If you have dreams of becoming an airline pilot, you might be wondering if you need a college degree.
The good news is that, no, you generally do not need a college degree to become a pilot, as most colleges don’t provide a relevant education for becoming a pilot.
Even a Bachelor of Science in Aviation, the most relevant degree for becoming a pilot, only gives you a slight advantage.
Most airliners don’t require college degrees, but many military pilot positions, especially in the Air Force, require degrees.
That being said, having a college degree could provide you with an advantage in your application.
Table of Contents
- 1 Regional vs. Major Airlines
- 2 Airline Pilots Outside the USA
- 3 Best College Degrees to Become a Pilot
- 4 The Type of College Degree Doesn’t Matter for Pilots
- 5 The Reputation of the College Also Doesn’t Matter
- 6 What About for Becoming a Military Pilot?
Regional vs. Major Airlines
Virtually no regional airline require applicants to have a college degree to work as a pilot.
Some might prefer candidates with bachelor degrees, but most aren’t too concerned with whether you’ve graduated from college or not.
Most major airlines don’t need college degrees from applicants to become a pilot, but some airlines do prefer candidates with college degrees.
Here are the college degree requirements for the major airlines in the United States:
- Alaska Airlines: A college degree is unnecessary but preferred.
- American Airlines: A college degree is unnecessary but preferred.
- Delta: A college degree is unnecessary but preferred.
- Frontier Airlines: A college degree is unnecessary.
- Hawaiian Airlines: A College degree is unnecessary but preferred.
- JetBlue: A college degree is unnecessary.
- Skywest Airlines: A college degree is necessary.
- Southwest: A college degree is unnecessary but preferred.
- Spirit Airlines: A college degree is unnecessary but preferred.
- United: A college degree is unnecessary but preferred.
Airline Pilots Outside the USA
Generally, most international airlines do not require applicants to have a college degree to become a pilot.
International airlines don’t ask for college degrees for the same reason US ones don’t: college degrees mostly aren’t useful for flying.
That being said, many international airlines also prefer candidates with college degrees, so it’s better to have one than not to become a pilot outside the USA.
Best College Degrees to Become a Pilot
The best college degrees for becoming a pilot are all related to aviation and flight.
A BA or BS degree in aviation, aerospace engineering, and aeronautical science would be the best qualifications since they make you directly eligible for flight training programs.
The single best degree for becoming a pilot is a BS in Aviation, since it provides you with a commercial pilot certificate and gives the most relevant education to flying.
Enrolling in one of the best online ground schools to initially obtain a private pilot license is also important.
The Type of College Degree Doesn’t Matter for Pilots
The type of college degree doesn’t particularly matter if you want to become a pilot.
Most commercial airlines that require bachelor’s degrees don’t specify a preference for a specific degree or major.
Most military pilot positions also don’t ask for specific degrees.
However, the best degree for being a pilot is a Bachelor of Science in Aviation, as this degree provides prospective pilots with the most relevant education and the best qualifications.
That being said, the benefits of having this degree above others isn’t massive. Most pilot positions don’t require a degree anyway, so having a Bachelor of Science in Aviation only gives you a slight advantage.
The Reputation of the College Also Doesn’t Matter
Attending a more prestigious college would only provide you with a slight advantage over going to a less prestigious college.
This is because a college degree isn’t generally needed to become a pilot in the first place.
What About for Becoming a Military Pilot?
Generally, you would need a college degree to become a military pilot in a majority of circumstances.
Although most military pilot positions need a college degree, there are often no requirements for you to have chosen specific majors or courses.
You especially need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university for becoming a military pilot officer.
The military offers degree programs and tuition reimbursements for candidates that don’t meet educational requirements.
Army aviation officers don’t need college degrees.
Instead, they need at least a high school diploma and minimum scores on flight aptitude tests.
Army aviation officers have lower educational requirements because they only help the army with coordinating aviation troops and provide aviation instruction.
They usually don’t actively fly planes.
Most army aviation officers attend flight school after high school, where they’re taught about basic flight systems, map-reading, and emergency protocols.
There is also the possibility of becoming a Fixed Wing Aviator Warrant Officer or Rotary Wing Aviator Warrant Officer who pilot aircraft.
You need a four-year bachelor’s degree to become an Air Force pilot. Air Force pilots also attend a minimum of nine weeks of Officer Candidate School before becoming enlisted.
Air Force pilots fly fighter jets and train flight crews, so their position has higher educational requirements.
The U.S. Navy requires four-year bachelor degrees for both pilots and naval flight officers.
Recruits for both positions also go through advanced flight training before receiving specific training for their aircraft.
Nearly 30% of Marine Corps Officers are pilots – and you are required to have a bachelor’s degree to become one.
Recruited pilots undergo three stages of aviation training before becoming enlisted.
- You don’t need a college degree to become a pilot in a majority of instances.
- Commercial airlines, in particular, don’t ask for college degrees because most colleges don’t provide a relevant education for flying.
- Many pilots also only become pilots later on in life once the typical timeframe for going to college has passed.
- That being said, having a college degree is still considered preferable by most airliner.
- In contrast, military pilots often do need college degrees because of their more specialized roles. Specifically, Air Force pilots need 4-year college degrees to be eligible.
Helen Krasner holds a PPL(A), with 15 years experience flying fixed-wing aircraft; a PPL(H), with 13 years experience flying helicopters; and a CPL(H), Helicopter Instructor Rating, with 12 years working as a helicopter instructor.
Helen is an accomplished aviation writer with 12 years of experience, having authored several books and published numerous articles while also serving as the Editor of the BWPA (British Women Pilots Association) newsletter, with her excellent work having been recognized with her nomination of the “Aviation Journalist of the Year” award.
Helen has won the “Dawn to Dusk” International Flying Competition, along with the best all-female competitors, three times with her copilot.