College degree or before after ATP?

Hi everyone, I’m currently 21 years old and am seriously considering attending ATP to pursue my dream of becoming an airline pilot. The one thing that is holding me back is I do not have a college degree. I know that you need to have one to have the best career possible as a pilot. I have attended college previously (I have around 40 credits) and I would be able to obtain a degree in about 3 years’ time.

Now my question is… Would it be better to attend ATP first and start working towards the 1500 hrs and then start school online once I graduate? Or do school first while obtaining my PPL then attend ATP once I have my degree in hand?

I understand seniority is everything in this industry so I would prefer to get started right away but I am a bit worried that I will be so busy building my time as a CFI and flying for a regional that I won’t have the time I need for school.
I appreciate any input that you guys have for me! Thank you in advance.

Welcome, Andre!

At 21, I think it makes more sense to begin flight training now and finish your degree online while at a regional.

As for completing your degree online, I would put that off until you are at a regional. You will be too busy to complete your degree online while teaching as an Instructor.


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This is a obviously a personal decision that only you can make. We generally recommend finishing school first simply because it’s easier. You’re still young and in “school mode” and far too many people swear they’ll go back and never do.

That said you are correct that seniority is everything and getting started early could have positive effects on your career. You need to be honest with yourself and if you believe you have the discipline to complete your education after you’re hired at a Regional then that may be the way to go. If not don’t.




If you were 18, I would say to get your degree first. But at 21, time is ticking and it is best to get into the industry as soon as possible. One thing to keep in mind is that many colleges will give you credits for your flight training, thus making your path to a college degree much shorter. Check out this link: