Degrees for Pilots: Top 7 Choices

Pilots · 7 min read · Sep 08, 2022
degrees for pilots


There are various ways to become an airline pilot. Some pilots begin their aviation careers by earning an undergraduate aviation degree, while others may have pilot licenses, flight training programs, or certificates without any formal education in order to become a pilot.

An Airline pilot is a good career choice. Many regional airlines are finding good or qualified pilots. They usually demand pilots to complete some flying hours.

Having a college degree is not mandatory by the Federal Aeronautics Administration (FAA) to become a pilot. Few major airlines also do not ask for an undergraduate degree. However, having a degree in any of the aviation degree programs certainly gives you an edge among all the candidates.

There are now several universities that offer graduate degrees specifically for pilots. These programs offer a variety of concentrations, such as airline operations and management, aviation safety, or aircraft engineering.

Earning a graduate aviation degree can be a great way to further your career as an airline pilot and gain the skills and knowledge you need to be successful in this field.

If you’re a pilot or want to become a pilot, you might be wondering what the process of getting a pilot license or getting an aviation degree is. Check out some of the top aviation degrees for pilots. Below is the Ultimate Guide on How to Become An Airline Pilot.

Young pilot flying a training plane.

The difference between an airline pilot and a commercial pilot

Airline pilots usually start their specialized career path as commercial pilots and they require an undergraduate degree to pursue their career path. Any bachelor degree can do the job. Two main documents for an airline pilot are a must; one is a commercial pilot’s license and the other one is an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate both issued by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The military pilot is transferred to a civilian pilot post and then they can directly apply for an airline pilot’s post.

While commercial pilots usually have to complete thousands of hours of flying in order to get a job with regional airlines or some major airlines. In order to be a commercial pilot, you have to complete flight training with a certified flight instructor. These flight schools can be part of some 3 to 4 years of aviation programs.

Pilots that want an open cockpit ticket must obtain both their pilot’s license (commercial) and another diploma or training program from the government.

Types of degrees that are available for pilots

Usually, pilot careers do not necessarily require a college degree, but they’ll give you an edge in securing your dream pilot job, nevertheless. Most airline pilots in the US have a bachelor of science degree.

That being said, here are the seven best majors for prospective pilots. The specialized career path for aviation includes degrees in aviation with a major in aerospace engineering, aeronautical science, aeronautical engineering, aviation technology, and maintenance.

Pilots are in high demand these days, with the aviation industry continuing to grow. If you’re looking to become a pilot, you’ll need to get the right education. Here are seven of the best science degrees to become an airline pilot:

  1. Bachelor of Aviation:

This is the most common degree in the career of becoming an aspiring airline pilot. This bachelor’s degree in aviation will teach you everything you need to know about flying, aviation management, and aviation technology, from the basics of aircraft operation to more advanced concepts like pilots’ responsibilities and flight regulations.

In fact, when you complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation, many times you’ll even be awarded your commercial pilot certification upon completion. the aviation education program usually takes to 4 years to complete.

This degree should be your first choice. As it is the most favorable one by airlines and employers. It teaches you everything including engineering, mathematics, dynamics, electronics, electricity, and how to fly, of course.

You will get to know about flight dynamics, aircraft, flying techniques, airport management, and the airline industry, this also provides you with flight training programs that are the best if you want to become a pilot.

Some bachelor of aviation programs award a private pilot license or in some universities too, so you might get two birds with one stone.

Main courses you can take in Bachelors of aviation technology programs:

  • Aviation management
  • Aviation safety
  • Flying theory
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Aircraft maintenance
  • Aviation MeteorologyA student pilot learning to fly a small airplane
  1. Bachelor of Science in Air Traffic Management:

A degree in air traffic management will give you a deep understanding of how pilots and air traffic controllers work together to keep flights safe. It is a great opportunity for you if you want to become an air traffic controller.

It takes only 4 years to complete air traffic management degrees.

You’ll also learn about the different types of aircraft, how they interact with each other in airspace and how to operate aircraft systems.

Courses you take in Bachelor’s of Air Traffic Management programs

  • Fundamentals of air traffic control
  • Control tower operation
  • Aviation
  • Aerodynamics
  • Meteorology
  • Aviation History
  • Industry regulations
  • Airline operations
  1. Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering:

To become a pilot, you’ll need to have a good understanding of how aircraft are designed and built. A degree in aerospace engineering programs will give you this knowledge, along with skills like aerodynamics and propulsion.

A full aerospace engineering degree program usually focuses on the mechanics and technical aspects of the aviation industry. The subject matter for this science degree will mainly include fluid flow, thermodynamics, statics, dynamics, compressible flow, and more.

By pursuing aerospace engineering, you will have to master HOW the plane flies with many other aspects.

