So you know you want to become a pilot, but now what? Fortunately, it is a student’s market when looking for a FAA-certified (approved) flight training program. The choices are endless with more than 100 schools throughout the country. Before selecting the right school for you, we encourage you to consider the following.
What kind of pilot job to you want?
Have you asked yourself what you want from your aviation career? Do you want to be a commercial airline pilot? Corporate/charter pilot? Medical ambulance pilot? Thoroughly research which aviation career you are interested in. You want to make sure you understand the requirements of your dream job now.
Do you want/need a degree, or should you start your career as soon as possible?
Pilots who want to fly commercially must be 21 and meet the FAA’s Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certification requirements, but outside of those two musts each airline – regional and major – have their own additional requirements. At ExpressJet, we look for pilots who are competent, knowledgeable and passionate – we don’t require a degree. Some people prefer to attend a flight training school where they focus solely on earning their certifications, ratings and hours, while others want the college experience or are seeking a degree in aviation or another field.
Also consider if you want a career at the major airlines one day – some require degrees while others don’t. If you do want to go the college/university route, you can major in aviation management or aviation science or a related degree, which may qualify you for the Restricted ATP (R-ATP) that allows you to start your career with less hours (1,000 or 1,250). However, the majors simply require “a degree” so sometimes it’s smart to choose an unrelated field that you’re interested in, like English or Information Science. There’s also the possibility of completing your degree later while you’re flying professionally – that’s one of the perks of the flexible schedule of pilot life!
Part 61 vs Part 141
You haven’t even step foot on the campus yet, but you keep hearing the terms Part 61 vs Part 141. What does that really mean for you, the student? The terms refer to the federal regulations under which the program has the authority to train pilots. The difference:
|Flexible training environment||Less structured training environment|
|Ideal for part-time students||Requires more flight training hours|
|Curriculum is adaptable for each student||Self-study environment|
|Usually less expensive|
|More structured environment||Not ideal for those who are doing leisure training|
|Ideal for full-time students||Less flexible pace|
|Complete your certificates sooner||May not be available everywhere|
|Study is classroom based||Curriculum is not student specific|
|Usually more expensive|
The cost of flight training is substantial regardless of whether you’re looking into Part 61 or 141 aviation programs. Making sure that you receive the highest quality education that best suits your career needs should be the primary focus. You can learn more about options for paying for flight training here: Paying for flight school.
Many universities and flight schools have established partner relationships with regional and even major airlines. Attending a school that has this type of relationship can be the difference between you graduating with a conditional job offer (CJO) at a regional airline or job hunting on your own after completing your hours. Look at the regional airlines that your school is partnered with. ExpressJet has relationships with more than 50 schools across the country through our Airline Pilot Pathway Program (AP3). Then, see if that regional airline has any pathway programs with major carriers that you are interested in. Currently, ExpressJet has pathway programs with JetBlue and United.
Make sure that you ask questions to determine which school is best for YOU. Picking your flight training provider is not a decision to take lightly – you have every right to ask questions about the education you are receiving and you should.
All of this information can seem overwhelming, but it is important to research your decision early on when deciding where to complete your flight training. ExpressJet encourages you to continue to pursue your dreams as an aviator!