FAQ: What Degree Does a Pilot Need? (With 7 Options)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 9, 2021

If you love flying and want to make it a career, you might consider becoming a pilot. Earning a degree in a relevant field may help you accomplish this. Understanding the different degree options and steps you can take can help you plan your career goals. In this article, we discuss what degree a pilot needs, what courses they might take and why it's important for aspiring pilots to gain a degree.

Related: Learn About Being an Airline Pilot

What degree does a pilot need?

Most companies recommend that pilot candidates earn a bachelor's degree. You might consider earning a degree from a Federal Aviation Administration-certified school, like the United States Air Force Academy. Students frequently pursue degrees relevant to aviation before getting further certifications and training. Here are seven of these degrees that you can pursue:

1. Bachelor of Science in physics

Studying physics can teach you about thermodynamics and aerodynamics. This might prepare you for situations where you have to calculate kinetic forces and other interactions between your plane and the physical world. An understanding of these theories can help you gain confidence when flying.

2. Bachelor of Science in aviation maintenance

This degree teaches you about the maintenance of aircraft and their mechanical systems. Students in this field spend a lot of time in airports, which might ease their transition into flying an aircraft. They may also benefit from making connections with personnel at airports where they train.

3. Bachelor of Science in aviation management

Students of aviation management mostly focus on directing other pilots, but they also learn about how aircraft work. Pursuing this degree might help you prepare for any airport safety regulations you encounter as a pilot. It may help aspiring pilots anticipate expectations from future aviation managers.

4. Bachelor of Science in aeronautics

Students of aeronautical science learn how to build aircraft. They also learn the science of flight and how it impacts aircraft design. This can help aspiring pilots understand the crafts they fly.

5. Bachelor of Science in aviation

This degree can provide you with direct flight training and an understanding of aviation law. Some programs allow you to complete part, or all, of your pilot certification. This may be a good option for pilots who plan to fly commercially.

6. Bachelor of Science in air traffic management

Students of air traffic management learn how to coordinate planes along flight paths. You also learn how to create new flight plans so pilots can avoid adverse weather conditions. This may also help aspiring pilots anticipate expectations from air traffic control members.

7. Bachelor of Science in aviation technology

Aviation technology students learn how to maintain and fly aircraft. Many programs award you with a full pilot certification when you finish your course work. This may benefit aspiring pilots who plan to fly commercially or privately.

Related: How To Become a Pilot

What certification does a pilot need?

The Federal Aviation Administration requires that all airline pilots earn an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate. The certificate takes about two years to complete. Some specific requirements include:

  • Flying experience: Training pilots require 50 hours flying in multi-engine planes, 75 hours performing instrument-assisted flights, 100 hours flying at night, 250 hours acting as a pilot in command and 500 hours flying cross-country. This ensures they gain significant practice and familiarity with flying procedures.

  • Private licensure: Pilots earn their private pilot license from an accredited institution. This allows them to fly private planes for individuals or organizations.

  • Commercial licensure: Pilots earn their commercial pilot license from an accredited institution. This allows them to fly planes through commercial airlines like those you might find at a public airport.

  • Instrument rating: Pilots earn these ratings, which demonstrate that they know how to fly in adverse weather conditions. They complete practice flights, using instruments such as radar and traffic control.

  • Age requirement: The minimum age for a pilot is 23 years of age. This age limit ensures that pilots have spent an appropriate amount of time in school and training.

  • Testing: Pilots take a written and practical test administered by the Federal Aviation Administration. These tests measure their knowledge of standards, procedures and federal laws.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Related: Pilot: The Job Outlook

What courses does a pilot take?

Because there are many different skills and procedures a pilot uses, there are a wide range of courses they can take. Depending on the kind of pilot they're training to be, they might take different courses. Pilots often take courses that cover the following:

  • Aviation curriculum: These are courses that teach you how to operate an aircraft and follow aviation law. You can take classes on the fundamentals of instrument flight, flight deck environmental issues and multi-engine flying.

  • Air traffic curriculum: These are courses that teach you how to monitor an airport's aircraft activity and update pilots on changing flight conditions. You can take classes on air traffic control tower simulation, crew resource management and instrument flight rules procedure.

  • Business curriculum: These are courses that teach you how to monitor the details of airport operations, including how to manage aviation staff and create business plans. You can take classes on career development for aviation professionals, principles of organization management and principles of marketing.

  • Aeronautics curriculum: These are courses that teach you the science and mechanical operations of flight. You can take courses on aircraft stability and control, aircraft feedback control systems and advanced aerodynamics.

Related: Interview Question: "Why Do You Want To Be a Pilot?"

Why is a degree important for a pilot?

The courses an aspiring pilot takes in school prepare them for the complicated process of flying. Here are some additional reasons you might consider getting a degree before pursuing a piloting career:

  • Some airlines require that you have a bachelor's degree before you can work for them.

  • The process of completing your degree requirements can put you in the results-oriented mindset required to complete your flight training.

  • You can learn the math and science required to understand flight operations and weather patterns.

  • A lot of universities have programs that lead to a career right after you get your degree.

  • It makes it easier to become a civilian pilot, which is the only alternative to joining a military pilot training program.

  • If you decide to transition away from piloting, your degree could help you get positions in many technology- and management-related fields.

  • The professional connections you make in college could provide recommendation letters when you apply for flight schools or airlines.

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