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Pilots don’t necessarily need a college degree, but some employers require it. So if they do go to college, what is the best area of study for pilots to major in?
While not required to become a pilot, going to college will greatly increase your chances of landing your dream pilot job. The best majors for pilots include aviation, aviation technology, aerospace engineering, aviation maintenance, aeronautical science, and other STEM majors.
Having a college degree is not a blanket prerequisite for becoming a pilot of any sort. Pilots don’t necessarily have to have a college degree, but some airlines and employers require their pilots to have one. In this article, you’ll learn when you’ll need to have a college degree as an aspiring pilot as well as the best majors to focus on while you’re in school.
With our own experience as pilots and input from other pilots from all over the country and across the field of aviation, we can assure you that the information in this article is the best content that we can provide. If you’re considering becoming a pilot and you want to give yourself the best chance by having the right major, then you’ve come to the right place.
Do Pilots Have To Go To College?
Many people think that pilots have to go to college and get a degree before earning a pilot’s license. It’s seen as a well-respected career full of educated people, so there is the misconception that they have to get a degree before they can become a pilot. But we’re here to set the record straight.
That said, some airlines and employers require their pilots to have a degree before hiring them. So even if you don’t need to get a degree to earn your pilot’s license, it’s often a good idea to do so to give you the best possible chance of landing the piloting job of your dreams. But does the degree matter, or just that you have one?
While the key for most airlines is that you have a college degree in general, it’s widely agreed upon that having a degree related to flying in one way or another will further increase your chances of getting hired. Let’s take a look at some of the best things to major in if you’re considering becoming a pilot and want to give yourself the best chance possible.
What Are The Best Majors (& Degrees) For Becoming A Pilot?
If you’re looking at going to college with the goal of becoming a pilot afterward, we recommend you get a degree that will help you land the best job possible. There is no clear-cut winner for the best possible degree for a pilot to have, though some are seen more favorably. But just see what options you have at the schools you’re looking at attending that are related to aviation.
In most cases, you’ll find something offered that matches what’s on this list. If all else fails, getting a degree in a STEM field (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) will put you right at the top of the list. That said, here are the five best majors for prospective pilots.
Aviation (Bachelor of Aviation)
If you have access to majoring in aviation, that’s the best thing that you can study while in school. Aviation isn’t the normal type of major that you’ll find at most schools, but as the name suggests it is centered all around aviation and learning to fly. In fact, when you complete a Bachelor of Aviation degree, many times you’ll even be awarded your commercial pilot certification upon completion.
This major is demanding of course, as it will teach you all about flight dynamics, aircraft, and flying an airplane. While studying aviation, you’ll be subjected to engineering, mathematics, dynamics, electronics and electricity, and of course how to fly. This is typically the degree seen most favorably among airlines and employers, so it should be your first choice!
Aviation Technology (Bachelor of Science in Aviation Technology)
A bit of a subset of the aviation major from above, majoring in aviation technology is a great idea for modern-day pilots. As planes are becoming more and more technologically advanced seemingly every year, having a degree in aviation technology can put you right at the top of the list when you’re looking for a job.
Similar to above, completing a Bachelor’s program in aviation technology will also commonly award you with a commercial pilot certificate upon completion. So this major is another way to streamline the entire process and put you on the fast track to becoming a pilot as soon as possible.
Aerospace Engineering (Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering)
Aerospace engineering is actually pretty similar to mechanical engineering. So if the school you’re planning on attending doesn’t offer aerospace specifically, just major in mechanical engineering and you’ll get much of the same information. Both of these majors focus on the majority of the technical stuff that you would learn if you majored in aviation.
WIth aerospace (and mechanical) engineering, your studies will focus on things such as fluid flow, thermodynamics, statics, dynamics, compressible flow, and more. These topics lay the foundation to understanding exactly how airplanes work and what makes them tick.
Aviation Maintenance (Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance)
Although aviation maintenance sounds a lot like the degree you would get if you wanted to become an aircraft mechanic, that’s not all it is. While you will certainly learn all about how airplanes work and how to maintain them, the curriculum also involves operations and management.
This means that this degree is great for anyone who’s not only looking to become a pilot, but might also want to get into some management and operations positions later in their career. Aviation maintenance is a big industry, so getting a degree in this field can potentially open a lot of doors for you.
Aeronautical Science (Bachelor of Aeronautical Science)
Majoring in aeronautical science is the most airplane-specific technical major that you’ll find offered. While studying this field, you’ll learn pretty much everything there is to know about aircraft. How they’re built, how they work, how all the many systems and parts of the aircraft work in conjunction with one another, and more.
Getting a degree in aeronautical science will also help open even more doors for you in the future other than just becoming a pilot. This degree is great for anyone that wants to get into aircraft maintenance or who’s interested in engineering, creating, and designing new aircraft parts for the next generation of airplanes.
Can You Become A Pilot With a Non Aviation-Related Degree?
Although the majors above are typically seen as the best ones to become a pilot, it’s not required to get a degree in any of those fields! Keep in mind that you don’t even need any degree to become a pilot, and many employers just require a 4-year degree of any kind. So if your school doesn’t offer any of the majors listed above, have no fear.
Outside of the above-listed majors, any STEM degree would be the next best on the list. That’s because many of the things that you’ll learn in many STEM majors are similar to what you would be learning in the aviation-related majors seen above. But if you truly have no desire to get a STEM degree, just get a degree in anything you want.
Again, no specific degree (or any degree) is required to become a pilot. The specific majors will just potentially help you have more opportunities in the future landing your first job. After that, your experience as a pilot will take over as more important than what you studied in school!