The main courses you take in the Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering program

  • Safety
  • Aerodynamics and Propulsion
  • Structural Mechanics
  • Flight mechanics
  • Additional pilot trainingTwo pilots preparing for a flight at night.
  1. Bachelor of Aeronautical Science

The Bachelor of Aeronautical Science is designed to provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to construct entire aircraft. The course covers a range of topics, from aviation technology to airline and airport operations.

As an undergraduate studying aeronautical science degree, you’ll also have the opportunity to complete flight training so that you can obtain your commercial pilot’s license.

Upon graduation, you’ll be well-positioned to take your place in the cockpit of an airline or other commercial aviation operation. It means to become a pilot you will have to get that training if you want to have a pilot license because this degree does not put you in the cockpit practically.

So if you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a pilot, the Bachelor of Aeronautical Science could be the perfect course for you.

However, it does not provide you a direct knowledge nor does it provide you with a practical way of flying but it does give you academic training which indeed is beneficial in acquiring a pilot career path.

After graduation, you will still need to put in hundreds of hours of training because this college program will never physically put you in the cockpit.

Main courses you take in Bachelor’s of Aeronautical Science programs

  • Aircraft engines
  • Aviation law
  • Flight options
  1. Bachelor of Science in Physics

A bachelor’s degree in physics is an excellent choice for students interested in a career in aviation. Physics is the study of the fundamental principles of matter and energy, and it provides a strong foundation for understanding the complex systems involved in flight.

Many airline pilots have a background in physics, and a bachelor’s degree in this subject can open the door to many exciting career opportunities in the aviation industry. In addition to becoming a pilot, students with a bachelor’s degree in physics can find work as air traffic controllers, aircraft engineers, and flight instructors.

The sky truly is the limit for students with a passion for aviation and a strong grounding in physics.

  1. Business Administration:

For starters, you’ll need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a focus on aviation technology. This will give you the skills and knowledge you need to not only operate an aircraft but also to understand the airline business from a managerial perspective.

After graduation, you’ll need to obtain a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration. Once you have your license, you’ll be able to apply for airline pilot positions and even can have a commercial pilot certificate.

The airline industry is constantly changing, so it’s important to stay up-to-date on new technologies and trends. With a degree in business administration, you’ll be well-positioned to take advantage of new opportunities in the airline industry.

A business degree may not seem like an obvious choice for becoming a pilot, but it can be helpful in two ways.

First, it will teach you how to manage your time and resources effectively, which is crucial for pilots who often have tight schedules.

Second, a background in business can be helpful if you eventually want to become an airline manager or start your own aviation-related business.

  1. Cadet Programs:

Many airlines offer cadet programs that provide training and mentorship for aspiring pilots. These programs typically require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree, so completing one of the above degrees can help you qualify.

With the right education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a pilot!

A pilot student being taught by the instructor how to use aircraft controls

How to obtain a private pilot license

You can get a private pilot license by following the steps.

  • The first step is to find any suitable (according to you) flight training school or college.
  • You will have to have an FAA medical certificate. This certificate will declare you as medically fit for becoming a pilot or flying.
  • FAA student pilot certificate. This will be needed when you will first go solo flying.
  • You must fulfill your student pilot certificate requirement and earn an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate.
  • You will get proper training for flying an aircraft during your training from your flight school.

You will have to pass the private pilot knowledge and exam test. When you will clear that exam, you will be awarded a private pilot certificate and a license.

How to obtain a commercial pilot license

Commercial airline pilots, you’ve probably heard of them before, and you might even have a friend or family member who is one. But what does it really take to become a commercial airline pilot?

  • If you want to start your career as an airline pilot, you will need a commercial pilot license.
  • Get any of the above-mentioned aviation degrees. Some degrees award flight training or pilot licenses in their program, while others provide extensive knowledge for you to pursue any flight training.
  • In order to get a commercial pilot license, it is better to get flight training from any flight school affiliated with FAA.
  • After the completion of your flight training, you will have to pass the written examination.
  • However, the FAA requires you to complete two months of ground training and at least 1,500 hours in the air before you can get your commercial pilot’s license.

You will get your full commercial pilot certification and license and have to fly as a co-pilot. After that, you can fly for a major and regional airline.

A career as an airline pilot is an exciting and challenging opportunity. It takes years of training and experience to become a pilot, but the rewards are significant.

As a pilot, you will have the chance to see the world from a unique perspective and travel to amazing places.

You will also be responsible for the safety of your passengers and crew. If you are interested in becoming a pilot, there are a few things you should know about the aviation industry. First, airline pilots typically have a four-year degree in aviation or a related field.

They also must have a commercial pilot’s license and instrument rating. In addition, airline pilots must complete rigorous training and have several years of flying experience.


Having a degree, certifications, or awards is not mandatory to become a pilot but they are beneficial anyway. Going to a specialized flight school would be recommended as you’ll gain an accredited degree.

If you have the dedication and commitment to become a pilot, then a career in the aviation industry may be right for you.

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