College and airline options

Hello! I just graduated from high school at 19 years old, and I’ve been working while in high school and doing my flight training at a local flight school for the past seven months (booked 26 hours already) and I’m pushing through to reach a position as a professional pilot in a major airline. However, lately I’ve been having doubts about how I would have to handle my career studying at ATP while also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in order to be hired by a major airline.
Which one of these options you consider would be the best for my case?:

  1. Get both my associate’s and bachelor’s degree first and then go to ATP?
  2. Get my associate’s degree first, then go and finish ATP, and then get my bachelor’s degree while working as a regional pilot.
  3. Begin ATP now, and then get my associate’s and bachelor’s degree (4 years) while working as a regional pilot (for 4 years).
    I’ll appreciate any information or suggestions given. Thank you!


This question gets asked often and it’s a good one.

We ALWAYS lean towards option 1. You’re young and still in “school mode” and it’s just easier. While 2 might be a consideration, many find it very challenging to go back and finish their educations once their flying.

Totally your call.



With Adam here, Option 1 is the preferred way to go, if you feel determined and motived enough, Option 2 is possible. It depends on who you are as an individual, can you find the heart to go back and finish something you started a few years ago? This is only a question you can answer (and not right now) and we can’t for you.



Normally, I would also go with option one. It’s just easier that way. However, my only concern is that this massive hiring wave won’t last much longer. 4 years of school plus 2 years of flight training and time building, that’s 6 years from now you’d be entering the industry.

Seniority is everything. It will determine if you have a great career or a very turbulent one. If I were you in your position, I would do an associates degree and then start flight training. You can get credit for your flight training towards your degree. I’ll post the link below. Regional pilots are being picked up faster than ever. You may be picked up by a major without completing the degree. But if not, having only the last two years to go, could work out perfect timing wise.


Hey everyone! I just wanna thank you all for the information you guys have provided. It has helped me a lot in trying to figure out the right path in my aviation career. It’s really good to receive this kind of information from professionals.
Thank you!


Option #1, always for a person your age. You will want to have a degree when applying to the majors and there is no better time than now to get one.

On another note, I would put the idea of an Associate’s “degree” out of your mind, it is really just a halfway their certificate on your way to a bachelor’s degree. The only people that get Associate’s are those that go to community college, those that go straight to a four year school do not get an associate’s. Those degrees have very little value and will not benefit you in any way when applying to the airlines.