Real Answers from Real Pilots

Do I have a relatively good chance at flying for a major airline with only an associates degree?

Hello, my name is Julian. I’ve been doing research on ATP for a long time now. I am a senior in highschool, 18 years old. I am graduating in about a few months and I would like to get to the airlines as fast as I possibly can. I am very interested in ATP and I am most likely going to attend ATP. I am aware Major airlines love to see 4 year degrees under new pilots belts, how far should I expect to get with an associates? Also, like I said, I want to get to the airlines ASAP because I understand seniority is everything, but I also don’t want to rush through everything, then when I’m ready to start applying at airlines, I realize I’ve skipped a lot of crucial steps in my process such as education, certain degrees, and anything else that could play a huge role in helping me get into the major airlines. Any tips or recommendations? I’m still planning out my path to the airlines. I have no experience at all right now and all the education I have is about to be a high school diploma. If anyone doesn’t mind, any help on the quickest/smartest training and schooling path to fly?


I strongly recommend you spend some quality time in our FAQ section as most answers can be found there.

As to your degree question that’s simple. You either have the 4yr degree the Majors want or you don’t. A 2 yr degree is not a 4yr degree. Let me ask you a question? You love steak. There are 5 restaurants on your block, 4 serve steak (which you REALLY love and are in the mood for) and one it’s vegan. What are the odds of your going there for dinner?

As for missing something the path is actually pretty straightforward. Get trained, build your time, get hired at a Regional, do well there and hopefully move on to a Major. As for something that might help play a huge role in getting to the Majors that’s also simple. Get a 4yr degree.


Thank you Adam I appreciate the help. One last thing… would you or any other pilots recommend Air Force or military?


Think of an associate’s degree as a “half way there” certificate to a college degree. Very few businesses, if any, will extend any consideration to somebody with an AA degree. They want to see four year degrees, the major airlines are no exception.

I personally would recommend that you complete a four year degree, then go to an accelerated flight school. Flying isn’t just a race to build hours and get to the airlines. There is a maturity factor as well when flying jets. Check out the FAQ section, we lay out several different paths to the airlines there.

I highly recommend the military route if you have a desire to serve the country. If your primary desire is to fly airplanes, you might be very disappointed as the military is a lifestyle, not just free flight training.


Thank you for the help Chris!!


Join the AF if you want to serve. Joining hoping that you’ll get to fly is a bad idea. If you don’t qualify, you’re stuck finishing out your term. If your goal is to fly for an airline, stick to the civilian route. You’ll be able to get to the airlines faster.


Thank you that helped a TON. Without you guys I may have just went into the AF planning to fly and it could’ve wasted plenty of years for me

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Many people go into the Air Force thinking they have a pilot slot and end up flying drones, which does absolutely zero to further an airline career.

From reading all of this I understand for a fact a 4 year degree is a must. I also understand that getting that 4 year degree before you start flight school would be best. I have a 2 year degree and was thinking I could get into at least some airline job with that. While I’m in that airline job maybe be able to complete the last two years I need to apply to the major airlines. Is this a good idea? Or just waste the two years now and get the 4year degree? I am already 34 and I under stand time is of the essence since I have to retire at 65.


At 34 I would most definitely take the flight training now, finish college online at a Regional route. While you’re not old, time as you say, is becoming a factor.


Thank you! That’s what I was thinking.

I am with Adam on this. You do not have time to spare. Get to the regionals first, then work on your degree.

Two for two is good enough for me. Thank you for all the help!