Real Answers from Real Pilots

How to become a commercial airline pilot

I’m aware that after high school I should attend to college and get a 4- year degree, but can I attend to a university instead, or the degree has to be from college? Also, what university’s/colleges are recommended that are best related to being a pilot? Once I’m in college/university, does the course matter? Or which courses should i take to become an commercial airline pilot?

Hi, to become a commercial airline pilot you most likely need a bachelor’s degree or equivalent (depending on whether you are looking to the regionals or domestic/international). It doesn’t really matter where you get this degree, it can be from a university or college it just has to be a degree. Furthermore, it doesn’t matter what degree it is. I know the mentors on this site suggest a non-aviation degree to fall back on should you decide to leave the airlines or get furloughed or fired.

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Jessica,

College and university are used synonymously in the US so I am a little confused by the question. Like Thomas said, any degree is fine. Give some thought to it though. It should be something useful if you need to use it. Also our FAQ section explains exactly how to become an airline pilot.

Tory

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Thomas,

You’re correct, I just want to clarify something. I ALWAYS suggest an alternate degree as a backup, but it’s really not for if “you decide to leave the airlines or get furloughed or fired”. Its really for if you never make it to the airlines. There are many people (particularly in their teens) who believe they want to be pilots but have zero experience. While flying isn’t rocket science it does require a certain level of intelligence and coordination which not everyone has. The fact is not everyone can or should be an airline pilot. Some people try it and simply don’t like it, some are just not good at it, wash out or fail too many checkrides. Others quit because they don’t want to do the work and many simply can’t get a medical due to some health issues.

Chances are if you make it to the airlines you should be ok, it’s really the getting there that the backup is for.

Adam

Jessica,

In the US the terms “college” and “university” are used interchangeably, there is no appreciable difference between the two. I would recommend majoring in something other than aviation as this will give you something to fall back on, should you ever need to. I wold encourage you to look for schools that have actual brick and mortar campuses and are not just strictly online schools.

Chris

I thought you were supposed to get your bachelor’s degree in aviation and aerospace engineering.

George,

Not sure where you got that information from but there’s literally not a single airline in the country (Regional or Major) who makes any mention of having an aviation, aerospace engineering or any other specific degree or field of study.

Adam

George,

I do not know a ingle pilot that has a degree in aerospace engineering, they are actually very different fields. Check out this: Do I Need A College Degree To Be An Airline Pilot?

Chris

But after college am I gonna have to go to a 2-4 year piloting school.

George,

I’m not following. Can you rephrase your question? Or be more specific?

Tory

After college, and you have your bachelor’s degree and stuff are you gonna have to go to any other school like a piloting school before you can actually become a pilot.

Yes. Of course. While there are some colleges that also offer flight training, it is not required that you attend these colleges. If you choose to attend a non-aviation college then you will need to conduct your flight training from a flight school.

Tory

George,

Please visit our FAQ section and ATPs website.
https://atpflightschool.com/become-a-pilot/
Both will help you better understand the process.

Adam

Hey Tory i’m going to be starting ATP next year how long does it take to get usually a 737 type rating and all of your instrument rating and your cpl

Welcome, Luke,

First off, I am hesitant to use the term “usual” in this context because there are too many variables in play when it comes to flight training, time building and career progression.

So, I can tell you that it took me about 3 months to earn my PPL at a local flight school, including the amount of time it took my to build 78+ hours to become eligible for ATP’s Credit for Private Fast Track Program.

Once at ATP, I believe it took me about 5 months to finish the program. Then I Instructed for ATP for about a 1.5 years, totaling to about 2.5ish years total from start to finish.

Then I flew for Horizon Air for 4 years and 8 months. I upgraded to Captain on the E175 in about 2 years while at Horizon.

I just started new hire training at Alaska on the 737 last week. So it took me about 8 years to get to where I am.

That said, this is my timeline. I could have gone to an aviation college. That would have added 4 years to my timeline. I could have instructed at a different flight school which could have also added to my timeline. I could have chosen to build my time doing something completely different from instructing. Or, consider a more recent ATP grad with 1500 hours and they are getting hired at Frontier or Spirit, skipping the regionals altogether. If that had been me I could have had an A320 type rating in about 2.5 - 3 years.

There are just too many unknowns that can dictate how long it takes someone to earn a 737 type rating or equivalent. It depends on where you go to school, how you choose to build your flight time, who hires you…it also depends on the demand for pilots which is also tied to the economy.

If you’re looking at the ATP program though, that program is 7 months. If you’re successful in the program and teach for ATP afterwards, you could have 1500 hours in as little as 18-24 months. From there, the rest of your timeline will depend on where you want to fly next and who ultimately hires you.

Tory

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Thank you so much and one more question is it pretty hard studying for the e175 and just studying for aviation at atp and is there people to give you one on one if you need extra help ?

If u got a owi when u where 17 and have not get any more things on your record could u fly for the Regionals or even majors

Luke,

Yes to all.

Firstly, aviation, while fun, is very hard to learn at first. If it were easy than anyone could become a pilot. As hard as aviation already is, ATP compresses what normally takes 4 years to learn into 7 months. That alone makes it even harder.

The reason for this is because the pace is on par with the pace of new hire training at an airline. Like I mentioned, I am in ground school at Alaska right now. We just finished learning about the aircraft systems in one week and we are already getting tested on our systems knowledge in 4 days.

The E175 is a very different airplane from the B737. Having just completed B737 systems ground school, I can tell you that it is very much a pilot’s airplane, whereas the E175 is more of a computer programmer’s or a pilot monitoring airplane. Let’s just say that I didn’t truly know how spoiled I was when I flew the E175. Learning to fly the 175 for the first time was still hard, but once I figured it out it was relatively easy, but just in a very different way from most airliners.

To answer your other question about receiving one-on-one help, yes. Your Instructor is there to help, for sure. That said, the reason that ATP is able to condense their training program into 7 months is because most of the ground school is conducted online. It is primarily a self-study curriculum. However, as I said before, your Instructor will also provide in-person ground. They are the ones that endorse the students for the checkrides. The only way to know if a student is ready is to test them in-person.

In regards to your other question about your record, if that is the only offense and you are honest about it and take full responsibility then you should be fine. Ideally you want to have at least 10 years from the date of the event. I always recommend reaching out to the airlines themselves just to be sure.

Tory

Thanks Tory

No problem, Luke. Any other questions, please ask.

Tory

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