Real Answers from Real Pilots

Question about 4 year degree

I am 41 years old and I’m working on my PPL right now. After my PPL, I plan to sign up for ATP. I do not have a 4 year degree, but was wondering if it makes sense to start working for the regionals (I’m stealing some pilot speak I’ve picked up from this site) and work on my 4 year degree at the same time. Is that too much to take on based on all I will be learning when I start flying for the regionals? I want to fly more than anything so the pay is secondary. That being said, I will be taking a pretty big pay cut right away and the hopes of an major salary is nice to think about, but not sure if I will get there or not.
Thanks in advance, this forum has been very helpful.


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Hi Randy,

I like you believed when I started flying for a Regional I’d be REALLY busy learning and studying important airline pilot stuff! The fact is after you’re done with the actual training, while you will continue to learn and hone your skills when on the job, you’ll actually have a quite a bit of free time when you’re not flying. MANY Regional pilots take that opportunity to work on their degrees and you should too. While there’s nothing wrong with flying for a Regional, you’re correct the big money (and some added stability) is at the Majors so why not go if you can.

My only question is why are you working on your PPL prior to going to ATP? At 41 you’re not old but you are “older” (like me) and time is a factor in this career. Unless you’re really close to completion, you might want to entertain diving in with both feet and start working on this career change for real.



Good question, and yes, it absolutely makes sense to work on your degree while at the regionals. Let’s do some math, let’s say you finish your private at the age of 41 and then start ATP at the age of 42. Hopefully you are planning on doing the full two years of being a student and instructing at ATP, making you 44 by the time you are airline eligible. If you work at the regionals for five or even ten years you will still be 49-54 by the time you are applying for the majors. That will certainly be on the older side, but not out of the question by any means.

While a degree is not technically required by most major airlines, it is actually a defacto requirement of almost all majors. I don’t see any way possible for you to take classes while you are an ATP student or instructor, you will just be too darn busy, but once you get hired on at a regional you should have plenty of time.

You will not need a degree for the regionals, so you could always stop there if you chose to do so, although I suspect that like most people you will want to progress in your career.

I am glad that this forum has been helpful to you, it is nice to know that what we are doing is helpful to people that are exploring this career. Let us know what other questions you have, we are always happy yo answer whatever you can throw at us.


Thanks for your responses. I’m wrapping up my PPL now, should have my check ride this summer. I enjoy the flight instructor I have and like where I am learning, so I will continue here until I have my PPL, then look for an ATP location to speed up the remaining training.

It’s not as much about the money or working for a major airline for me. I just love getting off the ground. In fact, some other options that really interest me would be NetJets, some sort of charter or corporate pilot. What are your thoughts on getting those jobs? Or are those reserved for ex military with thousands of hours?



The “good” corporate and charter gigs have always been tough to land (pun intended) since there’s obviously considerably less of those positions than airline jobs. However the pilot shortage is affecting all areas of aviation and from what I hear those jobs are opening up as well. Keep in mind there still aren’t a ton so it’s often a matter of networking and building a resume. NetJets (and other fractionals) are a good way to start that process. They do have higher mins so you’re still looking at building time at a Regional but after that it’s worth investigating.


great. the other reason I am working on my PP before attending ATP is that I have a condo for sale. Once sold, I will be able to pay cash for my schooling instead of going into debt on student loan, which will be a big deal for me. Trying to make student loan payments while making the low starting wage everyone keeps mentioning would cause me a lot of stress which wouldn’t go well with needing to be focused on flying. Hopefully that sounds like a good decision to others.