“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?
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?
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?
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
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.