Real Answers from Real Pilots

College or Military

Hello, I am going into my senior year of high school and have a couple of questions. My parents never went to college so I can’t really ask them for help and my high school guidance counselor is no help at all. I am completely lost on where I need to start my career if that be college or the military.

  1. Do you recommend going straight into college to be a pilot or is going into the Military a better option to get a job as a pilot in the future?
  2. Do you need to take pre calculus or physics to become a pilot?
  3. Some people say that the college aviation programs are not good, what would you recommend instead of that?

Welcome, Ashley,

We recommend that everyone earn their four-year degree first before flight training. The degree can be in anything you’d like. You’ll want a degree to be competitive at the major airline level and it’s always a good thing to have if you ever need to fall back on it.

One other alternative is to at least complete two years of college, then begin flight training, then finish your degree online once you are working at a regional.

We never recommend that anyone join the military for the purpose of flying unless your primary reason for joining is to serve your country.

As this is ATP’s forum and the Mentors are all graduates of the program, ATP is what we all recommend. They have a proven track record and the accelerated pace prepares you for airline-style training.

There are some helpful articles in our FAQ section worth reading. Thank you for your questions. Let us know how else we can help you.

Tory

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Ashley,

Welcome to the forum. To begin with, I highly recommend reading through the FAQ section and reading through ATP’s website as there is a ton of great information there as well.

As for your questions:

  1. Neither. The aviation college route is expensive, time consuming and does nothing to further your career beyond regular flight training. That being said, you will need a degree at some point if you want to go to the major airlines, so plan on getting one later.

Going into the military straight out of high school means you are enlisting and not entering as an officer. Despite whatever fantasy promises a recruiter gives you, you will likely never fly an airplane in the military if you enter as enlisted. To enter as an officer you will need a college degree. Even then, flight slots are reserved strictly for the best of the best.

  1. Negative. Basic math will suffice.

  2. I recommend a degree in anything that interests you, particularly something that you could see yourself doing if for some reason you are not able to continue flying. Just make sure it is from a reputable college.

Chris

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Thank you for your help!

Ashley,

The others answered the questions well, I’m just going to add my thoughts:

  1. while the military is a great option its a huge commitment and every pilot I know who went that route says if your only goal is to fly for the airlines than it’s a bad idea. If you truly have a desire to serve your country than by all means do so but that should be primary in your decision making. Also as Chris said, go to college first so you can go in as an officer and have a better shot at a pilot slot.

  2. Not at all. As long as your basic math and science skills are good, there’s no need for anything more advanced than algebra.

  3. it’s not that college programs are bad, they’re just expensive and provide no back up should aviation not work out.

Adam

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Okay, you all have been very helpful, so I have another question. I guess I am confused on what an aviation college is?. Where would you go to get a degree as a pilot? And what major/degrees would you recommend to become a pilot?

Ashley,

There are a number of aviation universities across the country that offer a variety of degrees in aviation (aviation science, aviation management, etc). The problem (as we’ve mentioned) is a they’re very expensive and more important you’d be unnecessarily putting all your eggs in one basket.

First while the Major airlines desire a 4yr degree, none require (or even desire) a degree in aviation. Should you for whatever reason decide that aviation is not for you, you’re stuck with a degree that leaves you with few options (ie, you can be an airline pilot with a medical degree but you can’t be a doctor with an aviation degree).

That also begs another question. No where in your post do you mention any flight time or experience (and no sitting in the back of a Boeing going on vacation doesn’t count). If you have in fact never sat at the controls of a small training aircraft I strongly recommend you take an intro flight or lesson before you make any decisions or steps towards becoming a pilot. While chances are you’ll enjoy the experience some do not. There are physical components involved that don’t exist in most career choices and the last thing you want is to invest in an aviation degree or enlisting in the military with the goal of becoming a pilot only to discover its something you don’t really enjoy or have any aptitude for.

Adam

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Okay, that makes sense now, thank you. I will definitely take your advice.

Sorry to keep bothering you, bit I like the idea of going for a medical degree and seeing if I like flying, is it any medical degree can become a pilot?

Ashley,

No bother at all (that’s why we’re here). Major airlines want to see a 4yr degree but honestly don’t care what your field of study is. It can be in anything from brain surgery to basket weaving, as long as you go to a legitimate school you’re good.

Adam

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Ashley,

The airlines want to see a four year degree. Of course you could get a medical degree, but ten years of medical schooling, to turn around and then be a pilot, does not seem like an efficient use of your time and money and will set you back significantly in your career as a pilot as the industry runs off the seniority system.

Chris

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Major airlines only requires a 4 year (Bachelor’s) degree. A medical degree is on top of a bachelors and will take significantly more time and money than flight training. A 4 year degree in a healthcare field that requires a 4 year degree like nursing, nutritionist, or histotechnologist, would work well. It would provide you with a degree and a backup if there’s something like a furlough.

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I was wondering where in these forums could I start reading to get more information, I’m guessing you get these questions a lot and have answered them a lot? And thank you so much, you have relieved a lot of stress from me trying to figure this out on my own!

Ashley,

Here is a link to the FAQ page on this forum as well as the FAQ for ATP’s program.

Latest Frequently Asked Questions topics - Airline Pilot Life

Pilot Career Guide / ATP Flight School

Airline Career Pilot Program / ATP Flight School

If you have any other questions just ask.

Brian

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Ashley,
You could study biology, chemistry, or if the college has it, the set pre-med track for your bachelors. The four year degree can be in anything so if you feel a passion to study medicine in college, by all means! In the case you decide flying isn’t for you, you will already have the degree requirements met and could apply to medical school instead.
There is a ton of info loaded on this forum. Start with the FAQ section and then browse the thread titles for general topics. If there is something specific you’d like to ask you can always post again!
-Hannah

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I have a couple more questions.

  1. Once I have a 4 year degree how do I pursue becoming a pilot? Training/flying
  2. For a 4 year degree do you have to do all 4 years at one college or could I do 2 years at a community college and then transfer to a different for 2 more years?

Ashley,

  1. Here are some resources to hep answer that question: How do I become an Airline Pilot?
    and
    How to Become a Pilot – Steps, Cost, & Eligibility / ATP Flight School

  2. Going to a community college for two years and then transferring to a full college is a great way to save money and accomplish getting your degree.

Chris

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