Real Answers from Real Pilots

Mainline Pilot

(Matthew Burks) #1

Can you become a mainline pilot without a bachelor’s degree? I know that you do not need one to become a regional pilot. If you could also give me a list of things that they will look for when hiring that would be amazing! Thank you!


Hello Mathew,

While there are a couple of “mainline” (I assume you mean Major?) carriers like Atlas and Hawaiian who will hire you without a degree virtually every other Major does and those 2 prefer one. As for a list I recommend you visit the individual airline sites as all airlines have there own particular hiring criteria.

Virtually all are looking for individuals aren’t opposed to doing some work :slight_smile:



Hey Matthew,

You are correct to say that you do not need a degree to fly at the regionals. As for mainline, you can checkout their websites and see that it is not necessarily required.

Delta is the only one of the three that as of now still lists a bachelor’s degree as a requirement:

American does not list anything in their pilot qualification requirements:

United lists a 4 year degree as a preferred requirement:

A good website to check out is, there you can find a bunch of info on each airline (both mainline and regional).




While Yarden is correct that you won’t see it as a requirement at United or AA, you’d be hard pressed to find a single pilot at either without one. I was at a union meeting a few years back and actually had this conversation with a United pilot on their hiring board. He said the only reason they don’t list it as a requirement is for “exceptional cases”. What are exceptional cases? An Army Medal of Honor recipient, the CEOs nephew, situations like those. The rest of us regular folks are probably gonna need that piece of paper.


(Matthew Burks) #5

Thank you for your help and info! I am currently 19 and a sophomore getting my bachelor’s in Business Management. I am going to transfer into a school that offers a form of degree that will be applicable such as air transportation management(or degree similar to that). My dream ever since I was little has been to work for a mainlin airline, so I am just trying to get an idea of what is the best means to do that!



The best means is to do what you’re doing and finish your degree. Although again there are Majors that might take a look at you without a degree you’d be seriously limiting your options.


(Matthew Burks) #7

Also my last question is getting an aeronautical science degree going to help get me hired at other major airlines and how much more beneficial is it to have that degree as opposed to just a business management degree?



The short answer is no. The Majors want to see a 4 yr degree but honestly it can be in basket-weaving. You have to understand the degree allows you to check the box that says yes I have a 4 yr degree and get the interview. The interview process is not going to be about perusing your resume. Depending on the airline there may be a written test, a sim evaluation, personality test and then a sit down with a panel to see who you are as a person (basically if you’re someone they’d like to spend 5-10 hrs locked in a cockpit with?). The airline industry is very small and you’d be surprised the connections you can make or break. If getting to a Major is truly your goal, train hard, be professional and become as a good pilot as you can.

I know pilots at Majors with degrees in everything from music to chemical engineering. Study something you enjoy and there’s also nothing wrong with having a Plan B.