Aviation vs Non-Aviation degree?


Well-Known Member
Yesterday, I went to a briefing on the Central Washington U aviation program for kids who are interested in piloting careers. The head of the program, who claims to have "contacts in the industry", made the statement that it's better to have an aviation degree than a non-aviation degree...that's what the airlines are really looking for. I countered that, in my opinion, it's better to have a non-aviation degree because the airlines don't care what your degree is in and it's nice to have training in a non-aviation area to fall back on. How many furloughed pilots out there wish they had experience in another field besides flying right now? To the gentleman's credit, he did talk about the current state and cyclical nature of the aviation industry.

You sure can't predict what's going to happen 5 to 10 years down the road in aviation. The only constant I've seen in the constant change....I've been flying since 1978.

My advice is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best...a non-aviation degree is part of that thinking.

What do you all think?
Actually, I have a question kind of related to that. I love aviation and everything about it. What I want to do is fly, but short of that, I'd like to be an airport manager or something of that nature. I'm looking into an Aviation Management program, and then getting my ratings after I'm done with college. My question is, would Aviation Management be a good enough fall back, or should I choose something else? The only reason I'm thinking about going with it is that I want to be an airport manager if I can't fly. I appreciate any help you can give me
Why not just get a business degree, it will be enough to get into airport management and a decent job if times get tough!
Iain, thanks for the quick reply
. I thought about just a regular business degree, but a few things are drawing me away from that. First off, I love anything aviation related, so I know I'll do even better in school, since I'll be liking what I'm doing. Also, if i go to a school with an aviation program, I'll be able to make contacts with people who will be in the industry. The final and biggest reason is that the school will be able to offer internships with airports and airlines, so I'll be able to get my foot in the door, which may not be possible at another school. I'm not absolutely sure I want to fly, but I know I want to work in the industry, and I think an aviation-specific degree will give me a boost.
General business degrees are good, but in order to get a step ahead of the crowd, you HAVE to specialize. Matter of fact, I know that UGA, where I got my degree, they did not want you to get a blanket bus. admin. degree unless you were a double major or minoring in another subject. Just my $.02

I wholeheartedly believe, and preach about getting a non-aviation degree. However, I also believe that it is imperatively important to get a degree in something you enjoy. If you don't, your doing yourself a grave injustice that will catch up with you someday. If Aviation Management is what really spikes your interest, then by all means pursue it!

Good Luck!
Nah, if I could do it all over again I would have studied computer science.

There's nothing more stressful than earning a good living, and for medical/wartime/economic/whatever reasons, you have to take a break in flying. If you're lucky, an aviation degree and $2.75 might get you a tall coffee-of-the-day at Starbucks if you're able to get your airline employee discount.

Perhaps I could put him in contact with a couple of close, fuloughed friends with vast jet experience and aviation degrees so they can talk about how valuable a bachelors in aeronautical science is!

It's very warm and comforting to invision a degree program that you do just for the love, however if I had a son that absolutely loved Beanie Babies, there's no way in hell that I'd pay tuition for that. I may, however, offer to pay tution for electrical engineering in which he can independently earn his own money for that Masters of Science in Beanie Babyology!
Doug! Hey, just wanted to say I love this site, and I can't tell you how much it's helped me.

Anyway, I've read about how you should shy away from the aviation science degrees, but does that apply to the aviation management degrees, too? I should probably let you know I'm looking at Western Michigan's program. I downloaded their Aviation Science and Administration program, and it doesn't look like theyteach you to fly at all in this program, it's strictly focused on business, with some aviation specific classes thrown in. Should I still look into getting a degree in another field? I hope to land a job somewhere in the industry, even if I don't get to fly. Thanks!
Aviation management is fine, as far as I know!

