Do I need a Bachelor's or higher education Degree?

Hello everyone :slight_smile:

I am 22 years old currently in college pursuing my 2 year Math/Science Associates Degree I will graduate within the next two years, I would be 24-25 years old by then, after that I will go straight to ATP to start the zero experience to airline pilot program, however, I have some doubts about what education level do I need, and my questions are the following:

Will I be able to work for a major airline in the future if I only have my Associates Degree or do I need higher education?

Is it too late to begin ATP at the age of 25?

Do I need a Private Pilot License in order to begin the zero experience to airline pilot program at ATP?

Thank You.
God bless every one of you.

1 Like

Hello Jesus and Welcome!

As far as the degree goes I believe Delta is the only Major that lists a 4 yr degree as an actual requirement. However most do list a 4yr degree as “preferred” or “competitive” which means it’s in your best interest to have one. When you’re filling out that application the more boxes you can check the better in order to get that call sooner, that said I do know a number of pilots working at Majors with only a 2 yr and even a few with no degree at all. Ultimately it’s your decision, what I’d say is if your goal is to work at a Major (ANY Major) then you’re probably fine with your Assoc but if you’re heart is set on one specific Major you want to be as competitive as possible.

Jesus 25 isn’t too late to start ANYTHING. Consider the fact a Major won’t even hire a pilot who isn’t at least 23.

ATP requires either a Private License OR at least a 2yr degree, you’re fine.

Bless you too sir.



Thanks Adam.

So I’m planning on going to the ATP flight school in Trenton, NJ in early 2019 after I get my associates degree, ATP is the closest school to where I live, and because they have this fast track program which takes about two years to complete it has really caught my attention, however there is something I don’t understand very well, and I’d like to know if you could help me with it.

They offer these programs, which are the following:

-Start From Private
$74,000 to $80,000 approximately which says 180 day fast track 100 hours multi.

And there is another program that says:

Start with Credit for Private Pilot
$60,995 which says 100 day fast track 100 hours multi.

The fast track program says that I can begin training from zero time, does that mean I can start without having a private pilot license, I mean no experience at all? Or do I have to start with the “Start with credit for private pilot program” in order to get a private license, that’s $60,995 and then go with the other program zero to airline pilot program which is $80,000, and that would make a total of over $140,000, would that be the total cost?

Once again thanks, you’re so kind I really appreciate your time and help.


I guess maybe they could word it better, but the start FROM Private means you’re starting from zero flight time and INCLUDES your Private license as part of the program. The start with CREDIT for Private means you already HAVE your Private license and they’re giving you credit for it hence the lower price. It’s an either or (either you HAVE your Private or you NEED your Private). Btw, it’s $64-74K vs $51-61K. Not sure where you got the $80k?


Hello Adam!

Just read your answer about the Bachelor’s degree and I wonder how do you think about it now. Is the Bachelor Degree becoming more and more important as a requeirement of a Major airline or less?It’s almost 4 years since you answered Cruz, so I want to hear your opinion again.Thank you.



My answer has not changed at all in the last 4yrs and while people keep asking, it’s simply wishful thinking.

As I said the Majors ALL prefer 4yr degrees and that again has never changed. We’ve been fortunate that there’s been a very strong demand over the last several years which may have caused some Majors to “relax” their preferences to some degree. But as is typical in this cyclical and sometimes volatile industry we now find ourselves in the new world of COVID 19. Airlines are facing challenges and talking about downsizing, parking airplanes and furloughs. The industry most certainly will recover and they’ll resume hiring but this will afford them the opportunity to “catch up” some on the supply side. That ALWAYS means they can be more selective and the #1 tool they’ve always used in filtering applications is the simple question “do you have a 4yr degree?”. If the answer’s no you go into a secondary pile. If they’re hiring less that means it’s going to take longer to get to that pile or they might not at all.

Sure pilots get hired without and everyone knows a guy who did but they’re definitely not the majority, their odds of getting called is considerably less and when there are hiccups in the process like there are today they get pushed further back in the process.

It’s really very simple. You can work hard and be as competitive as possible or you can hope you luck out. To me it’s like planning your retirement by playing the lottery everyday. Sure people do win and sure you could get lucky but if you find yourself at 65 with nothing but a pile of losing tickets then what?


Hi Adam,

I am ready for a career change! I have worked very hard in my life to be successful and land a high paying job. I have always wanted to be a pilot, but I do not have a 4 year degree (lots of work experience). Without a degree, sounds like there are limited flying options? is it a bad idea to peruse this career choice (it’s a lot of money)? What are my options becoming a commercial pilot without a degree?

Thank you for your time.


The Major legacy carriers still desire a 4yr degree and I always encourage people to pursue one because I’m a big fan of options. That said there’s plenty of great airlines with no degree requirement. None of the Regionals nor do any of the LLCs or National airlines (ie. JetBlue, Spirit, Allegiant, etc). I have many friends who have great careers at those airlines and make very good livings.



If becoming an airline pilot is your dream, don’t let the lack of a degree stop you. Like Adam said there are still a bunch of great jobs in the aviation industry to land in. Plus, you haven’t even factored in the Part 135 side flying charter.

If you don’t want to be limited in your career, you can always work on your degree online after you finish flight training. You could have an entire four year degree complete before applying to a legacy airline.


Hi Adam,

Thank you for your encouragement, I appreciate your response.

Happy flying!