If the skies are your second home, then you may be interested in finding the best aviation colleges.
Studying aviation could prepare you for a career that involves aircraft and flight. Whether your goal is airport management or airplane development, or even to pilot major commercial aircraft, studying at an aviation school could help you get your start.
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To get ready to pursue a college degree in aviation, you can take a look at the different options for pilot training and other flight studies.
Best Aviation Colleges
Pilot degrees are one option for aviation students who want to dedicate their careers to airplanes and flying, but they’re not the only option for studies in this exciting field. There are several different branches of aviation from which you can choose to study for a college degree.
Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:
Regardless of the specialty you select, you will still receive a strong foundation in aviation and related courses.
Bachelors in Aviation
A bachelors in aviation can lead toward a variety of careers related to aircraft and travel. To get a degree in aviation, you’ll learn about the history of air and space travel. You will also study aerodynamics, communication, aviation safety, and avionics. Other courses might introduce you to global operations, organizational leadership, and aviation law.
Concentrations or specializations are common in this professional aviation education program. The selection can vary from one school to another, but you may be able to choose a focus like air traffic control, maintenance, airport management, unmanned aircraft, or professional pilot.
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The track you choose can influence your future career direction. Those who study in a professional pilot program may earn licensure that qualifies them to be airline or charter pilots.
Aviation students who opt for management-related degrees could head up sales, security, personnel, or scheduling in an aviation organization, such as an airport or an aircraft manufacturer.
Bachelors in Aviation Maintenance
Flight safety is critically important. Professionals in aviation maintenance technology help ensure that aircraft are ready for the skies. In maintenance programs, you’ll study airframe systems, professional flight technology, electricity, and hydraulics. You’ll also learn how to inspect aircraft and perform necessary repairs.
Graduates tend to become airplane maintenance mechanics or avionics technicians. They may work for airplane manufacturers, major airlines, or the federal government. Some maintenance programs are designed for aviation students who already hold an FAA certificate with Airframe and Powerplant ratings.
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In that case, the college degree program in aviation maintenance technology may focus on management skills for leadership positions in maintenance departments. The courses might cover project management, human resources, marketing, business technology, and logistics.
While mechanic jobs may not require a bachelors degree, having a college education could help you advance in this field. Professionals who study management in addition to maintenance may end up with job titles like maintenance supervisor, professional flight technology specialist, or maintenance analyst.
Bachelors in Aviation Management
Aviation is a business. In an aviation management program, you’ll study both flight and business in order to learn how to lead aviation organizations. Your flight-focused classes can give you a better understanding of how aircraft work and what it’s like to pilot a plane.
The coursework in a professional aviation education program may cover human factors in flying, aircraft parts and styles, aviation and aerospace management, and meteorology for pilots. You’ll also take a range of business courses. They may include marketing, human resources, aviation law, finance, and organizational leadership.
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You may be able to choose a specialization or earn a professional certificate during your program. For example, some schools have specialty tracks for aviation management students who want to pursue careers in air traffic control.
Some professionals with this aviation technology management degree hold aviation and aerospace management or supervisory roles with airports, airlines, and aircraft manufacturers. They can oversee operations, scheduling, or aviation safety practices, or they can coordinate flight attendants.
Bachelors in Aeronautics
The field of aeronautics deals with the science of flight. Studying aeronautics can prepare you to take to the skies or coordinate operations on the ground.
Course topics for a degree in aeronautics can include aircraft aerodynamics, flight instructor training, and air travel safety. You can also take specialized math and science courses, such as aviation calculus and meteorology for flight.
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Some aeronautics students pursue a degree concentration to prepare them for specialized career tracks. The options available to you might include unmanned systems, engineering, or air traffic control. A degree in aeronautics could lead you in a variety of directions.
Some graduates earn flight certification and pursue jobs as pilots. A pilot might also get a job as a flight instructor. Other graduates focus on areas like air traffic control, airplane maintenance, or airport administration.
Aviation Careers & Salaries
Many people enter the aviation field because they want to become pilots. Trained pilots have a wide variety of job opportunities available to them.
