Regional airlines in the United States do not require pilots to have a four year college degree. However, the major United States airlines do require that pilots have a four year degree. Since the major airlines pay much better than the regional airlines, it is advisable for prospective pilots to obtain a four year college degree. These major airlines are looking for pilots with Bachelor of Science degrees with a focus on aviation.

Yet if a pilot’s undergraduate course of study is not aviation related, he will not be immediately ruled out of consideration for an open pilot position. Even if a pilot isn’t looking for work with a major airline, a college degree will help him land interviews with smaller airlines. The degree presents him as a serious candidate for open pilot positions as it indicates that he has the ability to think critically and complete the airline’s unique education program.

Certificates

Pilots will also need to obtain a private pilot certificate. The FAA requires that pilots have a minimum flight time of 40 hours, yet most pilots have an average of 60 flight hours or more. Schools that offer certificate programs that are overseen by the FAA are ideal as they offer the highest quality training programs that have highly structured phases of learning.

After a pilot obtains his private pilot license, he’ll then want to obtain his instrument rating and commercial certificate. This is necessary for any pilot who desires to be paid to fly cargo or passengers. Instrument ratings necessitate a total of at least 50 hours of Pilot-in-Command (PIC) flying across the country. It also requires a minimum of 40 more hours of real or simulated instrument conditions. A commercial certificate requires a minimum of 250 hours of time including 100 hours of PIC, 50 hours of cross country flying and a minimum of 10 hours of learning inside of a “complex aircraft”.

License

To obtain a FAA license, prospective pilots must be at least 18 years of age and have a minimum of 250 hours of flight experience. If they’ve completed classes at a flight school that is approved by the FAA, they’ll likely be able to reduce the flight experience hours that are necessary for the license. Over 600 civilian flying schools, universities and colleges are FAA certified to offer pilot training degree credits.

Once hired, airline pilots will have to partake in a week long corporate indoctrination period, followed by four to six weeks of training in a flight simulator as well as ground school work. After this, another 25 hours of “initial operating experience” will be necessary. It culminates in a test ride with a representative from the FAA. At the end of training, pilots must attend simulator checks and partake in recurrent training sessions multiple times per year throughout their entire career.

What The Major Airlines Are Looking For

Major airlines are looking for more than the qualifications listed above. Major airlines favor pilots who have 3,000 hours or more of flight time with half of these hours spent in a multi-engine aircraft. They also desire a minimum of 1,000 hours as a pilot in command of a jet (turbine) powered airplane. Captains and First Officers will need an airline transport pilot license. To obtain this license, the candidate will have to be 23 years old or older. He’ll also have to have flown a minimum of 1,500 hours, some of which has to be “instrument flying”. A certain percentage of these hours must be completed at night. Finally, he’ll have to pass a written flight exam that is administered by the FAA and also pass a psychological / aptitude test.