Real Answers from Real Pilots

College before or after ATP?

Hello, it’s a pleasure to be on this platform, I have a question for anyone who may have a valuable answer. I am currently considering enrolling in ATP this coming May, I feel I have done a fair amount of research, however reading some older forums on here (like 3-5 years old) I have seen some mentors mention that ATP would NOT accept you without at least a 2 year college degree. On ATPs enrollment prerequisites tab on their website they mention I would only need a HS Diploma to be granted admission. I understand the need for the degree at some point to move onto the majors, however would I be able to get by into ATP and into a regional without a college degree? I am unsure if they admission standards have changed due to a pilot shortage or if the previous articles I have read still stand. I share the passion to join the aviation industry as an Airline Pilot like many of my family members have. Please shed some light on this?


I am impressed with how far back you researched. But, the two years of college requirement for admission into ATP was dropped some time ago.

Let us know how else we can help you.



Thanks Chris, I tend to really invest a lot of time and research into every angle before making a major commitment. This is good news to hear as I plan to move onto a degree after completing ATP. While it is not required now with ATP, would it still be viewed as preferred? Would it not have any bearing on the situation currently?


You don’t mention your age nor if you have any flight experience. While ATP removed the 2yr college requirement, I think it’s important to understand why it was there in the first place.

ATP program is highly accelerated program compressing what normally takes years into months. It requires dedication and a tremendous amount of hard work. The fact is many young people right out of high school have never experienced this level of workload and the amount of self study required. I’m not saying this to dissuade you in any way, but just make sure you understand what your getting yourself into.

The question isn’t whether or not it’s preferred by ATP (its fine). The question is are you up for the challenge? If you are then by all means but you have to be honest with yourself.


First things first, you really should take an intro flight. Being around aviation is a great thing but you won’t really know what to expect training in small airplanes until you get up there and get a feel for the controls. If you’re seriously thinking about attending ATP, find your nearest location and schedule an intro flight and tour. That will give you the most hands on feel for what you’re embarking on.
Now at your age, we recommend you attend college for at least two years. You can get the last two years toward your bachelors done when at the regionals. However, we normally recommend that for people a bit older to the career and looking to play catch up. At 18 you should be thinking about college and then come to atp afterwards. Even with a 4 year degree completed, you still would be one of the youngest of your Indoc classes at about 23/24 years old. Plus the regional life is tough. I wouldn’t recommend working full time and doing the online degree unless there was a big reason for it.