However, I have a BS in Aeronautical Science whereas I went thru entire semesters with classes like global navigation, aircraft systems and components, etc and very little other than the basic core bachelor's of science classes apply to every day life.
>>I've read about how you should shy away from the aviation science degrees, but does that apply to the aviation management degrees, too?<<

But if the airlines are not hiring pilots, finding any employment in aviation is going to be incredible tough.
This is what I would recommend, get a degee in business (or international business, marketing, etc...) and get a minor in AViation business or vice versa. Just back it up with something. Then be very active in the aviation management department. Join their clubs, get to know the professors, and volunteer for events. You don't make contacts just by being a student, you make them by being an active student.

Also, just like how airlines dont care what degree you have, most other companies don't either, unless its a technical degree like engineering or something. Experience is what counts most. The companies will train you. All they want to see is that degree so that they can see your compenent enough to get one and have the ability to learn. So best of luck to you in whichever you choose.

They're still hiring ATCers by the dozen, if any of you care. That's a job that never really furloughs (save for the 1980s).

If you want a job with stability, I would look into that.
This is a very good post!

My major is International Business with Finance emphasis and I'll be most likely double-majoring in Latin American Studies to specialize in that geographical area with my business degree. I will minor in Spanish, although learned it while growing up so I'm still fluent...but it's nice to have that on your resume letting the hiring panel know that you speak PROPER Spanish. So, having evidence of a diverse education history looks good to any potential employers.

I have not completely decided wether or not I shall go for my MBA, but that is a decision that will be made in about two years from now. I will consider Embry-Riddle's MBA program - that's where my dad graduated from.

I'd definately recommend getting a non-aviation degree, from what I've researched. That way you will always have something to fall back on if you get furloughed. You should definately look into an Int'l Business degree if you might find that interesting. But always do what you are interested in no matter what - even if it's a Business degree in Aviation Management.
I happen to go to Western Michigan University and for a time majored in Aviation Science and Administration. I switched out of it because I have zero interest in business, so oddly enough I switched to political science but I'm still at Western. I'll throw out a few things, but if you have any specific questions feel free to e-mail me at john.herreshoff@wmich.edu

The way the program is setup here is that your classes are split between the college of aviation and the college of business for the most part. You obviously saw that classes you have to take since you downloaded them already. Let me tell you those are not mickey mouse classes by any means and you will work your tail off in a few of them. You can do some flying with Western if you so choose under the admin. degree, but I think it's limited to your private pilots license. There are some local FBO's (Mind you local is a 30 mile drive to Battle Creek where the college of aviation is located) that you can do training at though, and they do some decent training at that. I would recommend the program highly if you are interested in business and also aviation. It was not for me personally, but if it's your thing I think it's a good degree that gives you a decent aviation background while also having a business aspect to it so even if you can't get to the airlines you can still stay in the industry.

That's just a little bit about the program. E-mail me for more specific questions and I'll do what I can to answer them. If I don't know them I know probably 10 people that are deeper into the program than I got and I can ask them for you.


John Herreshoff
I have not completely decided wether or not I shall go for my MBA

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I would definitely recommend it. In today's economy, you might as well make yourself as marketable as possible, and an MBA will certainly put you above those with bachelor’s degrees...
I have to disagree with Flyitup, I would not get an MBA until you have atleast 3 years experience in industry. The system is designed to learn a bit, see how it is and then learn a bit more with the knowledge gained working, without that you just learn more with no experience of applying it.

Experience is so valuable, if there is 2 candidates one with a bachelors and 2 years experience who has proven he has what it takes, and one with a Bachelors and MBA with no experience, the one with the proven record is better off, and when he works on his MBA he will gain so much more
That makes since Iain, however, I think it could be done either way. Both my father and stepfather got their MBA's straight through, and were able to get a better job right off the bat because of it...

Whatever floats your boat!
I thought most MBA programs wanted you to have work experience of at least a couple years before applying?

And i think that is what should be done. Especially since if your working for a company and you decide to pursue your masters, they'll help pay for it! can't beat that.