While it may seem that airline pilots can only train for one kind of job, they actually are able to fill many different positions once they receive a diploma and on-the-job training. They can become cargo pilots or rescue pilots, or they may pour water on forest fires from high altitudes. They may take aerial photography shots or become crop dusters. Several top schools in aviation give students a choice regarding the location and type of education to pursue.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Purdue University
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has two locations, one in Daytona Beach, Florida and another in Prescott, Arizona. The private university is only for students interested in the aviation industry. Embry-Riddle offers two degree options for pilots: a degree in aeronautical science for students who come in with no flying experience, and a degree in aeronautics for students who are already flying. Distance learning courses are also available. Embry-Riddle is ranked first in the nation for aviation by U.S. News & World Report. Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, is ranked second by BaseOps, a military flight information resource, for its aeronautical program and sixth by U.S. News & World Report. Purdue offers a bachelor's degree in flight technology and an online master's in aviation management.
University of North Dakota and Arizona State University Polytechnic
The University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, ranked the third best aviation program in the nation by BaseOps, offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in aeronautics as well as a Ph.D. program in aerospace science. The university offers distance learning for the master's and doctoral programs. Located in Mesa, Arizona as part of the Arizona State University campus, Arizona State University Polytechnic is ranked fourth by BaseOps for its aviation program. Arizona State Polytechnic's professional flight bachelor's program loads airline simulators onto iPads for coursework.
Western Michigan University
The flight science bachelor's degree at Western Michigan in Kalamazoo, which is ranked fifth by BaseOps, teaches aviation management, aircraft science and airport management and operations as well as flight. Ohio State University in Columbus' aviation degree allows students to specialize through engineering, business or arts and sciences. Students can choose electives in flight education, airport management or transportation analysis. Flying Magazine ranked Ohio State and Western Michigan among the top 10 programs in the country for pilots.
The Florida Institute of Technology, located in Melbourne, offers a variety of aviation degrees, allowing a pilot to specialize in flight and meteorology, flight and aviation management or flight science. The university is also military-friendly, as ranked by the U.S. Department of Defense. Nova Southeastern University in Broward County has programs in aviation for students who want to get their private pilot's license or their commercial pilot's license. Many classes are available through distance learning. Like the Florida Institute of Technology, Nova Southeastern has a veterans' center to help veterans with college placement. Both universities are ranked among the top programs in the nation by Flying Magazine.
LeTourneau University and Utah Valley University
LeTourneau University is unique among the 10 programs on the list. It is a Christian college in Longview, Texas that allows students to get a commercial or private pilot's license, but it also allows students to specialize in planes that bush pilots would use to fly missionaries to small outposts. The university also allows students to specialize in military aviation. Utah Valley University offers both associate's and bachelor's degrees in flight science. Distance learning courses are offered as well, although flight and simulation training must be completed on campus in most cases. Both universities were ranked among the top programs by Flying Magazine.
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Airline and Commercial Pilots
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University: Bachelor Degrees
- U.S. News & World Report: Rankings and Reviews: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
- U.S. News & World Report: Rankings and Reviews: Purdue University
- Purdue University: Undergraduate Admissions: College of Technology
- BaseOps: Aviation Degrees: Five Top Schools for an Aviation Degree
- University of North Dakota: Department of Aviation: Degrees
- Arizona State University Polytechnic: Professional Flight
- Western Michigan University: College of Aviation: Flight Science
- Flying Magazine: Aviation College: A Better Choice Than Ever
- WesleyGuijt/iStock/Getty Images