How to become an commercial airline pilot?

In order to fly international, I’ll need a 4-year degree right? I also heard that I should have a plan B, so that means I shouldn’t take any courses related to what I’m going to learn in flight school? I should take other courses instead? Like focus on the second option carrier? Also, what should I do after college? Take flight school, right?

International is a relative term. Many Regionals fly to Mexico, Canada & Caribbean. Spirit flies to South America, & so on. A degree is not required at many of these airlines but the legacies do require them and it’s highly encouraged to get one to be the most competitive pilot possible.

Overlapping Degrees - A business degree or engineering with a focus on aerospace can overlap well while allowing that “backup”.
Any STEM degree will assist in “nerding out” over the math based principles of flight… which also helps in some Airline Interviews that focus on math based knowledge (I believe FedEx is one). An engineering degree can open doors to special flying jobs like test pilot.

But overall a useful degree in an entirely different field allows you “a backup plan” and can make you well rounded.

My degree is in Criminal Justice and here I am (gets less useful as I get older).
My overall advice is get a useful degree that you enjoy & makes financial sense. In the Airlines, Someone who pays $400k for a BA from Boston U, makes the same amount of money as someone who did 2yrs at community college and finished at an In-State school for $100k (if they are the same seniority).

Most would agree to get you 4yr degree first, then focus on flight training.

Chris F

International travel can be done even at the regionals. The distinction comes from whether or not your at a regional or a major airline on whether you need that degree.

We recommend you go ahead and get your four degree first so you won’t be limited in your aviation career. The regionals don’t require it but the majors do. The best and most common route is to get your degree done first so you do well in school (the majors will look at your GPA), then hit flight training hard and fast after graduation.
As for your degree, pick something you would enjoy studying for four years. It’s still a commitment and you could eventually need it as a backup career for a year or two on furlough or if you ever lose your medical. I studied journalism and mass communications. I enjoy news and current events plus writing always came easy to me so that’a why I chose it. Plus I know that there is a local news station in almost every city in the country I could work for if I needed to. So think about job availability and flexibility of that major as well.



As the others have said, you need a 4yr degree to fly for a Major. International is something completely different. Atlas Air cargo for example flies to more international destinations then anyone and they don’t require a degree.

As for the back up it’s simply that. The fact is that many people who think they want to be pilots aren’t they crazy about it when they actually start flying. With that in mind have you ever flown a small aircraft? If you haven’t I strongly recommend you take an intro flight to see what is really all about.



When most people say “international”, they mean flights to Europe, Asia, etc. at least that is what I think of. To do that kind of flying, you will need to be hired by a major airline, which means that you will most likely need a four year degree.

I do recommend getting a degree in a subject other than aviation, but I would not worry if there was some course overlap.

There are many paths to becoming a pilot, but what I did, and what I recommend most people do, is finish college and then go to an accelerated flight school. Please check out the FAQ section as there is a detailed post there that covers the various paths to an aviation career.