I need to make a decision on whether or not I should be pursuing an associates or bachelors degree or go straight to ATP flight school's professional pilot program. I'm 26 years old with a high school diploma and have been working in my family's business since I got out of school and I'm looking for my next step in a career. I would much rather go straight into learning my profession and get a job in the industry then go through four years of college which would put me at 30 years old just getting started with flight school. Is having a college degree on my resume worth the delay in getting started with training and getting a job in the industry? I would love some advice.
@Levi Haney If you have a real interest in flying and no medical issues, then flight school might be the best next step. Some of the airlines and freight carriers have dropped the requirement for a college degree and the demand for pilots is high now. Flight training is relatively short compared to a 4-year college education, but it takes a while to build up the 1,500 minimum hours needed to work for the airlines. Historically, pilot demand fluctuates depending on the air transportation market. Another pandemic like COVID and demand could drop like a rock, putting you out of a job and leaving you with no other marketable skills.
However, if you are not really interested in flying, then the college education might better prepare you for other employment and a higher income. Flying is not for everyone. Flying with the airlines is more like being a systems engineer due to the complexity of the aircraft. The number of high paying airline pilot jobs is a lot smaller than the number of airline pilots and it takes a lot of flight time at much lower salaries before you have the seniority to get one those jobs. In other words, don't expect to make a lot of money for many years.
@Levi Haney, I’m a 737 Captain at a major airline, but I’m not involved with hiring. IMHO, you’re far better off getting your ratings in a hurry, and getting a seniority number at a major as soon as you can. I’m not anti-education at all. But this is the biggest hiring boom I’ve seen in my 33 years in aviation. Get a flying job, then work on your degree on overnights.
Not to counter what the others have said here, but I simply wanted to comment on your statement about currently being 26 and not wanting to start flight school until you've graduated and are 30:
There are university programs, including at the university where I teach (I am not in the aviation department) that are specifically for those aspiring to be professional pilots where you earn your various ratings (including eligibility for a restricted ATP if my memory serves) and a bachelor's degree at the same time.
Again, with the current hiring trends you're probably better off obtaining your certifications as quickly as possible and gaining seniority, but I just wanted to let you (and others) know that there are university programs where you earn your various pilot certs AND a bachelor's degree at the same time, so (in your case) you would be 30 with pilot certs and a degree, not 30 with a degree and then needing to start flight raining.