Pilots no longer will need a 4 year degree/Global Warming

Before I ask my questions, i’d like to go on record today and say I took an intro lesson with ATP in Chicago and absolutely loved it (that skyline and Lake Michigan WOW!) nothing like being in control of the aircraft which i’ve never had the honor to do until today.

My instructor mentioned a very interesting change that is going into effect at least with ‘United Airlines’ where they are dropping the four year degree requirement for Pilots. I again wanted to run by this with you guys the actual Airline Pilots of today to confirm this, is this true and is it likely to follow in the other Airlines where Pilots are no longer going to need to go to college?

My second and the most important question i’ll ever ask on this website involves the inevitable problem of global warming, of coarse you’re pilots and not scientists but I still would love your opinions:

I think it’s fair to say that in general the aviation industry plays a moderately large role Carbon emissions, so is it likely that the Airlines in the future are going to begin seeing much heavier Carbon taxes like the energy source companies from the government in an effort to reduce the amount of emissions put into the air each year? What will this mean for the Pilots, logically i’m assuming this means less air travel meaning less demand for Pilots, correct me if i’m wrong.


For the record United does not currently have a degree requirement nor have they ever as far as I know so there’s no requirement to drop. If you look at their (and some other Major’s) requirements it simply states it’s “preferred”. That said you’d be hard pressed to find a United pilot without one. What I suspect the instructor was referring to (and it’s no secret) is that as the supply of pilots continues to tighten they MAY (?) be forced to relax the policy. What that means is after they’re done hiring ALL the pilots with the qualifications they “prefer”, they may start looking at 2 yr degrees followed by possibly no degrees. Make sense? Now hold that thought.

As you said I’m no expert on Global Warming so I honestly know no more than anyone. What I do know is the next generation of GTF (geared turbo fans) engines that are currently being introduced will produce considerably less CO2 and NOx emissions which will help. The manufacturers are also working with alternate fuels. The bottomline (imho) is the world needs to fly and the need is continuing to grow. The govt may look to tax but they also can’t cripple the entire industry nor can they “ground” the nation. There will have to be compromises made until the technology catches up.

BUT, let’s say I’m wrong and you’re right. The govt taxes the airlines to the point they need to raise ticket prices and cut routes reducing the demand for pilots. Well then let’s go back to the first conversation about degrees. If the demand goes down the airlines can keep and/or re-enforce their “degree preferred” practice. Additionally if things got really bad due to the emissions problem (or any other problem that negatively effects the industry. Economy, terrorism, etc) the airlines will furlough as they’ve done in the past. Who get’s furloughed? Those pilots at the bottom of the seniority list, ie, the last hired, ie. those with the least preferred requirements, ie. those without the degrees.

Listen, I’m not trying to sell you on a degree and yes there are pilots flying for Majors without them (but not many). The reality is while things are great now they may not be forever and you always want to be as desirable and COMPETITIVE as possible. A degree does that. Your call.



United has never officially required a degree, but the reality is that almost every single pilot we hire has one. You might someday get on without one, but you will be at the bottom of the list. A degree makes you realistically competitive for the major airlines, if the majors are your goal I would plan on getting a degree.

As to carbon taxes, sure the government taxes utilities, but we all still use electricity. With that in mind, people will still fly with a higher emissions tax as part of their ticket price. It would be very hard to stop the travel industry, people simply have a desire and need to travel and they are going to continue to do so.



That is great that you already have a degree, it puts you so much further ahead than those that do not have one.