Pilots & Aircraft

Pilot College Requirements – Do They Need It?

pilots in cockpit flying

“Pilot college requirements” is a popular question asked by soon to be student pilots. For most professions in the world, it is typical to go through a university first. Is this the same for pilots? What degree should I get to become a pilot? Do pilots even need to go to college?

This question can be somewhat tricky to answer. Things like the type of pilot you want to be, and who you want to fly for should be considered when making such an important decision in your life.

What Do You Want To Fly?

plane parked on apron

The type of aircraft you want to fly plays a role in your education. Imagine piloting a space shuttle vs a small trainer. They are not equal and the space shuttle would require a lot more training.

Depending on what you want to fly in the future can help your decision. Below are some aircraft and their recommended education levels.

  • Flight Instructor, flying a Cessna 172 to a Piper Seminole – High School Diploma
  • Charter pilot, flying a King Air 350 or PC-12 – High School Diploma
  • Airline pilot, flying a 737 or 747 jumbo jet – College Degree
  • Fighter Pilot – College Degree
  • Astronaut – College Degree

You can also look at it as the bigger and more expensive an aircraft is, the more education and experience is needed to fly. However, this can be different country to country.

Where Will You Fly?

planes parked on airport

The country or region you want to fly can play a role in the required qualifications. For example, you must get a college degree if you want to fly for a major airline in the United States. Airlines such as Delta, American Airlines or United have this as their basic requirements.

However, major airlines around the world do not require their pilots to attend university. Emirates, British Airways and Singapore Airlines all do not require a bachelor degree. All airlines are more interested in your flying experiences. The ratings and the number of hours you have are what matters to “land” that new pilot job.

What Degree Do I Pursue?

Let us say that you want to fly for a major airline in the United States. This means you must get a bachelors degree. What university course should you now study?

As long as the undergrad degree is accredited, then it can work! If you want, you can have a bachelors degree in history. An airline will accept it.

But if you know this is the path you want to take in your career, will it be very wise to take an “useless” course? Most aspiring pilots pursue a degree in aviation science, aviation management or other aviation-related degrees. Some universities offer degrees and flight training at the same time. These part 141 schools are structured so that students can fly and earn their degree at the same time.

You can also fly at a local flight school and earn your degree online. This is not only more flexible but a cheaper option as well!

So, Do I Need A Degree?

picture of college building

Now, let us say that you want to fly for an airline in the UK. They say that a pilot degree is not needed. So should you forget about the degree? No!

I would highly recommend every aviator to get at least a bachelors degree. Even if it may not be a requirement, it will make your resume look better. Not only that, but your degree will serve as your personal insurance. God forbid, but unpredictable events can happen to pilots, which can result in them never to fly again.

For example, while you are in flight training, you pursue a degree in computer science. After you got the required hours, you apply for your dream airline and got accepted. Two years later, the airline filed for bankruptcy and will be shutting down. While you search for your next job, why not take up a software developer job in the meantime?

Fly & Learn

books and healthy fruit for college

So they are uses in having a degree as a pilot, even if the job does not require it. Currently, millions of pilots are not able to fly because of the pandemic. No one knew this was going to happen years ago. It is best to prepare and become more qualified, so you can stay relevant in your field.

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6 thoughts on “Pilot College Requirements – Do They Need It?

  1. I never knew you can become a pilot with just a high school diploma. Do carter pilots make the same compared to Fighter and Airline Pilots. What is the difference between the 3?

    1. Charter pilot operations are slightly different from an airline. Airlines are in a “more professional” environment and have scheduled flights ahead of time, while charters do not necessary have to be. When your client is ready, that is when you go fly. An average fighter pilot makes more than an average charter pilot.

      Hope that answers your question.

  2. Thanks for breaking down into details of what are the requirements in education level for applying different positions in aircraft company. I’m happy to know that some major airlines are looking for your experience but not your education level which I think will be more practical. Thanks again for sharing.

  3. What an interesting information. I have an acquaintance whose son moved to Poland some years ago, to attend a pilot high school and the university after that there. I thought you have to go through this kind of education if you were to make piloting your profession. I guess the requirements has changed over the years. How would then someone, let’s say with whatever bachelor degree, not connected with aviating get to become a pilot? Are the flying hours only what they need?

    1. For the most part, yes. Pilot positions are more interested in your flying hours and experience. To get these hours and ratings, pilots would have to study just like someone who is working on a degree. Hope that answers your question.

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