What Do the Best Aviation Colleges Offer?

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

Typically, prospective students who are considering careers in the aviation industry tend to contemplate becoming pilots through aviation colleges which offer five essential pilot ratings as follows: private single engine, instrument rating, private multi-engine, commercial single and multi-engine, and certified flight instructor (CFI). In addition, the best aviation colleges usually offer courses in both fixed wing and rotary (helicopter) endorsements. This provides their students with a greater range of career opportunities.

Since prospective aviation students can anticipate a considerable investment in time and money, it is wise to investigate what financial assistance or funding is available when embarking on a lucrative flying career. Student loans, PELL grant funding, and scholarships are just a few of the types of financial assistance that are offered to qualified students by federal sources, public and private entities that can be found on the college websites and/or on individual scholarship websites.

When conducting a review of the best aviation colleges in the US, there are several criteria to take into consideration before making the commitment to enter their aviation program:

  • The location of the college.
  • The dynamics of the learning environment.
  • The learning objectives and practical application of the degree program(s).
  • The state of the training facility.
  • The job opportunities offered or guaranteed before or after successful graduation from the program.

In addition, here are some questions to consider when entertaining prospective aviation colleges:

  • Do you want to attend an aviation college that is local to your permanent home residence to avoid living on or off campus, away from home, which will incur additional room and board expenses?
  • What is the instructor to student ratio? Is it relatively small to avoid becoming lost in a cavernous lecture hall with little or no interaction with your instructor?
  • Specifically, what are the learning objectives of the degree program that is of interest to you? And what can you do with it (practical application) once you have graduated?
  • Are the training facilities state-of-the-art with access to the most updated flight simulators, aircraft, and avionics for example?
  • Does the college-of-interest guarantee job placement either during enrollment in their degree program and/or following graduation?

Each college publishes their general policies applying to all degrees as well as the minimum requirements for each degree program, such as a minimum of 120-semester credit hours numbered from 1000 to 4999 for all bachelor degrees; the minimum GPA requirements for all coursework for the major as well as for all work taken at the college; and whether a major, composite major or dual major are required with a completion of the specific requirements for one of the bachelor degrees offered by the college. Many universities have extended their programs beyond the traditional on-campus classes to include online courses and/or hybrid courses. Generally, however, there are limitations for the number of courses that can be completed online as well as which courses (major versus non-major/elective) as well as the number of the level (lower division, 1000 to 2999 versus upper division 3000 to 4999) of the courses that must be completed. Coursework and degree program questions, as well as financial aid, can be directed to the academic advising office, the registrar’s office, and/or the financial aid office via telephone, email, or website link.

Researching the anticipated investment in time and money required to enter and to remain in an aviation degree program and the financial assistance that is available to qualified students is important. Investigating the salaries and career potential to recoup that payout is also of vital importance. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for commercial pilots is expected to increase by approximately nine percent through 2022. The median/average salary for commercial pilots is estimated to be $75,000.00. In some cases, this may be only part-time in nature which leaves other income opportunities, such as serving as flight instructors, military pilots, corporate pilots, aerial photography, news or traffic reporting, fire-fighting, and tourism. Another career consideration is to create a niche for yourself if such a niche does not yet exist, like opening and operating an aviation-related business such as a flight school or your own service ferrying aircraft for clients. This allows you to utilize the skills learned when completing a multiple-disciplinary bachelor’s degree.

The Internet provides access to a myriad of aviation-oriented websites. These sites give a significant amount of data and information regarding the business projections for aircraft manufacturers, aviation careers, commercial and private pilots, and so forth. And the FAA website offers information pertaining to certificates, licenses, regulations, policies, aircraft, pilots, and unmanned aircraft systems. Although the Internet allows prospective students a tremendous amount of latitude regarding a virtual tour of aviation colleges, at times it is more advantageous to schedule an in-person tour of the college(s) that have been “short-listed.” This can help you gain a better sense of the learning environment and facilities to ensure the most successful student experience.

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The Five Best Things About Being a Student Pilot Going to College

What Can You Expect as a Student Pilot?

Deciding to begin a career as a Professional Student Pilot can be one of the most rewarding and one of the most challenging decisions you’ll ever make. Can you imagine, as a college student, getting to fly helicopters or airplanes on a daily basis as a part of your college experience?

