Aviation is an incredibly diverse industry, with jobs available in air traffic controlling, aircraft mechanics, flight instructing, piloting, engineering, and more. These positions range from customer service to the highly technical, and can include long hours and extensive travel.
Job growth and employment opportunities for aviation professionals vary across concentrations. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average salary for airline and commercial pilots is $105,720, with job growth in the industry projected at 5% by 2024. For equipment mechanics and technicians, jobs are expected to increase by 1%, with an average salary of $60,270 per year.
Depending on what aspect of the industry you decide to study, there are quality programs, both traditional and online, that provide the technical and foundational skills necessary to become an aviation professional.
Purdue University was founded in 1869 when businessman John Purdue donated both land and money for the development of a college focused on the sciences and technology. Now, the Purdue University West Lafayette campus boasts more than 200 undergraduate majors and over 69 master’s and doctoral programs. The Purdue School of Aviation was recognized in its field well before the founding of the Purdue Polytechnic School. Since its founding, however, this institution has climbed in the rankings of relative programs, offering research opportunities as well as degrees in areas such as: biofuels testing and development, gender issues in aviation, high-performance turbine operating, human factors/crew management, and more.
The Purdue Polytechnic School of Aviation and Transportation and Technology combines a comprehensive teaching model with hands-on training education techniques. As this university is a school with a focus on teaching and the sciences, you can expect their aviation school to match up with its ranking. Within this aviation college, there are seven possible undergraduate aviation degrees, including but not limited to aerospace financial analysis, aviation management, and professional flight. The graduate school offers three programs: an MS in aviation and aerospace management (online and on-campus) or a doctorate in aviation technology. Coursework primarily focuses on technical and scientific areas of study, but there are also general education requirements for graduation. In addition to learning done in the classroom, you will be able to practically use your skills via simulations.
The John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences prides itself on providing the highest possible standard of professional flight without burdening the student with astronomical tuition fees. This liberal arts institution has five key program objectives: to produce graduates with exceptional aviation skills, to strive for national and international excellence, to instill a passion for aviation that will inspire students to continue learning throughout their lives, to promote a solid foundation in technology, and to provide the necessary skills and culture to promote safety within the aerospace industry.
This aviation college offers undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree programs; within each of these programs, you have the opportunity to add a minor or a specialty certification. Possible undergraduate degrees are in business administration or aeronautics. You can also earn your master’s and/or Ph.D. in aerospace sciences. Each degree, be it undergraduate, graduate, or master’s, includes mandatory flight course requirements. The cost of aviation classes is not included in flat tuition rates, and this cost varies from program to program, so be sure to look into the specific rates of the program you are interested in. Many states offer either in-state or discounted tuition at UND, with the highest rate of tuition totaling approximately $19,292 per academic year. Financial aid and scholarships are available to students who meet eligibility requirements.
OSU’s aeronautical programs can be found within the College of Engineering’s Center for Aviation Studies, among the best aviation colleges in the world. Partnerships between OSU and prominent agencies in the industry serve to further a student’s employment opportunities, such as internships and research, as well as employment post-graduation. The school’s Center for Aviation Studies came into being in 1917 at the onset of WWI. Originally, at the beginning of the War, the U.S. War Department established schools of military aeronautics at six universities, including Ohio State University. As a result, the OSU School of Aeronautics opened in May of 1917. Even post-war, this aviation college continued to flourish, called upon again in WWII to train civilians to fly warplanes.
Both undergraduate and graduate aviation degree programs are offered at this aviation school. Undergraduate options include a BS in aviation (via the College of Engineering), a BS in business administration in aviation management (via the Fischer College of Business), and a BA in social sciences in air transportation. A student of any major degree program is able to add a professional pilot specialization. This specialization gives students a way to earn their Commercial Pilot’s Certificate with the advantage of an Instrument Rating. By earning your professional pilot specialization, you are then given the option to continue on to earn your license as a Certified Flight instructor or a certificate of Multi-Engine Rating even prior to graduation. Each program and its associated flight class requirements differ in cost, but financial aid and scholarships are made readily available to students who qualify.
The San Jose State University College of Engineering offers a Department of Aviation and Technology. SJSU’s aviation department came into being during the year 1936 when students within the math department began expressing interest in flight. As WWII drew closer, this budding field of study became one of 13 US schools to become a part of the Civilian Pilot Training Program; this program was created with the aim of teaching civilians how to fly warplanes and assist in the war effort. Ever since, the school has been serving students with interest in business, technical, or active flying careers. SJSU’s Department of Technology has been present since the 1800s, though in those days, the school was known as Manual Arts. The BS in industrial technology came into being in the early 1960s.