Airline pilots have a set schedule for flights. They may transport goods, people, or both. Airline pilots are most often employed by airlines. There are also jobs for copilots who assist the main pilot. Some airlines hire flight engineers, too. Commercial pilots don’t usually work on a fixed schedule. Rather, they fly when their services are needed.
For example, they may work for a large company with a private pilots focus to provide rides for executives. They could give aerial tours to vacationers, or they might transport patients from one hospital to another during medical emergencies. Other commercial pilots work in the agricultural field. They may spray crops to protect them from pests or diseases.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following aviation careers may require training or certification beyond a bachelor’s degree. The requirements can vary from one employer to another.
|Annual Median Salaries
|Airline Pilots, Copilots, and Flight Engineers
|Air Traffic Controllers
|General and Operations Managers
|Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technologists and Technicians
|Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians
|Transportation Security Screeners
Not everyone in the aviation field is a pilot. Many other jobs, such as aviation technology management, are essential to airport operations.
For example, air traffic controllers coordinate takeoffs and landings. Transportation security screeners check travelers and baggage before flights, and flight attendants assist pilots and passengers during trips. There are also people who manage airports. They may head up individual airline operations, or they may oversee the entire airport.
Professionals with aviation degrees may also go into airplane construction. Aerospace engineering and operations technologists often do the hands-on work of assembling planes. Some professionals pursue training in aerospace engineering so that they can be the ones who design the aircraft.
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Those who are interested in keeping airplanes running well may become mechanics. Aircraft mechanics inspect and repair plane parts, such as wings and wheels. Meanwhile, avionics technicians are responsible for airplanes’ electronic instruments.
Aviation Bachelor’s Curriculum & Courses
While all colleges offering aviation programs set their own curriculum, this sample curriculum can give you an idea of what to expect.
- Aerodynamics: You’ll learn about the science of flight and factors that affect takeoff, landing, propulsion, and stability.
- Aircraft Overview: A foundational course on aircraft will survey the parts of a plane, such as the instrument panels and the landing gear.
- Aviation Science: This is an introductory course that provides an overview of the field, including key historical developments, aeronautical engineering technology, and career opportunities.
- Cargo Management: Logistical and aviation safety matters related to handling cargo will be covered during this course.
- Flight Instruction: Taking this class can help you develop skills for teaching others how to fly.
- Flight Training: Through various simulation exercises, you’ll become more proficient at operating an airplane and responding to different situations.
- Legal Issues in Air Transportation: This class teaches you about the laws and regulations surrounding air travel.
- Meteorology: Understanding weather patterns and forecasts will help you make informed decisions about whether conditions are right for flying.
- Operations Management: A course on overseeing aviation technical operations could prepare you for a leadership role in an airport or another aviation organization.
- Safety and Security for Air Travel: As you learn about airport and flight safety, you may review case studies that will help you consider the implications of various management decisions.
The specific aviation track you choose will influence whether you take more courses about flight, operations, or another aspect of this field.
How to Choose a College with an Aviation Program
There are many online aviation programs, so it helps to narrow down your choices as you prepare to go to college. Various criteria can help you figure out which programs might offer you the best opportunities. Here are some factors to consider:
- Accreditation. For any bachelor’s degree, it’s strategic to make sure that the school possesses proper accreditation from major regional accreditation agencies. Also, a program with programmatic accreditation from the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) can boost your confidence in the quality of your aviation education.
- Certificate requirements. Some programs require you to be certified for flight before enrolling in your first classes. Others request that you earn your certificate at an approved flight school during the program. Some tracks may have no flight requirements.
- Specializations. People who want to design airplanes typically need different degrees than people who want to run airports. It’s beneficial to pick a school that can prepare you for your preferred aviation track, whether it’s aerospace engineering, professional piloting, or airport management.
- Partnerships. Some colleges have connections with major airlines or airplane companies. They can provide opportunities to network with leaders from those companies or help you secure internships.
A college’s admissions department can let you know how well the school fits each of these categories, and they can answer your other questions as well.
