College Vs ATP

Hi I’m currently a first year in college (19) wanting to become a future pilot in the major airlines at first I intended to get my 4 year degree then go through ATP program and so on. however after seeing the shortage of current pilots and how there is no longer a requirement for a 4year degree as well as the fact that more and more pilots are being upgraded to captains without a degree and the importance of seniority in this line of work should i enroll in ATP and start getting ahead now or take my time and complete my 4 year degree also what are y’all’s thoughts on online school ?


This is one of our most frequently asked questions. The answer is other than Delta, no US carriers ever “required” a 4yr degree. However, ALL the Majors desire one and list that as one of their “preferred” or “competitive” mins. That means if you really want your best chance to fly at a Major (and no, pilot shortage or not, not everyone makes it) you will want to get you’re 4yr degree.

Further pilots upgrading to Capt has zero to do with having a degree. So yes, if you simply want to be a Capt, you can skip college and go to a Regional but don’t expect any of the legacies to give you a call.

Finally you don’t mention any flight experience? If you’re really thinking about giving up your current career plans to fly, you really should take an intro flight and a lesson or 3. While many people believe they want to fly (especially when they hear about the shortage and current salaries), but until you’re actually sitting at the controls of a small training aircraft you won’t know for sure.


Thank you for the fast response, I’m planning on taking my discovery flight this week furthermore let’s just hypothetically say once I do i absolutely fall in love with flying and would want to make this career change would you recommend to continue my college degree which is in business or begin atp and finish the degree online or while I’m getting my commercial lastly I have been doing a lot of research for quite sometime know and in the industry some people seem to say going from 1st officer to captain can be as little as 3 years while others say it can take up to 10-15 there seems to be very mixed opinions on this what is the general consensus on this matter


It’s not a matter of mixed opinions, it’s simply varying facts. You could upgrade to Capt at a Regional airline in 2-3yrs. To upgrade to Capt at a Legacy Major on a widebody aircraft could take 10yrs plus. There are some cases with some quick upgrades in certain situations at the Majors on narrowbody aircraft at junior bases but that changes based on any number of factors.

For now Id just worry about taking a Discovery Flight and seeing how that goes as you’ve got considerable time before that’s going to happen and the environment could be very different than it is now.

As for college, please reread my response above. I believe I answered the question clearly. Reading comprehension is also a requirement of being a pilot.


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Appreciate the response


I have flown with one, count it one, new hire pilot that did not have a four year degree. While he did not have the degree, he had been at a regional for twelve years, which is significantly longer than most.

You will need at least two years of college to meet ATP’s entrance requirements, might as well just finish the degree while you are there.