When and How to Complete Your Bachelor’s Degree
If you’re looking for a career with a major airline eventually down the line, the question no longer becomes “do you need a degree to become a pilot?” but instead, “when and how should I get my degree?”. This really boils down to personal preference. There are many different types of flight schools to choose from each offering its own training styles and timeline of getting to the airlines. This is something each student should consider carefully because of pilot seniority. Pilot seniority plays a large role in your quality of life at the airlines. Everything from choice of domicile and jet to scheduling, benefits and even pay. Meaning, the sooner you get to the airlines, the sooner you can rack up seniority. There are 4 main ways students generally consider getting their flight training and college degree.
Full-Time Accelerated Flight Training
A full-time accelerated flight training schedule such as AeroGuard’s Pilot Pathway Program is a student’s quickest way to the airlines which means quickest way to build seniority. In this route, students focus solely on their flight training first gaining 7 certifications and ratings from private pilot through their CFIs in about 10-12 months. From there they start working as a CFI to build 1500 flight hours required for their ATP. This puts them at a timeline of only 2-3 years before they’re working for an airline and building their seniority. When pilots are working as a CFI, or once they reach the Regional Airline and are working as a pilot with their seniority, this is the recommended time for them to focus on gaining a degree to further advance their career. This will allow them to complete their degree online within the first 2 years of being a First Officer, while simultaneously already having 2 years of seniority, making them more marketable for a captain’s chair.
Accelerated Degree Programs
There are also accelerated degree programs like Liberty University’s Program that allow you to do flight training at an accelerated partner school, such as AeroGuard, while you obtain your degree with the University in an online format. Since the flight training is done in labs in a semester format, it generally takes between 1.5-2 years to complete. After that, students are working to build the 1,000 hours need for their ATP. All the while, they’re taking online classes to complete the degree putting them at a full timeline of about 3-4 years to get to the airlines. As the training also takes places within the degree program, students are also able to use federal funding for flight training, as well as GI Bill benefits for VA students, by choosing this route.
Traditional Degree Programs
A traditional degree program, such as attending a four-year college or university, has many benefits. With this option students are allowed access to federal funding for school, they are able to do their studies and flight training together if choosing an aviation related degree, and once they complete their bachelor’s degree, they could reduce the amount of flight hours needed for their ATP to 1,000. However, even with these benefits, the drawbacks to the career could outweigh the benefits because it takes so much longer to get to the airlines. Not only are students waiting the 4 years to complete their degree, but after those 4 years they still need to obtain an entry level job to gain the flight hours needed for their ATP which puts them more around a 5-6 year timeline to get to the airlines. Additionally, it’s often very expensive as it can cost upwards of $200k-$300k.
Students who wish to receive a degree outside of aviation will most likely do pay-as-you-go flight training on the side in order to schedule their flight training around their college classes. This is also a good option for those who want to save up funding and pay for training on an hourly rate according to their budget rather than taking out loans. However, with this option it can be easy and very natural to stray away from your training as there isn’t anybody holding the student accountable to stick to a schedule other than the student themselves. This can severely hinder a student’s ability to complete training in a timely fashion as well as require the student to do several “re-train” missions if there are too many large gaps in between training. A really dedicated student that trains frequently could probably move to the airlines in 3-4 years while a student that wishes to only train on weekends, for example, could take upwards of 7 or more years.