the moment. any suggested sites looking to employ me ???

  • Richard

    Got my AGI after the private just to learn more. Later I picked up an IGI–that was tough but very satisfying. Never used them much, but believe they have given me a much stronger knowledge of aviation. It’s too bad writtens have become more expensive, but if you can swing it I’d recommend picking up the certificate.

    • CFI

      Try and get some teaching experience utilizing your AGI and IGI, and by the time you are ready for your CFI and CFII checkride, you\’ll be so confident and knowledgable that these 2 checkrides would be a breeze to you. Most CFI applicants who fail, fail on the ground/oral portion.

      • Richard

        Thanks. I teach college and try to sneak a little aviation in to my science classes. Don’t know about ever getting a CFI, but the background did help with my recent commercial glider oral and written. And you’re right about the tests–that oral was a very tough 3 hour talk with an examiner, (far different than when I got my private sel and glider 40 years ago). After that the flight check seemed pretty straightforward.

  • Andrew

    Five is NOT true! An FAA inspector told me himself that if something happens to your student, EVERYTHING is fair game for revocation. He gave me examples of how saps have fallen for that myth…all of which were bad. Becoming a ground instructor is a great thing, but don’t think for a second it’ll reduce your liability. Also, assertion number seven is simply not true. If one has a CFII, the he or she does not need an IGI.

    Finally, the author failed to mention another advantage of becoming an AGI…you can endorse ANYONE to take a knowledge test. This means from LSA to commercial. This can also be for ANY category/class of aircraft such as gliders, rotorcraft, lighter-than-air; whereas, with a flight instructor certificate, you can only endorse knowledge test applicants what you’re rated for. In short, becoming an AGI lets you sign almost anyone off for a knowledge test.

  • Zach Byers

    If its the same question bank, why don’t you just get it automatically. I’ve already paid CATS a ton of money! I think I’ll pass.

  • Hi guys,
    My CFI/CFII/MEI expired 4 years ago, can I only take the AGI written and go to the FSDO? Or do I need to take the FOI again?

    • CFI

      You don\’t need to take any written for the reinstatement. Unfortunately, you will have to take any ONE of the flight instructor (CFI, CFII or MEI) checkride. You can take this either with a DPE or with the local FSDO.
      To get a ground instructor certificate however, you will need to take just the AGI written, but this can not be used for reinstatement.