Get into majors W/O college?

Hi all,

Yes, I know, I know, read the FAQ, you almost always need a college degree to get into the major airlines. But I’ve heard there can be some exeptions, and that’s what I’m asking about here.
If nobody knows the answers, that’s understandable, but no harm in asking.

Would a flow through from a regional cancel out the fact that I wouldn’t have a degree? I have heard much about flows being just talk and not meaning much in reality, and its not really important to go to a regional that has a flow program. But does not having a degree change this? Does anyone have any input as to whether a flow is a viable path to the majors without college?

Additionally, would having higher flight hours perhaps counteract the degree problem? I.e., if I fly for regionals for 10 years and attain 7,000-10,000 hours of part 121 time, would majors consider me even without a degree? Or would I need those hours and a degree to be a competitive applicant for the majors?

Thanks for answering my long and hard to answer questions. I know these are rather annoying questions that you probably get all the time but it’s these little details that actually make the difference between this being a viable career or not (for many).



While you question is long it’s not hard to answer. The flows are real and yes you “could” flow from a Regional to a Major without a degree. I also could hit the Mega Millions this week and become a billionaire.

On this forum we offer the best advice we have based on our experience in the industry and what we’ve seen. Everyone I know knows a guy who knows a guy who’s friend’s brother’s second cousin got hired with just a GED because he used to cut the guy in charge of hiring’s grass. Those are the exceptions not the rule. When people ask us what do I need to do to be successful in the industry we ALWAYS list have a 4yr degree. Why? Because that’s what the Majors want and prefer and that’s not speculation. If you check the hiring mins of visually every Major you’ll see preferred or competitive mins. If I were starting a new career that could pay me $500k a year Id want to be in the prefered list vs the minimum list because that’s what they are, the bare minimum.

Long short yes it’s possible but your limiting your options and if the airline who’s basket you’ve put all your eggs in slows and stops hiring (like FedEx just did) you’ll be stuck.



The legacy majors continue to strongly favor degrees. I have flown with one new hire pilot recently that did not have a degree, but he had decades of regional experience. The AA flow does abrogate the need for a degree, as does the United one, but their requirements are not always the clearest when reading them.

My question to you is what is your aversion to getting a degree? There are may colleges that will give credit for having your pilots licenses and ten years is certainly enough time to get the degree.



The problem with banking on flow programs, they could be gone in a blink of an eye. With the current captain shortage, regional airlines aren’t able to crew as many flights. There is a lot of discussion about the future of regional airlines and the potential of majors absorbing their flying. If that happens, who knows if flow programs will be around at all since the major airline will be the new starting point for 1500 ATP rated pilots instead of the traditional regional environment.

We highly highly recommend you figure out completing your degree however you can. You just never know what can happen. The best you can do is to be as qualified a candidate as possible to best set yourself up to weather the changing aviation future.


Thanks for the replies everyone. I see that the conclusion is that I’d really need a degree to be a sucessful airline pilot.
My main opposition to college is how time consuming it is. I don’t want to make it another full time job. With the advent of online colleges etc., perhaps there might be a more feasable route, but i just havnt looked into it.

If I find some way to get a degree while also working a full time job, without needing to work late into the night, I may reconsider.

I just have to look further into what the options are.

Thanks for the input.


College is a huge undertaking. It takes discipline to get through it successfully. Something airlines know and want to see.

The bottom line is, you’re thinking about spending 100k on flight training and worried about your future job prospects. Wouldn’t you want to do everything in your power to set yourself up for success in the industry? Not having a degree reduces your chances of successful significantly.

Could you end up making it through to a major? Sure, you could slide through but I guarantee you that you lost a ton of time seniority numbers to the applicants hired before you with a degree. That’s lost wages and less bidding power which translates to lower quality of life and more vulnerable to future furloughs.

Does this all make sense, why we stress the importance of a degree?


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