Online Aviation Diploma and Certificate Program Information

Oct 20, 2021

Essential Information

Some schools offer associate's degree programs in aviation in a hybrid format that combines online courses with in-person flight training. Students may access archived lessons and course materials at their own convenience, within set deadlines, or they may be required to watch classes in real-time. A high-speed Internet connection is required, and students should check with their schools to see about other technical specifications.

These programs usually take about two years to complete and require students to have vision correctable to 20/20 and to have earned a high school diploma or GED. Students who already hold private pilot certification may get credit for some courses. The online portion of these programs may include flying with instruments, meteorology for aviation and aviation history. Flight training takes place concurrently with the online classes. Some programs allow students to choose specializations, such as commercial pilot, flight crew technology or flight education.

All professional pilots must hold a license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). There are usually additional requirements as well. Graduates of an associate's degree program in aviation may need additional flight hours in order to qualify for a commercial pilot license.

Associate's Degree in Aviation

An online associate's degree program in aviation that's been certified by the FAA can prepare students to obtain their commercial pilot, private pilot, instructor and instrument ratings. Students also learn the history of aviation and, in some programs, acquire business skills useful to pilots. Applicants to online associate's degree programs must have graduated high school or earned a GED.

Information and Requirements

Online associate's degree programs in aviation are hybrids of online and traditional instruction. Students perform the flight training component of a program on-site, but academic course work can be completed online. Communication with instructors and other students, access to course materials and submission of exams and completed assignments are handled through a school's website. An associate's degree typically can be earned in two years.

Schools offering online aviation programs often use content management systems, such as Blackboard or WebCT. A personal computer and Internet access typically are the minimum technical requirements.

Course Topics

Associate's degree programs in aviation include both major-specific and general education courses. Students who have previously earned FAA certificates or ratings may be able to apply them for academic credit.

Private Pilot

Students in this course receive ground training for private pilot certification. Human factors in flight, aerodynamics, flight environments, navigation and airplane systems are among the topics covered.

Commercial Pilot Introductory

The early stages of the FAA's commercial pilot curriculum are the focus of this course. Subjects covered include pilot regulations, cross-country flying and airman procedures.

Introductory Instruments

Students in this course learn the fundamentals of controlling a plane's flight using instruments alone. Topics addressed include basic maneuvers, flight attitude recovery and electronic navigation.

Aircraft Maintenance

This course provides an overview of the pilot's duties in maintaining aircraft and assessing whether a plane is airworthy. Coursework emphasizes online access and usage of maintenance data.

Career Information

Graduates of an online associate's degree program in aviation are qualified for entry-level positions as pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers. Small and medium transport carriers, corporations, flight schools, law enforcement agencies and the military are among the entities that hire pilots at that degree level.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (, the employment of airline and commercial pilots is projected to grow by five percent over the years 2019-2029. Air cargo carriers are expected to provide more opportunities than major airlines, where competition for positions was likely to be intense. As of May 2020, the median salary for pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers was $160,970.

Continuing Education Information

Many major airlines prefer to hire pilots who have earned a bachelor's degree. Although rare, bachelor's programs in aviation are available online and may allow for the transfer of credits earned in an associate's degree program.

At a minimum, licensure by the FAA requires that candidates be 18 or older and in good health with vision correctable to 20/20. They also must have at least 250 hours of flight experience and pass a written examination.

Coursework for associate's degrees in aviation can be found almost completely online, but typically require in-person flight training in order to complete the program. Graduates will be equipped with the knowledge required to become a pilot and earn the necessary licensure and FAA requirements in order to be able to work in the field.

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