Real Answers from Real Pilots

Best Way to Obtain a Bachelors While Flying

Hello, I am currently 19 years old and am looking into a career in aviation. I am about to take my PPL check ride here in the next couple weeks at a local flight school and then transfer to an ATP school. The biggest question I have is when is the best time to obtain my bachelors for the majors. I currently have one year of college almost done. (35 credits) My plan right now is to instruct at ATP after graduating and then getting my Bachelors while flying for a regional airline. The only problem is I’ve seen a few articles saying that you need a degree to get a job at the regional level or it would at least increase your chances at getting the job substantially especially in todays world. If this is the case, should I try and get an associates before or even during ATP? Or should I just stick with my original plan and hope that in a couple of years the demand for pilots at the regional level will rise and the competition for the job will not be as high. Also what online school would you recommend while flying regional? I have looked at Embry-Riddle and UVU as they give you credits for having your licenses and ratings. The only problem is I am not sure if I want an aviation related degree. Does anyone else know of any good respectable online schools?

Thank You
Cameron

Cameron,

First I have to say i don’t know where you read you need a degree to fly for a Regional but that is completely false. There’s not a single Regional in the country that requires a degree. While I generally recommend people (particularly young people) complete their education before flight training (to gain some discipline and maturity) the choice is yours and again a degree is definitely not required.

Now for the aviation degree question. Again in general I’m not a fan. The airlines neither desire or require one and they don’t provide any backup. BUT, if you complete your education while you’re already flying for a Regional, your need for a backup plan goes down considerably. After all at that point you’ve already successfully completed all your training and you’ve also successfully got a job at an airline so why not. With your 1yr of college down and the credits you’d get for your licenses and ratings you could get your bachelor’s in short order. Both ER and UVU are great schools but from what I understand, you can get the same degree for about half the price at UVU so why not?

Adam

Adam,

Thank you for your response. Sorry I did not make this clear in my first post but in regards to having a degree at the regional level, I did not mean that it is required, what I was trying to get at was with information from other articles, it seems that having a degree will help you stand out when getting a job at the regional level. There was a discussion about the United Aviate program and it seemed to me that although only a high school diploma is required, in today’s time having a degree is the best chance at getting the job since they are not hiring a lot of pilots at the moment. I will most likely stick with my original plan but I wanted to keep this in consideration as I do not want to be stuck as a flight instructor because I cannot be hired at the regional level. The biggest thing everyone says in the aviation industry is that seniority is everything so the faster I can get in, the better. With that being said do you think it would be smarter to get a degree before, or during the time at the regional level. I can only hope that the demand for pilots will rise as I make it to that point, but I would rather play it safe than to be stuck as an instructor because the demand for pilots is low.

Also keep in mind that it will be 2+ years until I even make it to this point, so it might not even be a question if I can get hired or not in the future.

Thank You
Cameron

Cameron,

You were clear and again no a degree will not make you stand out or give you better chances of getting hired at a Regional. The thread you’re referring to specifically is talking about United’s Aviate program, NOT getting hired by a Regional (and also written by someone who seemingly is ONLY interested in applying to the Aviate program and flying for United and nothing else). The program was created by United during the pilot shortage to try and attract and secure pilots early (while in training or instructing) due to the short supply of pilots. It’s a pathway to a career at United and the other Majors like AA and Delta have similar programs as well. While they do offer some benefits you’d be locking yourself into a very specific and limited path before you really have have the opportunity to explore other options. Right now we’re coming out of the pandemic and there’s currently many pilots looking for jobs. The Aviate program has limited spots so RIGHT NOW the bars been raised and it seems to get into the program they prefer pilots with degrees. This is very different from getting hired at the Regional of your choice and again no degree is required.

Adam

Cameron,

You do not need a degree to fly for the regionals, but of course it does help to increase your chances of being hired. More qualifications are always a good thing. I think that your original plan is best.

I personally am not a fan of pure online schools. I recommend finding one that has a brick and mortar campus, even if you do not attend there directly.

Chris

Cameron,
As others have said, that thread was a very specific track. If your concerned with a degree for the regionals, it is NOT required. However, if you’re in a pool of 10 candidates and you’re the only one without the degree, the other 9 will most likely be selected before you. That’s just the world we live in. The deficit is only going to get worse which means the greater demand for pilots which makes hiring less competitive. That will play to your advantage.
Being young, we recommend you complete your degree from a reputable university, preferably one with a physical campus, before beginning your flight training. Then by the time you finish, you will be more mature and have the study experience from college to help you succeed in a fast track program. Plus the degree will help you get hired for both the regionals and the majors.

Thank you all for your responses. It has given me a good idea of what my goals should be now. One last question that I have is would you recommend the Cadet programs offered by major airlines such as the United Aviate program etc. It is a little scary knowing that I would be locking myself in a specific path with little wiggle room, but at the same time the tuition reimbursement and other opportunities that they offer seems to good to pass up. Especially since I will still have to pay for college, and the cost of the ATP school. What are your thoughts?

Thank You
Cameron

Cameron,
Aviate and the delta propel program are the most restrictive but direct pathways to the majors. As a part of their program, they ask you to flying for one of their affiliate regional carriers and then eventually for that major. Not a bad thing if you’ve got your mind made up that that major airline is the one for you. However, it is “putting all your eggs in one basket”.
Now the cadet programs to the regionals are a different thing. They are an early commitment to the regional of your choosing in exchange for preferential hiring and tuition reimbursement. I would never recommend taking tuition reimbursement just for the money because you are also committing your future employment. However you must eventually choose a regional to fly for. Why not make that choice earlier rather than later so you have time to collect some tuition reimbursement along the way. I interviewed with Skywest, envoy and republic at 300 hours right after graduating ATP. Those were my top three and after flying out and touring and interviewing I was very certain the right place for me so I took the Skywest offer and collected tuition reimbursement. I don’t regret that at all.

-Hannah

Hannah,
Thank you for your response. I will definitely have to look into it more and see what’s best for me before making that decision but this helped out a lot. Then again, I still have two or more years before even getting to that point so I shouldn’t be too concerned yet.

Thank you
Cameron

Cameron,

Opinions will vary but I’ve always been very wary of cadet programs, pathways and flows. As we learned last year things can and do change. I’ve seen people stuck at a Regional far longer than they should’ve waiting to get called up while their peers went elsewhere.

Trust me, the shortage will be returning big time and even if it doesn’t (but it will) there will always be opportunities for good pilots. You’re 19 and still haven’t started your Career Pilot training. When I started my training years ago I really had little idea what airline I wanted to fly for other than who had a pretty tail. When I got to ATP I had the opportunity to speak with so many people who did research, had friends, had family which put me in a much better position to make an informed decision. Relax.

Adam

Cameron,

I am not the biggest fan of the cadet programs, but they are the reality these days and it is seeming more and more like one will have to participate in one to be hired at a major. What is nice about the cadet programs is that they provide a clear path to a major. You are not really locked in as one can leave the program at anytime (if one is accepting Tuition Reimbursement there is a financial commitment).

I say apply for the cadet programs and see where you stand with them, but also continue to work on connections with other airlines along the way.

Chris