High School/College Requirement And Other Advice?


I’m Luke, a 17 year old junior in high school from the Dallas, TX area.

I have my heart set on being an airline pilot, preferably for Southwest but I’ll take whatever will allow me to fly (and being paid well enough to live).

I’d like to attend ATP at one of the three Dallas area locations. However, I’m wondering what kind of education I need to be an airline pilot.

A few things to know:

  1. I will not be going to college for a number of reasons that are an entire other conversation.

  2. I won’t be taking physics, chemistry, trigonometry, or calculus classes, however, I would like to learn physics separately from school, where it would not count against me if I take a little extra time.

  3. Flight experience: I am a cadet officer in Civil Air Patrol and I have some experience flying small, single-engine aircraft (Cessna 172, Cessna 182, and GA-8). I also like to fly regularly on Infinite Flight with as realistic procedures as I can.

Basically, with all that information, my question is:

Will a high school diploma be good enough to get a job as a pilot? I don’t want to hear about college; I know airlines “prefer” it, but I’m not wasting my time/money. I’ll do almost whatever else will make up for it.

Also, do I need to take any specific classes in high school? I have pretty solid basic math skills (no geometry, trig, etc though) and will be learning physics separately from school if I can.

Lastly, any other tips that you have for my aviation career are totally welcome!

Thank y’all for your time!


Interesting post so let’s not dilly dally and get you answers.

  1. you can absolutely be a Regional pilot with just a HS diploma. Beyond that it’s hit or miss if you will progress beyond the Regionals and some LCCs. At least for now you will not be flying for SWA.

  2. No need to study anything in HS beyond the usual requisite courses.

Per your request I won’t talk about college. That’s your decision. What I will say however is you do mention studying physics “where it would not count against me if I take a little extra time” which gives me the impression you’re so dead set against school do to your ability (or lack there of) to keep up. You need to be aware that when it comes to airline training there is no “little extra time”. The curriculum is set and you’ll either keep up or wash out. This is one of the reasons the airlines prefer a degree, they want to see tangible evidence of your learning ability. Just something to keep in mind if you’re somehow under the impression that flying planes is just about flying planes because you do it well in a video game.



Welcome to the forum. You will not have an issue getting on at a regional without a degree, but it could very well hold you back getting on at a major, particularly Southwest. While you might not value college, the major airlines do and no amount of self study physics, is going to make up for that.

Please keep in mind that ATP has admissions requirements that you will need to meet before you can be accepted into the program.


You sound very determined to do it your way. This forum is a place to humble yourself and ask mentors advice to get you on a path to success. If you’re not willing to follow it, you’re risking your success.

If you’re not willing to do any college, that’s your decision. However, you need to accept the reality that you will have very limited opportunities as an airline pilot. You could spend your entire career at a regional. If you’re okay with that, then knock yourself out.

The only thing that matters in high school is to get a good GPA and a diploma. Take whatever classes you like.

Honestly, I’m concerned you’re not anywhere near ready. The ACPP is a very accelerated, rigorous program that trains future airline pilots. The admission department likes to see an Associates degree, some college or equivalent work experience to show you have the work ethic and maturity it takes to be successful.


Thank you, and I totally understand.

However, I’m definitely not saying I can’t keep up. I am definitely not against school. I can learn things well. I’m just saying that I’d like to learn certain subjects without having it measured with an official grade, if that makes sense.

I totally understand that becoming an airline pilot will be tough, it will be long, and it will be hard. And I’m ready for that. I love aviation and I’m going to do it.

Thank you for the response.

I may have come off the wrong way, and I apologize for that. However, the very reason I asked on here is that I do want advice. I want to know how to be successful as a pilot, and I want real pilots’ advice.

The reason I am very skeptical toward college is because there is a lot of indoctrination and pushing of agendas in today’s colleges. Also, the amount of money it takes is not really worth it unless it’s something like a doctor, etc.

If I must attend college, will a small community college be enough? If it is, what classes would I need to take, if any?


Community college is fine as long as it’s accredited. Get a degree in anything that interests you that could provide a back up career in case of future airline furloughs. Focus on getting a good gpa and after that, it’s simply a box to check.


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