Flying High: Earning Your Degree or Certificate in Aviation

Why choose a career in aviation?  Besides the sheer thrill of flying a plane, aviation offers numerous job opportunities to make significant money.  According to industry reports, a pilot could make $3.3 million with a very successful regional airline, before going on to the lucrative world of corporate piloting.  These findings are supported by shareholder reports by aircraft manufacturer Airbus, who projects orders of some 866 aircraft annually for the next 18 years, each of those aircraft requiring a crew of 6 to fly it, so the simple math is that nearly 5,200 airline jobs will be available – just to fill the crew positions in Airbus aircraft over the next 18 years!

But not all the glory and the rewards are “up in the air.”  Aviation mechanics make a comfortable average salary of $50,000 – and never leave the ground!  Beyond that, there are rewarding careers in airline management, aircraft design, safety, and space studies.

Where do I Begin?

OK, the excitement and rewards of flying sound great, but how do I find out more about aviation schools and pilot training?  A great primer for learning the distinctions between the various types of aviation schools and the certificates they award, can be found at the Airline Owners and Pilots Association website: http://www.aopa.org/learntofly/startfly/chooseschool.html

In their article “Choosing Your Flight School”, they state:

Flight schools come in two flavors, Part 61 and Part 141, which refer to the parts of the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) under which they operate. The most common and least important distinction between them is the minimum flight time required for the private certificate — 40 hours under Part 61, and 35 hours under Part 141.

Considering that the national average for earning a private certificate is 60-75 hours (how long you'll take will depend on your ability and flying frequency), this difference isn't important for initial training. It does make a difference to commercial pilot applicants: Part 61 requires 250 hours, and Part 141 requires 190.

Most pilots train under Part 61 or Part 141 rules, however, there is yet another option for prospective pilots; Nationally accredited training institutions.  These schools must meet more rigorous standards of accountability in virtually every area, because they must apply to an accrediting agency (like most colleges do) recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.  Airlines like to see graduates from these schools, and there’s yet another bonus in pursuing collegiate aviation degree programs; you may be eligible for financial aid and scholarships to assist in your academic and flight training.

Flight Training Schools

Dowling College School of Aviation offers of Bachelor of Science degree teaching a variety of aviation disciplines within a liberal education setting.  They state that their programs “prepare students for further research and study in management, technology, mathematics and for entry into commercial and military aviation, airports, air traffic control and other areas of the air transport and aerospace industry.”

San Diego Flight Training International and the Airline Direct® Academy offer training for beginners or licensed pilots looking to enhance their skills.  Located at Montgomery Field in San Diego, SDFTI is FAA approved as a Part 61 and Part 141 professional flight school, featuring some 17 training aircraft and a flight simulator.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is highly esteemed as a longtime leader in aeronautic training, and its alums have risen the great heights, including piloting the Space Shuttle.  With 170 campus locations, plus their adult-learning distance program, Embry-Riddle Worldwide, they are truly a global force in aeronautical education.

Perhaps the largest and most diversified aeronautical educational instituion, Embry-Riddle offers a wealth of courses and degrees for all facets of the aviation industry.  Their website lists some 31 degrees and programs!

In America’s heartland, the University of North Dakota’s John D, Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences has a large aeronautic program.  Their website describes the school thus:

We are a world-renowned center for aerospace learning, nationally acclaimed for our achievements in collegiate aviation education, atmospheric research, space studies, and computer science applications. With over 500 faculty and staff members, over 1,500 students from around the world, and a myriad of programs and projects, the John D. Odegard School Of Aerospace Sciences is setting the pace for the future of flight.

What’s more, because the school is set within the University, a student has the full benefit of a renowned Liberal Arts education combined with specific studies in aerospace. Offering 11 degree programs, including 3 at the Masters level, UND’s Odegard School is attended by over 2,100 hundred students from around the world.

As a flight training school, Odegard has a fleet of some 120 aircraft and 18 flight simulators, including a FAA approved Canadair RJ simulator and a helicopter simulator.  They also offer Flight Control training with its own set of tower simulators, that mimic conditions in some of the busiest airspaces in the world.  The school says that when airport management visits the flight control center, they tend to offer the students jobs immediately upon graduation.


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