College Requirements for Airline Pilots Do you Need a Degree to be a Pilot?
When looking at being an airline pilot as a career choice, the question of “Do I need a college degree to be an airline pilot?” often comes up. The answer to this question is both yes and no…
Currently, regional airlines are suffering from a considerable shortfall of qualified pilots. Regional recruiters are mostly concerned with a pilot having their 1,500 hours, having a good track record with the FAA, a good driving record, no criminal history and the pilot being a good guy or gal to work with. With that in mind, to be hired as a regional airline pilot in today’s market, there is no requirement for a college degree.
While the regional airlines do not require a bachelor’s degree from a reputable college or university, major airlines do. This fact leads us to the next logical question, should you get an aviation degree to become a pilot? The answer is no. Getting an aviation degree or going to an aviation college is not a requirement to become an airline pilot. In fact, major airlines accept any and all bachelor fields and aren't the least bit concerned with what you studied in college. The degree is more of a tool to demonstrate an applicant’s ability, discipline, and commitment. So, when choosing a degree major, choose something that you not only enjoy, but also think you could fall back on if necessary.
The reality of when an airline states that a degree is “preferred” versus “required”.
Preferring a Degree Versus Requiring a Degree
Some airlines might say that a degree is “preferred” and not “required”, but the reality is that a pilot will need a degree to get a call from a major airline. Occasionally you might hear pilots say that “the pilot shortage is affecting the majors and they will be dropping the degree requirement”, but this is not true. A pilot job at a major airline is a highly competitive position and the majors have thousands of applications on file, educational status is a very easy way for the airlines to begin the selection process.
What About Major Airline Flow Through Agreements?
The only current exception to the college degree requirement at the majors is those pilots that flow through to American Airlines (AA) from one of their regional airlines that participates in their flow through program. While this is a way to get to the majors without a degree, it is extremely limiting in that by not having a degree, the pilot is restricting their options solely to AA.
Do you Need a Degree for Flight Training?
No. While ATP has found that students with at least two years of college experience are very successful in the program, they are not the only ones. ATP has successfully graduated students from all walks of life and as such, offer opportunities for those that show a solid work, personal, and/or military history. To that end, ATP requires incoming students to have two years of college experience, or two years of relevant work experience (military included) or hold a Private Pilot License (PPL).