This aviation college offers two bachelor’s programs, a BS in aviation degree and a BS in industrial technology. Within either of these bachelor’s in aviation, you can specialize in operations, maintenance management, aviation management, or professional flight. SJSU’s BS in industrial technologies allows specializations in computer electronics and network technologies or in manufacturing systems – green manufacturing. This University also offers a master’s program in quality assurance. This master’s program was designed for professionals working full time; many classes are offered online or during the evening. Students are accepted from a wide range of backgrounds, such as business, product design, health technologies, and more. Internships and work-studies programs are available to students who meet financial eligibility requirements.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, founded in the early 1970s and comprised of more than 170 locations around the globe, is the top ranked provider of aviation educational degree programs. Dedicated to the success of their students, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University offers flexible, high-quality degree programs to highly motivated, busy working adults. The curriculum equips students with the most current knowledge, skills, and training in the latest technologies. Their programs are continuously reviewed and updated for both quality and content. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University provides online distance learning programs to a student body of more than 26,000 individuals. The courses are taught by leading experts in the aviation field with real world experience. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers a range of degree and nondegree programs in the fields of aviation and aerospace. Students at this aviation college have the option of selecting from 35 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The aerospace engineering program has been ranked as the top program in the nation by U.S. News and World Report for the last nine years. Degree programs offered online include associate and bachelor’s degrees in aviation business administration, aviation maintenance, and professional aeronautics, with additional bachelor’s degree programs offered in technical management and specializing in logistics, occupational safety and health, or engineering sciences. Master’s degree programs are offered in technical management, space education, and logistics and supply chain management, as well as several other areas of focus. The curriculum in each of the programs provides extensive study in the fundamental and advanced areas of aeronautical science. The programs include in-flight training through sophisticated aircraft simulators, courses in navigation, communications, and surveillance systems found in aerospace vehicles and explore core areas such as philosophy, ethics, psychology, geography, and the humanities.
Academy College, founded in 1936, is a private aviation college which offers an array of professional career-focused degree programs. Students enrolled at Academy College have the option of pursuing associate, bachelor’s or certificate programs in aviation, business and finance, computer technology, digital arts and design, and medical and health. The challenging curriculum prepares students for the complex and dynamic careers in the professional realm. Academy College offers flexible schedule options tailored to meet the needs of their students. The instructors teaching the courses are specialists with industry-relevant experience. Students are offered lifetime placement assistance, career and resume counseling, and employer panel discussions. Academy College maintains professional associations with well-regarded professional organizations. Academy College is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
Academy College offers several degree options in the aviation field: an Associate of Applied Science in aviation business or professional pilot specialization, a certificate program in professional pilot, and a resident and correspondence program in aircraft dispatch. The pilot programs provide flight training beginning in the first quarter of study and use a combination of ground school and flight training. Students learn on single- and multi-engine aircraft to provide the most comprehensive educational experience. The structured, results-oriented curriculum ensures students are equipped with the knowledge and training essential to achieving success as a pilot. The courses are FAA approved and are conducted under FAR Part 141. The courses are taught by pilots and allow students to develop relationships with industry professionals. The aviation business program requires 101 quarter credits and includes courses in private pilot aviation principles, private pilot flight training, business and computers, aviation course electives and technical course electives.
Hallmark University, established in 1969, is a private career school dedicated to providing industry-relevant programs. The institution has earned high regard for its dedication to providing high-quality programs to motivated individuals. Hallmark continuously strives to improve and expand their aviation degree programs. Students enrolled at Hallmark University have the option of completing diploma programs, associate or bachelor’s degree programs in electronics, health care professions, business, and information technology. The students are taught by experienced instructors who ensure they attain a high level of competency and develop a responsible code of ethical conduct. Certified by the Federal Aviation Administration as an Aviation Maintenance Technician School, the university’s Hallmark Institute of Aeronautics provides rigorous and challenging programs which remain abreast of advancements and regulatory changes within the aviation industry. Hallmark University of Aeronautics is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges and approved by the United States Department of Education.
The school of Aeronautics at Hallmark University offers both associate and diploma programs. Students may choose one of two associate of applied science degree programs in aviation, in airframe technology or power plant technology. The fifteen-month degree programs prepare graduates with the skills and knowledge necessary to become professionals in the field of aviation. Students learn to diagnose aircraft problems and to maintain and repair aircraft. Significant emphasis is placed on experiential learning through practical application of skills learned in the classroom. Program curriculum adheres to the requirements and regulations of the Federal Aviation Administration, ensuring students will be qualified to take the certification exams administered by the FAA. The test incentive program offered by Hallmark University allows students to earn vouchers to assist with the costs of the tests. Diploma programs offered include aviation technician, airframe technician, and power plant technician. The programs require between 54 and 90 credits and between 1174 and 1926 hours of practice in learned skills. Each of the programs instills graduates with the entry-level skills necessary to successfully enter the field of aviation.
Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, established in 1928, is a leader in aviation education and training. Since it’s founding, Spartan has produced graduates who have continued on to make remarkable contributions within the aviation industry. Spartan College offers programs which encompass the areas of aviation, aerospace, manufacturing, and technology. The program curriculum incorporates the latest advances and the most current information in the continuously evolving aviation field. In addition to its traditional educational programs, Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology also provides contract training to employees of national and international government agencies and various commercial and industry organizations with the United States. Students are also offered the opportunity to complete the FAA and FCC professional certification exams administered by Spartan College. The college also offers ongoing career services to their graduates which include resume creation, recruiting visits, and interview training.
Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology offers a range of programs in aviation including associate and bachelor’s degrees and diploma programs. Students have the option of pursuing diploma programs in avionics maintenance technology, nondestructive testing diploma programs, avionics maintenance technology, quality control and professional pilot degree, and aviation management. The Associate of Applied Science in Aviation Maintenance, as well as majors in avionics, quality control, and flight programs prepare student for entry level positions within their field of interest. The Bachelor of Science in Aviation Technology Management can be completed in 16 months and combines training, education, and experience to ensure graduates are equipped with the skills necessary to become successful professionals in their field.
Rio Salado College is a two-year public institution with a thirty-year history, serving a student body of nearly 20,000 individuals. The student focused institution offers customized, flexible degree programs which can be tailored to meet the needs of the individual. Students have the option of selecting from certificates, or associate or bachelor’s degree programs. Programs are available in accelerated and distance learning delivery formats. The innovative curriculum encompasses high-quality, industry-relevant courses which prepare students with the tools and knowledge necessary to begin a new career or advance their current professional position. Rio Salado College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.
Rio Salado College offers an associate degree in aviation and airway management and operations. The program prepares students with the skills necessary to become successful managers in the aviation industry. Students learn the fundamentals of airport operations, ground traffic direction, passenger and cargo operations, ground support and flight line operations, and flight safety and security operations. The program also encompasses aviation industry regulation and the business aspects of managing aviation organizations. Certificate programs are offered in ground operation, initial flight attendant, passenger services, reservations, and vacations. Rio Salado College has entered into partnerships with numerous employers, and offer up to 22 college credits to their employees at minimal cost.
Aeroism Flight Academy was originally created by Comair Airlines, and was later owned by Delta Connections. As a flight school, the academy was established in 1989 and is considered a leading institution for pilot training. Recognized for the quality of their graduates, Aeroism Flight Academy has produced first officer candidates for the most successful regional airlines. The Academy operates a fleet of 73 aircraft and its graduates have become employed in over 30 airlines. The programs provide students with advanced, industry-relevant curriculum and training which prepares them for careers in top airlines as first officers, nationally and internationally. The programs train students in safety, efficiency, and customer service. Students from around the world enroll at Aeroism Flight Academy because of the quality of their programs. This school is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.
AFA is primarily a flight school offering pilot training, but also offers associate and bachelor’s degree programs through a joint partnership with Jacksonville University, Broward College, and San Jacinto College. The traditional professional pilot program is a challenging, fast-paced program which can be completed in as little as 24 months. An approved first part 141 flight school, the program includes coursework in advanced systems, part 121 operations, high altitude weather, high speed aerodynamics, advanced aircraft systems and automation, and EFIS and EICAS systems. Students engage in mission-based training where they are provided with a particular assignment intended to accomplish a specific purpose. The program consists of two phases at 12 months each: the training phase and the flight instructor phase. The training phase includes training in private and instrument, commercial multi, high altitude, commercial single add-on, and flight instruction. The program curriculum is VA-approved flight training. The second 12 months require completion of 600-800 hours of flight time, a jet transition course, and a guaranteed job interview.
Online Aviation Degrees
As the 21st century progresses, so too does our ability to utilize technology for the benefit of higher learning; it may surprise you to learn that you can earn an online aviation degree just as you would at a traditional brick and mortar institution. Many technical and aerospace schools now offer a portion of their degree programs online, often at in-state tuition costs, regardless of your place of residence. These online aviation degrees often have less to do with majors requiring flight but offer more options to students interested in aviation management. These degree programs are typically designed to be completed in approximately two years, but also offer room for part-time and full-time course flexibility. Before enrolling in an online program, be sure that the school you’re interested in offers an online aviation degree that is accredited by a relevant institution.
To determine the best aviation colleges, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school’s commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the top 10 aviation colleges. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school’s ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category’s ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.