Real Answers from Real Pilots

Associates Degree for Regionals

Hello, I have been doing a great deal of reading on this forum and the information is excellent, I really appreciate the input for those of us just starting out.

I did run into something that stumped me on the ATP site. I notice there was a line of text that said regional airlines prefer an associate’s degree or two years of college. Is this in fact true? I was under the impression that regionals would hire directly from the ATP program. Any input on this would be appreciated.


The regionals will hire straight from ATP’s program, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t still prefer to hire people that have associate’s degrees and beyond that, four year degrees. If an airline has one pilot spot to fill, but two applicants with the exact same flight experience, but one has a degree and the other doesn’t, guess who is getting the job?

Now right now, and for the past several years, the regionals have been hurting for pilots, so the college issue has not mattered much.

Now to be clear, the major airlines will absolutely require a four year degree.


Thanks for the response Chris. I am 19 and graduate from high school in May and my biggest struggle right now is just figuring out the path. I have applied to Purdue and Indiana State and both have aviation programs. I am also looking at Vincennes University which has a two year aviation program and then the final two yeas could be finished up at Purdue. All these options would allow me to accomplish both the BS degree and all of my aviation requirements I believe to become a commercial pilot…other than the hours I need and most likely at a greater expense.

This brings me to ATP which I love the fast track program and the ability to be placed as a CFI to earn my hours. Getting the 1500 hours to be a regional pilot can’t be accomplished any easier than ATP right? I mean coming out of a collegiate program will not get me placed as a CFI as easy as ATP?

So my plan initially was save some money, get my PPL local and then go into the ATP 40 hour fast track program and the become a CFI at ATP, earn my hours to then pursue a career at a regional. While at the regional take online courses to acquire my BS and then hopefully one day jump into the big leagues.

But that one line of text suggesting I will need an associates degree to fly regional might have me looking at the collegiate route. Thoughts?

I mean I can’t receive CFI placement at ATP if I go the college route. How easy is it to find the huge flow of CFI hours outside of ATP?

How’s that for an overwhelming amount of questions? Sorry just trying to do all the research I can before I make this huge investment.

It appears the college route will cost about $40,000 - $60,000 more depending on where I go (this does not take into account the cost of an online university)


I would recommend that you go to college and complete your four year degree now, then enroll in a fast track program like ATP’s. ATP requires applicants to have two years of college, two years of work experience, or a PPL, so you need to check one of those boxes anyways, plus you will need a degree for the majors.


Thanks Chris, I appreciate your time.

On more thing. Honestly, I have little interest in other pursuits. I know you recommend a degree in something unrelated, but if I am being entirely honest, I am not sure the college atmosphere and the initial weed out classes will hold my interest as much as a aviation degree.

So having said this, if I go to a college for either a 2 year or 4 year degree in the aviation pilot field, I am pretty much taking all classes I would get in the ATP program, which would basically rule out my need for ATP, and rule out all the benefits of ATP like guaranteed CFI flight time and tuition reimbursement.

So essentially I will be looking for my own CFI job correct?

That would be correct if you get what essentially is a pilot degree. However, there are degrees like Aviation Management that would involve aviation, but not the pilot aspect of it.

Listen to Chris and get a degree in something you are interested in. Always have a back up plan.

I had my student license at 16 and had soloed before I could drive. Which was bizarre as I needed to be driven to the airport due to scheduling driver education but the FAA would let me fly a plane. Was fortunate to have a dad and uncle who were doctors and CFII’s and had been training me from birth as this was their hobby and made me passionate as well. Received my full license at 17 and thought I wanted to fly but because of requirements I had some time to kill before I could get hired. Once I started college got interested in law and decided to go that route. Have made enough that I am able to switch careers if I want with a retirement that is set. Looking at jumping in and finishing my ratings starting in January and knowing I may never make the majors. But it beats a courtroom.

Many things can and do happen. I know several people who have for one reason or another lost their medical due to factors outside their control. Once that happens you are done. I can always go back to practice. What will your plan B consist of? Have a backup. Or two.

You may want to look for jobs which have tuition reimbursement while you work on a two or four year degree. I exited undergrad with minimal debt and understand the issue but education has become much more expensive than when I graduated.

The advice here is spot on. If you have reviewed the older posts you have a wealth of good advice at your fingertips. Whether you follow it or not is your decision but you can’t say you haven’t been warned.