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?

Julian,

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.

Adam

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

Julian,

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.

Chris

Thank you for the help Chris!!

Julian,

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.

Tory

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

1 Like

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.

1 Like

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.

Sammy,

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.

Adam

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!

Hello Chris and Adam,

Apologies also to Sammy for piggie backing off your thread! I am in a somewhat similar situation as far as education and age, except add a decade. I have an AS in Physics/Mathematics from an incomplete pursuit of an engineering degree in my youth. Simple explanation, life happened. I am considering pursuing a career as a pilot, but wanted expert opinions on if it would be worth it at this juncture. My max salary as a quality engineer to date has been 70k with not much room for growth at this point. So even if I can only fly for a decade at the median salaries mentioned it seems to be worth it, from a financial standpoint. What I am not certain if however, is how much time it would take me to actually be flying at a profit. From research and FAQs here it seems like 4-5 yrs, but I would appreciate experienced pilot’s feedback. Also to be clear, my motivation is more than financial, as I have wanted to be a pilot since I was about 30, but never saw an opportunity until recently unfortunately.

Ready for hard truth,
David

David,

Welcome to the forum. It really is impossible to predict how long anybody’s path through the airlines will be. If your question is how long until you make $70k, then I would think 4-5 years is a good estimate, but it is just that, an estimate.

The same will apply to you for getting to the majors, you are going to need to finish your degree at some point.

Chris

Thank you Chris for your prompt response, much appreciated.

I was curious about that mainly because that is my current salary as a QE. Also, very necessary for the hard discussion with my wife about pursuing a second career after 40 :wink:

I am getting quite a bit of answers via the FAQs links, etc. l still am unable to get a clear idea of how long it would take from “ground zero” to when I would actually start receiving pay. Seems like 2-2.5 years based on pilot demand at the time. I know it is difficult to give an exact timeframe, but to help I would pursue the full time ATP training and I could finish an online degree relatively easy as I have slightly over 100 credit hrs currently. I would pursue that either while at regionals, or wherever would be an ideal opportunity. I believe between savings and Sallie Mae financing I would be able to hold out, but want to make sure by finding out the actual potential time. Also, another unknown is the time to study and pass the necessary writtens prior to starting ATP.

Thanks!

David,

The program I nine months long, after that you will need to find a job to start building your hours. This is typically done by flight instructing. You can read more about pay rates for ATP instructors here: Flying as a Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI) / ATP Flight School Your certainly are not going to get rich flight instructing, but you will be making an income.

The time to study and pass the writtens is usually about two weeks per exam. But keep in mind that the program is actually designed for the writtens to be completed while one is in the program. We recommend doing them early as it gives you an advantage, but I would not delay a program start date because of it.

Chris

David,

Pre-COVID 4-5 years would have been a good estimate. From the time I started training to the time I upgraded to Captain at my regional airline it took me 4.5 years.

If you were to start now, hopefully the airlines will have recovered by the the time you’re ready to apply. For all those that are struggling to find jobs or just missed their upgrade window I suspect it will take them 2-3 years longer to reach each respective milestone.

As for study time for the written exams, there should be a good write up in the FAQ section. But about a month seems to be doable for most if you’re studying every day. Just remember not to take them too early. The results are only valid for 24 calendar months.

Tory

1 Like

David,

While I understand and appreciate you desire for hard facts anyone who gives you any is simply guessing at best. Written exams? I know people who studied for a day and got over a 90 on their PAR. I know others who studied for months and failed. How long till you make money? Maybe you’re a lousy pilot and can’t get an instructor gig due to checkride busts and never make it to the airlines. Maybe you’re a rockstar, we go back to pre-covid and you’re hired at a Regional in 2yrs. Maybe there’s Covid-22 and you’ll be kicking yourself for quitting your engineering gig.

You’ve read the posts and seen the responses but the reality is nothing is guaranteed and we’re literally at a time never seen before in history. Will it be a good return on your investment? No one knows for sure. What I can tell you for my part is that if you have a genuine passion for flying and you’re successful then in my mind it was a good investment. Only you can answer if that’s the same for you.

Adam

Here is every paycheck at my Regional since finishing sim training in Aug 2019. Made this for my underwriter buying my investment property haha(Training pay was excluded April-July as it is less than normal, Months with 3checks are bonuses).

When I worked my butt off 20days/m for OT I was on track to make $80k/yr. My Girlfriend who has usually had a reserve schedule makes about $55-60k. So 2yrs at a Regional as an FO can make $55-85k depending how hard you work.

Prob takes 2-4yrs to get from start of training to be a Regional pilot. That being said, could go corporate or part91. Have buddies work for Quest Diagnostics’s flying PC12 for 50K as FO and 100k for Capt plus bonuses. Work nights, but home almost every day.