Medical school students don’t get to start seeing patients for at least 4 years.  Law school students don’t get to represent clients for years after college. The same thing can be said about engineering students; they don’t get to build awesome stuff until years after graduating. Heck, education students (future teachers) don’t get to teach in the classroom for years.  But what about student pilots?  They can start flying weeks after starting their freshmen (first) semester. That is awesome! Helicopter flying over a city - Student Pilot

Medical students, law students, and engineering students have to go to school for 6 to 10 years before they start their career. Student pilots, potentially, can start flying “commercially” (paid) within 18 months of starting their training. When comparing an aviation career with any other professional career the benefits just keep stacking up.

The 5 Best Things About Being a Student Pilot and Pursuing an Aviation Career

#5 Global demand.  New Experiences:  Being a commercial pilot means you could be flying just about anywhere, at any time.  Potentially, you could fly all over the world. You will fly to some very interesting places.  With the global demand high for both helicopter and fixed wing pilots, you can virtually get a job anywhere on the planet. Helicopter pilots can take off and land just about anywhere, and typically you find heli tours in the most beautiful places on earth.  Airplane pilots can fly and land at airports in Los Angeles, New York, Paris, London, Beijing, Sidney, and even backcountry airstrips or (With the right equipment) on shorelines.

#4. Live a Life of Adventure: Flying helicopters or airplanes is not necessarily something that comes naturally.  We were not built to fly (if we were, God would have given us wings).  Flying aircraft is extremely adventurous.  You will going places and doing things most people never do.  Helicopter pilots take people up on mountains to heli-ski.  They transport folks to oil platforms in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, transport trauma victims to major hospitals, and they might even help locate a criminal and bring them to justice.  Some very lucky pilots get to fly the President of the United States to and from the White House.

#3. Gain Respect:  Professional people garner respect.  Doctors, lawyers, professors, engineers, and professional athletes typically enjoy respect from many aspects of the general society. The same can be said of pilots.  With your commercial pilot ratings, you will be one of a the chosen few that has gained the skills and earned the right to fly commercially.  This means you have risen to a place of respect in society.  People are generally impressed by the fact that you are a pilot. Most people understand what it takes to become a pilot and therefore, they know that you are something special and unique. Pilots receive tremendous respect from their family, friends, and the community.

#2. Personal Growth:  As a pilot you will be tested.  You will be challenged.  You cannot make excuses – people must have unshakeable confidence in you.  You will have to dig deep and find out who you are.  The best aspects of you will get better, and the areas you need to work on will become evident – and you will improve and conquer the areas of your life that most people never deal with.  The question is… do you have what it takes?  If you do, you will grow “personally” more than you could ever imagine.  The responsibility of flying helicopters or airplanes is tremendous.  In order to be “trusted” you will have to become the best version of yourself in all ways.  Get ready to grow to heights you never knew were possible.

#1. Rewarding Career:  There is no doubt about it.  Good pilots make great money.  It may take time and a great deal of sacrifice to become a commercial pilot, but remember, helicopter and airplane pilots make an extremely good income.  A pilot does not have the typical 9 to 5 job.  As an aviator, your office view could be at 35,000 feet.  As a helicopter pilot, you might be “spotting Tuna” at sea as you fly for a commercial fishing company. Or, you might be covering live major news events as they happen.  This list of “rewards” for commercial pilots goes on and on.

Coming to the Right Conclusion about Aviation and Pilots

First, please get the picture of being “Maverick” from Top Gun out of your mind. You will not be spending all your time between flights cruising the beach on your motorcycle, grabbing the Hot Girls (or Guys), drinking beer and playing volleyball all day in the sun. If you’re serious about becoming a Professional Aviator, you are going to have to be dedicated and be ready to make serious personal sacrifices.

You will have to commit yourself to studying; probably more than you ever have in your entire life. Learning how to fly and everything that is involved with flying requires a tremendous amount of hard work and focus. If a Flight School advertises a life of “Fun in the Sun” with a helicopter parked on a yacht in the middle of a lake surrounded by girls in bikini’s…  we recommend that you think seriously about the level of training they are actually going to provide. Remember, this is a serious profession and only those who take it seriously will be successful.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

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