Bachelor of Aviation Admissions Requirements
For admission to a bachelor’s degree program in aviation, you’ll be required to submit a variety of application materials. These can include:
- Application form and fee
- Essay about your college goals
- Transcripts from high school and any college studies
- Test scores, such as SAT or ACT results (if required)
Some colleges offering aviation programs require you to hold a pilot’s license before you begin the program. Other programs require you to complete your flight training at a local school that’s approved by the college.
Accreditation by one of the major regional accreditation agencies is granted to higher education institutions that meet a standard of excellence. At a regionally accredited school, you can earn a degree that schools and workplaces will respect. So, it’s important to make sure that your school possesses proper accreditation.
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Studying at an accredited college could be the deciding factor in whether you can transfer your credits elsewhere, get into a master’s program, or qualify for a job. When researching aviation colleges, to learn more about regional accreditation, including the organizations that grant it and the institutions that hold it, you can visit the US Department of Education.
Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI)
Programmatic accreditation signifies that a college does an exemplary job of preparing aviation students for jobs in a particular discipline. The programmatic accreditor for aviation studies is the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI).
The AABI reviews aviation-related programs at the associate, bachelors, masters, and doctoral levels. If you choose to earn your degree at an AABI approved school, you can feel confident that you’ll be receiving a top-notch aviation education that employers will respect.
Aviation Licensure and Certifications
For certain job tracks, certifications are essential. If you want to be a pilot, you’ll pursue certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Pilot certificates are also known as licenses.
The first license level is private pilot certification. After that, you may choose to pursue an instrument rating to show that you can handle flying in troublesome weather. To get paid for your services, you’ll need a commercial pilot certificate. An airline transport pilot (ATP) certification, instrument rating, and multi-engine rating are required to fly for the airline industry.
Airplane mechanics may choose to get certified, too. There are jobs for uncertified mechanics, but working independently requires holding certification. Some college programs include opportunities to earn certificates during your studies.
Financial Aid and Scholarships for Aviation Majors
If you qualify, you may earn your college degree with the help of financial aid. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form that all prospective college students can fill out.
Your FAFSA results may qualify you for a student loan from the federal government or from your state. Government college loans often feature low interest rates. You may be eligible for grant money as well.
Scholarships can be another source of financial assistance that you may want to look into when researching aviation colleges. Your school may give out scholarships to some students, and private organizations often distribute scholarship funds as well. If going to school could improve your job performance, your employer may provide tuition funds to encourage your education.
What Is an Aviation Degree?
An aviation degree is a college program that trains students for employment opportunities related to air transportation.
Aviation degrees come in many forms. Some prepare aviation students to become professional pilots. Others equip students with leadership skills for managing aviation organizations. There are also degrees for airplane maintenance.
As an aviation student, you can study topics like aerodynamics, cargo, security, and weather. Some programs also include flight practice so that aviation students can earn one or more pilot certificates.
Is It Hard to Get an Aviation Degree?
As you study aviation, you’ll probably take many math and science classes. Depending on the program, those studies can include algebra, calculus, meteorology, or physics.
Becoming quite familiar with all the parts of a plane, including the electronic instruments, will be important. You’ll study how the various systems work together, the ins and outs of aviation technical operations, and you may even learn how to repair each component on an aircraft.
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In addition, you can study a variety of flying skills, including how to respond to emergencies. Your program might include flight practice in the skies, or you may engage in online simulations.
Why Choose Aviation as a Career?
Students have all sorts of reasons for choosing careers in aviation, but most are fascinated by airplanes and flying. Common aviation careers include pilot, flight instructor, mechanic, and manager.
Here are some other reasons you might want to study aviation:
- Positive job outlook over the next decade
- Opportunities to see the world
- Potential for high earnings
- Variety of roles
You may also have personal reasons for deciding to get a degree in aviation. Whatever your motivation, a bachelor’s program in aviation can help you turn your passion into a career.
What Can You Do with an Aviation Degree?
Aviation schools can prepare students for a variety of careers. Some graduates become commercial or airline pilots. They may offer scheduled or on-demand flight services.
Others choose to go into aircraft development. As aerospace engineers, they could design new airplanes. As engineering technicians, they may construct planes. Aviation training can also prepare students to perform maintenance on aircraft. Some graduates specialize in repairing electronic controls.
