Do You Need a Degree to Become a Pilot? -

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Do You Need a Degree to Become a Pilot?

One of the most common questions we hear from students is whether or not you need a degree to become a pilot. Whether you pursue your pilot career through an accelerated training program or through a university degree program, there are important aspects of each path that prospective students should know and understand.

Do You Need a Degree to Become a Commercial Pilot?

Those who are interested in starting flight school to become a commercial pilot do not need a college degree to get started. In fact, some flight training can be done as early as 16 years old (although students must be 18 years old on the day of their commercial checkride) and many continue their training straight out of high school. However, keep in mind, the difference of commercial pilot vs airline pilot. Becoming a commercial pilot does not equate to working for a major airline or a large private jet company, rather it simply means you have met the necessary requirements from the FAA, passed your checkride and have received your commercial certificate. In this aspect, you are not required to have a college degree in order to earn your certification that makes you available for hire. Most entry-level pilot jobs do not require a degree either, only the necessary flight certificates.

 

Do You Need a Degree to Become an Airline Pilot?

Regional and Major Airlines typically do not have a college degree requirement. The requirements to become a pilot at a Regional Airline are meeting ATP minimums, having an upstanding record with the FAA, and that applicants are able to impress their future employers in the interview as a team player, a track record of dependability and professionalism, and of course someone who is a pleasure to work with!

On a major airline application, you may see some that say “degree preferred” instead of “degree required”. Even though you see “degree preferred”, having a degree might just enhance your application as working for the major airlines is extremely competitive and with consistently receiving thousands of applicants, the easiest way for them to narrow down the selection is by education status.

Another popular question is if you need an aviation specific degree. The degree is simply another tool that shows airline recruiters that you are not only committed and disciplined, but you have a desire to grow professionally. They aren’t necessarily concerned with what you chose as your major. When deciding on a major, consider what you are most passionate about or what type of career you would like to have if for whatever reason, medical or otherwise, you were no longer able to be a pilot. You want to have that option to look into if that were the case. If that is still in the field of aviation, then by all means, complete your aviation degree but don’t feel that it’s a requirement. The question then becomes, when and how should you get your degree.

When and How to Complete Your Bachelor’s Degree

When and how could you get a college degree if it’s something you’re interested in completing in addition to your flight training and becoming a pilot? This really boils down to personal preference. There are many different to choose from, each offering its own training styles and timeline of getting to the airlines. This is something each student should consider carefully because of pilot seniority. Pilot seniority plays a large role in your quality of life at the airlines. Everything from choice of domicile and jet to scheduling, benefits, and even pay. Meaning, the sooner you get to the airlines, the sooner you can rack up seniority. There are 3 main ways students generally consider getting their flight training and college degree.

Full-Time Accelerated Flight Training

A full-time accelerated flight training schedule such as ’s Pilot Pathway Program is a student’s quickest way to the airlines, and the fastest way to build seniority. In this route, students focus solely on their flight training first, gaining 7 certifications and ratings from private pilot through their CFIs in about 10-14 months. From there, they start working as a CFI to build 1500 flight hours required for their ATP. This puts them at a timeline of only 2-3 years before they’re working for an airline and building their seniority. When pilots are working as a CFI, or once they reach the Regional Airline and are working as a pilot with their seniority, they could look into gaining a degree to further advance their career. This will allow them to complete their degree online within the first 2 years of being a First Officer, while simultaneously already having 2 years of seniority, making them more marketable for a captain’s chair moving forward, but it’s more of a personal choice as a degree is not required!

Accelerated Degree Programs

There are also accelerated degree programs like Arizona State University & Purdue University Global that allow you to do flight training at an accelerated partner school, such as , while you obtain your degree with the University. Since the flight training is done in labs in a semester format, it generally takes between 1.5-2 years to complete. After that, students are working to build the 1,000 hours needed for their ATP. All the while, they’re taking online classes to complete the degree putting them at a full timeline of about 3-4 years to get to the airlines. As the training also takes places within the degree program, students are also able to use federal funding for flight training, as well as GI Bill benefits for VA students, by choosing this route.

Traditional Degree Programs

A traditional degree program, such as attending a four-year college or university, has many benefits. With this option students are allowed access to federal funding for school, they are able to do their studies and flight training together if choosing an aviation related degree, and once they complete their bachelor’s degree, they could reduce the amount of flight hours needed for their ATP to 1,000. It’s important to note that this path will take longer for students to finish building their hours and get to the airlines, but it is often helpful for students to be able to utilize federal funding for this program. Within this path, students will complete their degree in 4 years, and then will need to obtain an entry level job where they can gain the flight hours needed for their ATP which puts them more around a 5-6 year timeline to get to the airlines.

Needing a Degree to Become a Pilot – The Summary

While you don’t need a degree to work as a pilot, having a degree could help advance your career at some stages, typically in the final move to a major airline. Pursuing a degree program also allows you to fund your training with federal funding. However, by choosing an accelerated training path, students can get to the airlines faster and because of how pilot seniority works, students who have built their hours and are qualified for the airlines at an accelerated rate, will begin building their seniority right away and benefit from the perks that come along with that seniority. If you have any questions on how we can help you with your career goals, fill out the form below to speak with an advisor.

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