College degree and being a pilot

I am 32 years old and I work in software. I am currently living in Seattle but I am going to move to Monterey CA, after the new year and I am going to pursue a piloting career. I have read up on the topic of having a college degree vs not having a degree and I just can’t find a solid answer. Do you actually need a degree for major airlines? What about regional? I’m a US Navy vet, does that count as a degree? Seems like having a degree and showing you can stick to something and accomplish it for 4 years or more seems equivalent to 4 years in the service since the airlines don’t look at what type of degree you have.


First as for your military service counting as a degree. After serving 4 years does the US Navy consider that equivalent to a degree and can you now be an officer? While serving your country is respected and appreciated, it’s not a 4 year degree.

Now let’s talk about the airlines. The Regionals don’t require any degree whatsoever so you’re fine there. There’s also no Major airline in the US that REQUIRES a 4 year degree. HOWEVER (and this is a big however) if you check any of their websites they ALL list a 4yr degree as “preferred” or “competitive”. What that means is on all their applications there’s a question “Do you have a 4 yr degree?” and it’s followed by 2 boxes, Yes or No. There’s no line for an explanation or btw. Just Yes or No. If you check the Yes box your application goes in one pile, check No it goes in the other and the other goes underneath the Yes pilot. That means they’re going to hire everyone with a degree long before they get to the people without IF they get to it at all because they’re constantly getting new apps with Yeses.

So to answer your question yes it is possible to get to a Major without a 4 year degree your chances are considerably better with one. Top salaries at the Majors are over $350k. Every year you’re not hired is another year you’ve lost that money off the back end you’ll never see. Your choice.


Thanks for replying! Yep, reading through these forums and online researching, it’s pretty clear. Major airlines do prefer pilots with 4 year degrees even if it’s not required. Not much else to say on that matter. As for regional, that works for me as well. I’m not in it for the money. Thanks again!

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There are of course exceptions, but generally speaking you will need a four year degree for the majors. Your time in the Navy as an enlisted personal does not count towards the degree requirement. While serving your country is admirable, we are talking about two very different things here.

You will not need a degree for the regionals. The good news is that while you are flying for the regionals, you will have ample time to work on your degree. Many schools will give you credit for your pilot certificates.


Hey Chris,
That sounds like a solid plan while flying regional. I plan to get my PPL, instrument, commercial, ME, CFI (if needed) and ATP as well. I will be dedicating full time to flight training with hopes that I can get all my certifications done in a timely manner. I do have 1 year of community college in the books so maybe with all my certifications and some of my college credits can get me an AA. Thanks!

What exactly does the schooling and training look like for aspiring pilots and how long would it take to complete it?


Please visit the FAQ section and for more info on the process.