Another career path is airport operations. Within an airport, there are a variety of jobs for people who have training in aviation as well as another discipline, such as security, logistics, or business management.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor Degree in Aviation Online?
Typically, a bachelor’s degree program takes 4 years to complete with full-time study. You may have options for speeding up your studies, though. For one thing, online programs are often quicker because they involve accelerated terms.
You can take classes that last around 8 weeks each. After finishing one course, you can immediately move on to the next one. By doing this year-round, you may finish your curriculum sooner. Some colleges also grant credit for previous experience in the aviation industry.
What Do Pilots Do?
Pilots fly airplanes, but they also take care of many different responsibilities. Their tasks can vary depending on the setting in which they work.
Airline pilots who fly for major the airline industry may be part of a flight team. Others in the aircraft could include a copilot and flight attendants. The pilot may oversee this team, use navigation equipment, handle takeoffs and landings, and keep in touch with air traffic controllers.
Commercial pilots also handle takeoff, landing, and in-flight navigation. In addition, they may be in charge of scheduling, handling cargo, and carrying out safety checks.
How Much Do Pilots Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for professional pilots is $130,440. Most airline pilots, such as those who make scheduled flights for major airlines, earn between $80,920 and $208,000 annually. Commercial pilots, such as those who fly corporate and tourism planes, can have annual salaries between $47,570 and $200,920.
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The median salary for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians is $66,680 per year. Mechanics who work in scheduled air transportation often earn the highest wages. The median salary for that job industry is $91,370. The median salary for air traffic controllers is $130,420 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
Do You Need a College Degree to Be a Pilot?
It is possible to receive flight instruction and get your pilot certificate without going to college. People can gain flight training in a variety of ways. Some learn their skills in the military, for example.
Even still, getting a degree in aviation can be a strategic step toward advancement in this field. Some major airlines only hire pilots who have graduated from college. Plus, if you have management ambitions in mind, having a college education can help you work toward that goal.
What’s the Difference Between an Airline Pilot vs. Commercial Pilot?
There are two main groups of professional pilots: airline and commercial aviation. Here’s what you need to know about these job categories.
An airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate is the highest level of pilot certification. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, airline transport pilots usually earn more than commercial aviation pilots.
Is It Worth Going to an Aviation College?
Yes, going to an aviation college is worth it for many professionals. Having a degree can help you secure a position with an aviation organization or qualify for leadership roles in this field. A degree in this field can also provide you with the opportunity to take to the skies and can qualify you to work for major airlines.
Aviation professionals are in currently demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for professional pilots will grow by 5% over the next decade. Jobs for aircraft mechanics and service technicians are growing at the same rate. Flight attendant positions are increasing at an impressive 17% rate, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.
Universities Offering Bachelors in Aviation Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs campus, online or in a hybrid format.
Central Washington University offers an Aviation Management degree. Students may choose to add a specialization in Aviation Maintenance Management.
To be eligible for the program, applicants must have already been accepted to Central Washington University and need to submit copies of their high school transcripts to the program. This is in addition to the copies submitted for the initial admissions process into CWU.
Central Washington University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Eastern New Mexico University offers both a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Science in Aviation Science. The latter is designed for aviation students who either have an associate’s degree or an Airframe and Powerplant License. Those interested in the program may apply online through the school’s website.
Eastern New Mexico University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics. The program is designed for students who already have or who wish to have a career in aviation. Those interested in the program may apply online with copies of their official high school or college transcripts and ACT or SAT test scores.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Florida Institute of Technology offers a Bachelor of Arts in Aviation Management. Students may receive extra credits if they have certain licenses or certifications or if they have scored 70 or higher on the Florida Tech’s exam. Each class is 8 weeks long. Applicants must submit a copy of their high school diploma or GED.
Florida Institute of Technology is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Hampton University offers an online program for a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management with a specialization in Airport Administration.
To graduate, students must complete 122 credit hours, including a work-study course. Applicants may apply online with their high school transcripts or proof of GED completion and must pass a medical examination.
Hampton University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Hodges University offers a Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Aviation. The program is designed to help students obtain Private Pilot through Commercial licenses. Those interested in the program may apply online with copies of their official high school transcripts and their admission essays.
