Schools for Aspiring Airline Pilots: How to Choose

Airline pilots must think quickly, calculating altitude, temperature and wind speed before take-off and landing, which requires training and possibly a degree. Across the U.S., colleges and universities offer associate's, bachelor's and master's degrees in aeronautics and aviation with flight training.

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Pilots may be trained through the military or through aeronautics or aviation degree programs at Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified schools. Pilots who fly passenger airplanes must also have a commercial pilot's license.

Schools with Pilot Training

These schools offer undergraduate and graduate pilot training programs.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered* Undergraduate Tuition and Fees 2015-2016**
University of Alaska-Anchorage Anchorage, AK 4-year, Public Associate's, Bachelor's $5,545 in-state, $17,177 out-of-state
Troy University Troy, AL 4-year, Public Associate's, Bachelor's $7,924 in-state, $14,812 out-of-state
Henderson State University Arkadelphia, AR 4-year, Public Bachelor's $8,100 in-state, $14,700 out-of-state
Metropolitan State University of Denver Denver, CO 4-year, Public Bachelor's $6,420 in-state, $20,057 out-of-state
Naugatuck Valley Community College Waterbury, CT 2-year, Public Associate's $4,072 in-state, $12,136 out-of-state
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Carbondale, IL 4-year, Public Associate's $13,137 in-state, $26,390 out-of-state
Delta State University Cleveland, MS 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $6,112
Walla Walla University College Place, WA 4-year, Private, not-for-profit Associate's, Bachelor's $26,382
Fairmont State University Fairmont, WV 4-year, Public Bachelor's $6,620 in-state, $13,970 out-of-state

Sources: *School website, **National Center for Education Statistics

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Aeronautics, Aviation, and Aerospace Science
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Airline Flight Attendant
  • Aviation Management and Operations
  • Commercial Pilot and Flight Crew
  • Flight Instructor

School Selection Criteria

Important considerations when picking a pilot training program

  • Some states do not have year-round flying conditions, so students may consider the school's location to maximize the amount of flight hours they can fit into each semester.
  • Some programs offer the majority of flight training time in an actual aircraft, rather than simulators.
  • Programs that have agreements with airports and aviation companies may allow students to shadow experienced pilots and take field trips to various facilities.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree programs in flight technology and flight training incorporate commercial pilot training and FAA certification exams into the curricula, and students can enter the commercial flying industry after graduation. Students can pursue a flight instructor certification or, in some cases, transfer course credit to a bachelor's degree program.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degree students in aviation and aeronautics may focus on commercial aviation, professional piloting or aeronautical science, all of which include flight training in the curricula and may lead to a career as an airplane pilot.

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degree programs in aviation typically focus on management and education, introducing students to the current issues facing the aviation industry. Some programs are offered online, aimed at the working professional.

Pilot training programs are available at the associate's, bachelor's and master's degree levels. Students should consider a school's location and the opportunity to train in a real aircraft as well as shadow experienced pilots.

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