Do You Need A Degree To Be A Pilot?

Do You Need A Degree?

Do You Need A Degree To Be A Pilot?

Written By An Airline First Officer

Do You Need A Degree To Become A Commercial Pilot? - 25 min read
Do You Need A Degree To Be A Pilot?



So, do you need a degree to be a pilot?

No, you do not need a college degree or university degree to become an airline pilot.

Although many who start their training have some form of bachelor’s degree, this is not required to start your professional pilot training.

Once you have completed your commercial training and graduated with the necessary certifications, such as Commercial Pilots License (CPL) or an Airline Transport Pilots License (ATP), you are fully qualified to fly commercially. 

There might be some flight schools that require you to have a degree.

However, this is rare in the industry.

Do You Need A Degree To Be A Pilot? - What The Aviation Bodies Say

Do you need a degree to be a pilot? Here’s what the aviation governing bodies say.

Neither American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) nor the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) requires a degree to fly commercially. 

You need your Commercial Pilot Certificate or Airline Transport Pilots License (1500 hours of flight time is required for this license, read more about the 1,500-hour rule)

I know plenty of captains and first officers who do not have a degree.

Will Airlines Prefer Those Who Have Degrees?

Do you need a degree to be a pilot and fly for airlines? 

It’s unlikely that any regional airline or major airline will favour someone just because they have this further qualification.

These qualifications might be preferred/necessary for applicants for airline flight training programs or other aviation programs, such as the sponsored MPL program, but this is rare.

However, you will be eligible to join any airline once you fully qualify with enough hours (a full ATPL).

Airlines will certainly not look at whether or not you have this further education, especially with the pilot shortage the world is currently facing. 

This is one of the most important points when looking at “do I need a degree to be a pilot?”

Should I Get A Bachelor/Aerospace Degree Before Flight School?


Although you don’t need to get a degree before training, some people do decide to do this first.

Generally, when finishing high school (United States) or A levels (UK), most people don’t have the funding or facilities to borrow or pay for the expensive cost of becoming an airline pilot.

Instead, they will embark on a degree program for two or three years and then return to the prospect of training later in life. 

Most pick aerospace-related degrees, such as aerospace engineering, aeronautical science, general aeronautics or others related to the aviation industry. 

Do You Need A Degree To Be A Pilot? My Opinion.

I believe that if you are serious about becoming a career in aviation, then instead of going to university and building additional student loans, you should enter into employment after school and save as much money as possible.

Of course, there is a downside to this, as it might reduce your career options in the short term. 

This will allow you to access the funds required to start your training earlier in life. 

The longer you are in the industry, the better the pilot salary. Therefore, the younger you start, the younger you will be when earning the big bucks. 

Indeed, the bureau of labor statistics states that the salary was over $200,000 on average in 2021.

Arguably, there is no point in studying and paying for a degree if you’re going to become a flight crew anyway, a career that doesn’t need a these qualifications to enter.

Do Pilots Need A Degree? How much does it cost to become a commercial pilot, and can pilots get a student loan?

Can You Do A Degree Alongside Pilot Training?

Yes, you can get an aviation degree alongside your pilot training.

Multiple programs and bachelor studies in America/Canada and the UK/Europe offer to graduate a cadet with a degree AND their required flying licenses. lists some of the different degree and flight training schemes in America.

You can enrol in the UK/Europe on a BSc Honours In Professional Aviation Pilot Practices

I was one of the first in the world to graduate from accelerated flight training (the Integrated scheme) with this qualification attached. 

This is a unique aviation qualification, tailor-made to fit around the training and work directly with a flight academy (it was CTC, now known as L3 Academy).

Just know, though, that there was quite a lot of coursework to be completed as part of this 4-year degree, but these are all online classes.  

I’m hopeful that with the colossal pilot shortage in America, more schemes like this will come to life over the next few years.

One of the best parts about completing the degree program whilst training to fly was that I had access to a student loan.

Although I am now paying this student loan back (and the interest rates are not ideal), having access to this money significantly reduced the burden of the very expensive cost of learning to fly.

Can I Get Student Finance For My Pilot Training?

A very important question when researching “do I need a degree to be a pilot?”

Some flight schools in America/Canada will offer schemes allowing you to finance your training.

This is also the case in the UK/Europe, where students can simultaneously complete their training and a degree and therefore get student finance. 

Please have a look at this Aviation Scholarships page to find out more. 

What Qualifications Do I Need For My Pilot Training?


At a minimum, you will need to understand the English language and read, write and speak the language to a certain level. That’s because English is the language of Aviation.

The other qualification will differ depending on where you are conducting your training.

In the UK, for example, most flight training schools require primary GCSE’s in Maths, English and Science.

Each flight school will have their entry requirements. It’s always worth researching this. You can read more about how to find the best flight school for you.

Do I Need A Class One Medical For Pilot Training?


Yes, you will require a Class 1 Medical Certificate.

This is the standard required for the license required to fly for a major airline. 

Securing this Class 1 Medical might be worthwhile before continuing your pursuit of flight training.

This ensures you don’t have any underlying health conditions before starting your search for flight schools.

Do I Need To Be Good At Maths To Become A Pilot?


No, you don’t need to be an expert at maths.

However, a basic understanding of maths and physics will help you pass your ground school exams during your training.

Basic mental maths is very useful for commercial professional flyers to have. However, this is at a relatively basic level.

In a recent blog post, you can read why pilots are assessed and need to be good at maths.

Do You Need A Degree To Be A Pilot? A Summary

So do you need a degree to be a pilot?

No, you do not. 

Arguably, it’s beneficial in some respects if you don’t, as it might allow you to complete a degree program alongside your training.

This degree program might allow you access to student loans/finance to help fund your training.

Now you know how to answer the question, “do you need a degree to be a pilot?”

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