2 Year College vs. 4 Year College

Hello! My name is Paul and I’m currently a sophomore in high school. I’ve been training for my private pilot’s license for the past two years or so and hope to solo in February, before completing my check ride the following year. My main inspiration in flying came from my uncle who flew in the Air Force for 8 years, before transitioning to United and flying the 737 out of Chicago. I have recently been looking over various collegiate aviation programs and have been comparing the benefits of an associate’s degree in aviation to those of a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical science. I have highly enjoyed my experience thus far in training for my private pilot’s license, and was wondering if you might have any thoughts on how far you may truly go with an associate’s degree and online bachelor’s degree as a pilot flying for the airlines. I understand that few, if any major airlines hire pilots without a bachelor’s degree, and some cargo airlines may be more lenient. Does an online bachelor’s degree still count? I am quite eager to log time and earn my ratings which is why a two year college looks a bit more appealing to me due to the pace of training. On the other hand, a bachelor’s degree seems to be the more popular route, though I’m not sure if I’d want to attend a more expensive school and spend 2 extra years there, as a pose to gaining real world experience. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Hello Paul and welcome,

Really good question! First off congrats on your up-coming solo and kudos for your progress to date. Sounds like you definitely know exactly where you’re going.

Ok I have 2 answers. In answer to your question the Majors do want a BA degree. That said if 2 (or even all) of the studies where done online that’s 100% fine and is actually quite common and should be of no concern. What I would like you to think about however is what’s best for you Paul. While I understand and appreciate you’re desire to build time and get on an airlines seniority list asap, online study can be quite challenging. Especially if you’re already flying as an airline pilot, seeing the country and living the good life. You’ll be away on overnights wanting to enjoy time with your crew and when your home it’s time to catch up with family, friends and laundry. While many pilots do it does require a great deal of discipline. Now based on the progress and focus you have I doubt that would be a problem for you BUT I do know a number of pilots who finished up online over the course of a few years and virtually all of them have told me they wished they’d have just sucked it up and finished while they were still in school and in the “school mindset”.

Your call sir but some food for thought.



I would put the idea of an associates degree completely out of your mind. The major airlines, and just about any other company out there, want to see a four year degree. To my knowledge all of the major airlines require a bachelor’s degree, even if they don’t specifically say so.

That being said, your major does not need to be in aeronautical science, in fact I would recommend that you study something else so that you have a back up plane should anything happen to your ability to fly. I have a business degree, I know pilots with all sorts of majors, in fact I would say that most pilots do not have “pilot degrees”.

I understand your enthusiasm and your desire to get in the air as soon as possible, but focus on your degree work and complete it now so that you can fully focus on flying later.