Hodges University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Kansas State University offers a Bachelor’s in Professional Aviation. To graduate, students must complete 120 online credit hours. Up to 60 qualifying credit hours can be transferred into the degree. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.25, a composite ACT score of 21, or an SAT ERW+M score of 1060.
Kansas State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
LeTourneau University offers a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Studies. The program can be completed online and requires students to add a concentration in Avionics, Powerplant Systems, Dispatcher, or Air Traffic Control. Those interested in the program may apply online through the school’s website.
LeTourneau University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Liberty University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management. The program consists of classes that are 8 weeks long and typically takes 3.5 years to complete. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.0 and submit official transcripts from any program attended.
Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Lynn University offers a Bachelor’s in Aviation Management. While the program is completely online, students may also choose to complete onsite flight training. Those interested in the program may apply online through the school’s website with copies of their official high school transcripts and personal statements.
Lynn University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
National American University offers a Bachelor’s in Aviation Management. The online program requires students to complete 180 credit hours.
Applicants may apply online with proof of a high school diploma. Before enrolling, applicants must have completed a professional pilot training program or demonstrate prior training in an approved subspecialty.
National American University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
North Carolina State University offers a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering. To graduate, students must complete 127 credit hours and a capstone project that is 2 semesters long.
Applicants may apply online with official high school transcripts and ACT or SAT test scores. Admissions counselors are available to help applicants through the application process.
North Carolina State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Ohio University offers a Bachelor of Science and Arts in Aviation Management. To graduate, students must complete 120 credit hours, including an aviation operations internship.
Those interested in the program may apply online through the school’s website. Applications are approved based on a holistic, selective review process. ACT or SAT test scores are optional.
Ohio University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Polk State College offers a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Sciences. Students may add either the Aerospace Administration or the Professional Pilot concentration if they are willing to complete a hybrid capstone project. Applicants must have an associate degree with a GPA of 2.0 or higher to be eligible for the program.
Polk State College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Purdue University offers an online program for a Bachelor of Science in Professional Flight. Students must complete 180 credit hours to graduate, at which point they will also earn 5 different flight certifications. Each of the online classes is 10 weeks long. Applicants must provide proof of a high school diploma or GED certificate.
Purdue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Southern Illinois University offers an online Aviation Maintenance Management degree program.
Students must complete 11 different classes to complete the specialization, including either an internship or a work experience. The program is designed for students who have already completed a 2 year degree program in a field related to aviation or who have relevant experience.
Southern Illinois University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh offers an online program for a Bachelor of Applied Studies in Aviation Management.
The program can typically be completed in two years by full-time students. Those interested in the program must have an aviation-related associate degree, a non-related associate degree with a minimum GPA of 2.0, or 3 years of relevant work experience.
University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Utah Valley University offers a number of aviation-related degrees. Options include a Bachelor of Science in professional pilot program, a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management, and a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Technology Management. Students may have to complete flight training depending on their desired degree.
Utah Valley University is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology offers 4 different bachelor’s degrees related to aviation.
Options are Aviation Maintenance, Aircraft Operations (Flight), Aeronautical Sciences, and Aviation Maintenance Management. Applicants must have proof of graduating from high school or a GED equivalent, ACT and SAT scores, and official transcripts.
Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Western Michigan University offers a Bachelor’s in Aviation Flight Science. Students must complete 123 credit hours while maintaining a GPA of 2.75 or higher and pass all drug tests. Applicants must submit official high school transcripts, ACT or SAT test scores, and a personal statement.
Western Michigan University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Getting Your Aviation Degree Online
Aviation is an in-demand field with diverse career paths. If your goal is to go to commercial pilot school or to become a highly trained airplane mechanic, then you might consider pursuing an aviation bachelor’s degree.
Aviation degrees can provide the training you need for employment with a major company, airport, or airline. Depending on your experience and specialization, you may also have the opportunity to advance to leadership roles.
If you’re ready to take the next step in your education, you may want to take a look at how flexible online courses could lead to an accredited college degree in your preferred branch of aviation.