So you're getting your CFI and are wondering if you really need to put that instrument rating on it. It has after all been a while since you did your instrument rating, and you've been doing CPL and CFI in the meantime. If you're going the route of paying for your own training, flying Robinsons or Cabris, and building your flight time either instructing or flying low-hour helicopter tours, then you might wonder if that CFI/I is really worth the effort. It'll set you back a decent amount of money, not to mention you could be spending the time building flight hours and finally getting paid to fly!
There's no arguing that becoming a flight instructor is a great way to get started as a pilot. And it's easy to argue that once you're a flight instructor, do you really need to spend that extra time going through instrument again when helicopters barely even fly IFR in the first place?
It all boils down to what your aspirations are, how the job market looks, and what opportunities you have available to you. Let's take a look at what your career as a flight instructor would look like.
At some part 61 flight schools, you might not meet a lot of student pilots looking for an instrument rating. Helicopters don't really fly in IFR in the U.S., except for in certain specialized fields. Often you will find that students who graduate from schools which generally don't do much instrument flying aspire to move on to flying certain helicopter tours, agriculture work, or utility work. The issue is that even though an instrument rating might not be required for a job in the industry, the operator's insurance might require the pilot has an instrument rating to keep the insurance at a reasonable price.
If you were to instruct at a part 141 school, you'll have a hard time finding work without the CFI/I. This is due to the part 141 school following an FAA approved syllabus, which usually takes a student pilot from private through all available rotorcraft ratings and certificates in strict order. You could complete a PPL course from start to finish with a student, but then they'll most likely want to move on to the IFR, at which point you're out for a few months until the student has finished the rating. After that, you can get back to work on the CPL. Here's an interesting fact about that which is often neglected:
The 2010 "Grayson" legal interpretation states that to legally conduct the 5 hours of instrument training required for the rotorcraft CPL, the flight instructor must have a CFI with an added instrument rating. This is a major hurdle in your capabilities as a flight instructor. Essentially, you have to hand off your student to someone else and wait for them to be ready to get back to you, if that's what the student wants to do.
Another legal interpretation, the 2016 "Jablecki" legal interpretation, states that:
"In order to provide instrument training for a commercial pilot certificate or ATP certificate, a flight instructor must have an instrument rating on his or her flight instructor certificate. However, §61.129(c)(3)(i), unlike its counterparts in §61. 129, does not have a requirement for "instrument training" as defined in 14 CFR § 61 .1. Instead, § 61. 129(c)(3)(i) requires training on the "control and maneuvering of a helicopter solely by reference to instruments." Therefore, the training in § 61. 129(c)(3)(i) is not considered "instrument training" that requires a certified flight instructor to have an instrument rating on his or her flight instructor certificate."
It's a lot of back and forth between flight instructors if you choose not to go for the CFI/I. Ultimately, it's a must-have in the current climate, unless if you have a special opportunity after becoming a flight instructor, which is certainly not unheard of. Education is never a bad thing. It will make your skillset as a pilot more robust, and you'll become a more attractive person to hire from an employer's perspective.
At the end of the day, you don't need to be a CFII to teach the 5 hours training on the control and maneuvering of a helicopter solely by reference to the instruments, but understand that people interpret the FARs differently, and there are Designated Pilot Examiners out there who will not recognize legal interpretations by the FAA as anything noteworthy.