Engineer to airline pilot?

Happy Friday everyone,

While I am certain that the question of “can I change my current path from what I am doing now, to something that will lead to a career in aviation” has been asked countless times, I am curious as to whether or not an airline looks at an individual’s background when making a hiring decision. A little bit about myself. I hold a BS in civil engineering, and am also registered as a licensed professional engineer. For those who are unaware, in order to become a licensed engineer in the United States, one must successfully obtain a four year degree from an accredited university, as well as pass the fundamentals of engineering exam (4 hour written exam) as well as the principles and practice of engineering exam (8 hour written exam). It is also required to obtain 4 years of on the job experience before you can apply to become a PE. My primary question is whether or not having a technical background is something that can give a person an advantage in the process of becoming an airline pilot. This may be a gross generalization, but it seems that at time the airlines tend to look for/prefer a person who has military flight experience.

I do hold a student pilot certificate, and have a handful of hours in the air extending beyond just that of a discovery flight, for example. I know that becoming an airline pilot is something I would like to pursue, and I believe that I possess strong problem solving and critical thinking skills as evidenced by my education and qualifications as an engineer. I am just curious if a prospective airline would look at this sort of background, even if it doesn’t strictly relate to aviation.


EVERY airline application has a checkbox with the question “Do you have a 4yr degree?”. If you can check the box that’s great as 4yr degrees are always preferred. Beyond that they’re really not concerned with anything other than your flying experience, have a clean record and good flying references.

While your engineering history is impressive, the fact is that doesn’t mean you can fly a plane. Also military flight experience doesn’t hold as much weight as it did in the past. Do well in training, keep your record clean (both personally and professionally), present yourself as someone the others can work well with and most important be a good employee as you’re working your way up the food chain and you’ll do fine.



Welcome to the forum. While a degree in engineering is impressive, it really will not do anything to help advance your career as a pilot. Airlines look for four year degrees, beyond that, they look for flight time and experience as a pilot.

The airlines do not have a strong preference for military pilots, the vast majority of today’s airline pilots come from a civilian background.



Thank you very much for the detailed response. I am completely aware that being an engineer, regardless of experience, licenses, etc. does not even remotely qualify an individual to fly a plane. I am just hypothesizing that with a technical mindset, and experience digesting complicated theory and working in sometimes demanding situations, that it may be of assistance along the way if I choose to pursue this career path. I am acutely aware of the level of work and sacrifice that would lie ahead of me in order to chase this endeavor, both financially and personally, and that I would be starting from ground zero. My main question (which you have answered perfectly) is whether or not the airlines prefer military experience over experience gained in a civilian role, which it sounds like is not the case. Thank you again Adam for the reply, I definitely feel more informed now. I hope you have a great weekend, and happy Independence Day!

Understood, Chris. I totally understand that having an engineering degree does nothing for me in terms of qualifications. I am just theorizing that the critical thinking and problem solving skills I have gained through education and experience may be somewhat useful along the way. I am relieved to hear that civilians have as much a chance of becoming commercial pilots as the military men and women. Thank you for your reply, have a great weekend.

Anytime, let us know how else we can help you.