Becoming an airline pilot


New Member

Im new here and i've read some pretty great threads on here already regarding becoming a pilot as well as using ATP flight school as one path to get there. I am just getting any review, recommendations, etc on ATP and if anyone else has utilized them for their career. Is it recommended and what other paths has someone taken to become a full time pilot.

My son desires becoming a pilot and is already taking lessons for his private license. He graduates HS next year and needs to make some decisions. AFROTC was one option he was considering but after talking with a captain in the AF there is no guarantee at all that the AF will pay ANY of your college tuition even after going through the whole ROTC program. Didn't know that. Plus there's alot more involved just dedicating yourself to that whole process so he needs to decide if that's right for him - OR - do the ATP route and do it on the civilian side. If he does does he still need any college? Do airlines still require this if he's got 1500 hours/exp through ATP in the end? I hear about shortages in the airline industry so perhaps the college degree is not as important as it once was. I would just love to hear from you and glean any additional insight and experiences that I can share with my son.

Thanks in advance!

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Well-Known Member
A college degree is (and will likely continue to be) necessary to be competitive at the major airlines.

Also, ATP Flight School is not the only route for civilian flight training. They are masters at marketing and it can often seem that way. However, local FBOs will likely offer better rates and better quality training, though possibly at a slower pace.

Other options include going to a 4 year university aviation program (UND, ERAU, etc.). It's important to note that this would be the most expensive option, though it would take care of the degree at the same time, while also reducing the required hours from 1500 to 1000.


Well-Known Member
I'm not too sure that AF Captain gave you the best info. Of course, I'm Navy, so maybe there's some differences. I was an NROTC instructor on my shore tour, so I can tell you that if you get a ROTC scholarship out of high school, the Navy is paying 100% of your tuition, plus books and a stipend. If you don't get the scholarship out of high school, then you can come in under the College Program and compete for a scholarship up through your Sophomore year. If you are not accepted into a commissioning program by then, you're out of NROTC.

I did OCS. Which you can do in every branch (although the Army is a little different in their approach from the other branches) - meaning you already have a degree. You take a test, put in a package, and you are either accepted as an aviator candidate, or you can simply decline. This is a pretty good option if you have alternate means to pay for tuition. Also, ANY degree from an accredited university is acceptable - both to the military and the airlines. There's no need to get an engineering degree if that doesn't interest you, and an aviation degree doesn't really give you a leg up over a poli-sci major either.

I was a back-seater in the Navy, so I ran the gear and didn't get any pilot experience or hours. I also had to get all my ratings and work as a CFI to get into commercial aviation. I will second what has been said many times on these forums. A good FBO/mom-n-pop flight school will get you to the same place for significantly less investment. It may take a little extra time, but that extra six months or so could save you $25,000 or more. From my experience, I paid about $35,000 for all my ratings through CFI/CFII/MEI. My private took 4 months doing it part-time, flying around two times per week. Then I busted out Instrument through commercial single and multi in about 10 months. I took my time with CFI and finished it in about two months, then went right to work instructing.

That's just my story, in a nutshell. I don't know where you're located or what options are available to your son in your area, or how far he's willing/able to move. I've heard good stories about ATP and also for several aviation schools. What's a good fit will obviously depend on your specific situation. Just personally, I don't see the value in paying $100-150K to get an aviation degree when you can go get a non-aviation degree to give you some professional diversity, and knock out your ratings at a local flight school, while also working the line so that you can make contacts in your local aviation scene - all for significantly less investment. Regardless, you'll find plenty of resources here from folks that don't have a vested interest in steering you one way or another. Good luck!

Pilot Hopeful

Well-Known Member
Every pilot can provide a different story, a different route to the same objective. It's good to explore now---the various options available as well as time and commitment requirements.

The military probably remains the most cost-effective option at this point. I cannot speak first hand of this track, but I do have a friend who attended a small military academy, is now flying for the Marines, and will be set to land a mainline airline job when the opportunity comes in just a few more years.

Collegiate and professional flight training programs (including several big names already mentioned and probably at least a hundred other less well known options) are likely the most direct entry from the civilian side but, as noted already, generally carry a much greater price tag. Having a college degree (in almost any discipline) most certainly enhances the resume, particularly at the major legacy carriers, and affords other options if flying should at some time fail to pan out. Many regional airlines (e.g., Piedmont, ExpressJet, PSA, Republic) have established partnerships with these training programs (most are readily available to review from the respective websites), strengthening the connection to an airline job. Also, check out an option recently introduced by jetBlue: .

Also, do not discount non-airline flying opportunities, which are also numerous. My dad works as a forensic engineers and his company owns and operates a very nice single-engine aircraft to extend their client base in the region. Right now, they have to contract for a commercial pilot; how neat would it be if they had a civil engineer on staff who could also fly? Of course, plenty of full-time corporate opportunities are out there, as are the fractionals (e.g., PlaneSense, ImagineAir, NetJets).

(The options, schools, programs, and companies mentioned here are not exhaustive but intended to provide a starting point for further exploration.)

Finally, I applaud your due diligence as a parent sharing in this discussion; it would also be insightful for your son to engage the community and pose questions as he formulates his plan of attack. I found this forum and joined as a sophomore in high school and have found the interactions to be helpful. Asking these questions and learning together promises a rewarding endeavor for the whole family as you enter the coming years.



Well-Known Member
Recently retired USAF officer, recently had my son graduate from college on a partial Army ROTC scholarship.

Each branch of service has different policies. Right now, I know of no branch that automatically awards a scholarship just for being in ROTC. Yes, you can do four years in ROTC and not be on a scholarship ever. Second, the military option is done because of the desire to serve, since again, I don't know of any branch that guarantees you an aviation slot up front. USMC might, but you still have to physically qualified.

The real conversation your son needs to have is about goals. What does he want to do. If it's fly for a living, well then Air Force isn't the smartest choice. Better options for a pilot slot exist elsewhere with less competition.

I don't have the knowledge or experience in how to get to an airline.