Real Answers from Real Pilots

Language affects chance for job?


I am about to graduate from college as Mechanical Engineering degree. I really want to become a pilot to explore the world. However, I have some concerns.

  1. Should I work as an engineer for couple years to save money and pay for ATP at once so that I won’t need to worry about the loan and debt in the future. And because if I go directly to flight school, I still have some regret on my degree since I spent 4 years for it and don’t use it for 1 day.
  2. English is not my first language, all my English skills are from 4 years in college. I listened to some conversation between pilot and controller and had no ideas what they were talking about. They speak too fast and unclear. Some people said that I don’t need to worry about it because I will be trained and get used to it. Is it true? I am afraid it will limit me to get a job at an airline. I am U.S. citizen.

Thank you.


Welcome to the forums! How you chose to finance your flight training is certainly up to you. Saving money to pay for your school outright is by no means a bad idea, but it will cost you several years of seniority which could later end up having a huge affect on your career. I personally would not waste any time, I would go right into flight school after completing my degree if I were you. I have a business degree that I have never used and I do not have one bit of regret about it as it enabled me to get a job at the major airlines, which your degree will do as well.

I would not be concerned about not understanding pilot to controller conversations at this point, you have no education at all on the matter right now so of course it all sounds strange to you. With practice and knowledge you will not have any problems. To be employed at a US airline you will need to read, write, speak and understand english clearly, which it seems like you do. By the way, if I sat in an engineering classes I would be so lost, it would probably take me the first hour to realize that we were talking about building bridges and not driving trains :slight_smile:



Hello Francis,

First off I wouldn’t worry about actually using your degree in the field you studied. The reality is half the people on this planet work in a field other than the one they studied. Also you’ll need a degree to work at a Major airline but they don’t care what it’s in. Lastly it’s always good to have something to fall back on. The airline industry can be volatile at times, some just decide it’s not for them, others unfortunately get ill and lose their medicals. A degree is never a waste. I always recommend you start training as soon as you’re able. Everything at the airlines is seniority based. The sooner you start the sooner you’ll make money, have a better schedule, upgrade. Everything. While it’s always better not to borrow money, the money you’ll make later at a Major will more than cover any interest you paid.

As for the English, both the FAA and the ICAO require ALL pilots be English language proficient. In my experience many foreign students actually speak better than they think. Keep in mind an examiner will only require you to test if they suspect you have a problem. If you Google ICAO English Proficiency Tests there are many sample tests available. I’d check some out and get an idea where you stand. If you find you’re weak then you obviously need to practice. Definitely doable.


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Thank you so much for your respond. It is really helpful. After getting from 0- 1500hr ( 2 years), Ip will join the regional airline, how long do think from FO to Captain at regional airline? And from this Caption to FO of major airline?

Thank you so much for the English information, I will definitely look at it.


Obviously things can vary due to a number of factors but currently upgrades at the Regionals (from FO to Capt) are running from 2-5 years. After you upgrade most Majors want to see (or require) some turbine PIC time (Regional Capt time) which will be another 2-4 years. Again there are no guarantees. It could be longer, could be shorter.



Just to chime in. I graduate with an aerospace engineering degree in may and have an ATP start date of June 12. The only reason it isn’t sooner is because I’m treating myself to a two week trip to Australia (mainly to get to fly on a 747 and an a380 :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:). Honestly, I have absolutely zero regret about not doing any engineering work. Sure it took A LOT of work as you know, but I feel that aviation is my true calling therefore the regret is nonexistent. I also know a bunch of other pilots (and other careers) that have engineering degrees that have never done engineering, so don’t feel bad about it! If you feel you want to fly for a career by all means don’t skip out on it, or you may miss your chance. If so then you would have regret. Don’t leave any door of opportunity unopened my friend!