Aviation degree to fly for major airlines?

Hey guys,

Im 21 and have been working as a cook for the past 6 years and looking to start a career as a pilot and hopefully fly for a major airline in the future (Delta, American, Alaskan, United) something along those lines, but was wondering if I needed a degree or more specifically an Aviation degree. Would I be able to move up to a major airline from a regional one through hard work alone or is a degree a must have?

Thanks in advance for any information you can give me on this.


Hello Brandon,

This is probably the number one question we get asked on this forum. First and foremost you definitely don’t need an aviation degree. When we’re talking degrees any field of study will suffice. The question is do you need a degree? So here’s the deal, currently only Delta specifically states a 4 yr degree as a requirement but it’s common knowledge that in order to be competitive all the Majors want one. That said there is a full blown pilot shortage and there is “talk” that with the flow-thru’s being created by the Majors with their Regional partners you “MIGHT” be able to get hired without one. Problem is you’re 21 and that’s a few too many ifs and mights for my taste. The fact is flow-thru’s go away and the economy changes and if that happens you could be stuck. And even if you’re not do you really want to be the last person hired? The fact is the Majors prefer degrees and the guys with degrees will be hired first. Seniority is a big thing in the industry and even a month can make the difference between what equipment you’re on, upgrade or not and if things get sour furlough or not. Bottomline, can you get hired at a Major without a degree? It’s possible but you’re severely limiting your options which is not something you should be doing at 21.



I am going to second Adam on this one. You will never regret getting the degree, it will make you so much more attractive to the major airlines. I would major in something other than aviation, say business, as that will give you a backup plan should anything happen to your ability to fly.


This is on the Furlough topic. Lets say you are at Regional Airline A that has flow through woth Mainline Airline A. If you are top of the senority list and flow through, and a month later a furlough at Mainline A happens, do you get placed back at the Regional and pilots at the bottom get cut? Or are you just out of luck?


Good question, the answer is that you are just out of luck. In fairness though, you would have the same bad luck if you had been hired “off the street” at Major A as opposed to flowing through.

There was a time when flow through agreements included “flow back” agreements but to my knowledge there are not any of those type agreements in place anymore.


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I have a Question, I’m a 26-year-old young man who has some college experience towards a AAin applied science. I really want to get my pilots license and start working towards a career in aviation. As the career path I am in currently on has no opportunity for growth. My question is would it be unwise to go to flight school before getting an Associates degree? Or would it be better to complete flight school work as a CFI and obtain a bachelors in a more suitable field such as aviation?I’m just worried about my age, as I feel I’m running out of time.


I have to apologize but I read your post and I smiled. “I feel I’m running out of time”, my friend, while I understand that’s your youth talking, you’re still very young and are no where near out of time (I started when I was 39 and have still done very well).

Ok to answer your question it’s totally your call but here’s the deal. While you’re not old you’re also not 18. Everything at the airlines is base on seniority so the sooner you start the better off you are so I’d love to say start training, build your time, get hired by a Regional and then work on your degree while you’re at the Regional. This would be the most efficient and quickest route. The caveat is while many pilots with a 2yr degree have no problem getting their BA’s while at the Regional, getting your 4yr from scratch is considerably more challenging. Not saying you can’t and I know others who have but you need to be honest with yourself, your study habits and your discipline. If you think you can then by all means. That said if you think it would better for YOU to bang out your degree first there’s really nothing wrong with that. It comes down to knowing what’s best for YOU.

Btw, the Majors want a degree but don’t care about the field of study. It need not be in aviation.