If you're looking for a challenging and adventurous career in the aerospace industry, a bachelor's degree in aviation is an excellent choice. Aviation is a multidisciplinary field that includes air traffic control, airport management, aeronautic engineering, and leading edge technology systems, such as unmanned aircraft drone systems. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 5% growth in jobs for airline and commercial pilots through 2024, and an online aviation degree expands your career prospects. To help you make an informed decision, read on for our guide to bachelor's programs in the field.
What are the best aeronautics and aviation programs of 2020? Here are our top 10:
|1||Hallmark University||San Antonio, TX|
|2||LeTourneau University||Longview, TX|
|3||North Carolina State University at Raleigh||Raleigh, NC|
|4||Everglades University||Boca Raton, FL|
|5||Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide||Daytona Beach, FL|
|6||Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus||Portales, NM|
|7||Liberty University||Lynchburg, VA|
|8||University of Nebraska at Omaha||Omaha, NE|
|9||Hampton University||Hampton, VA|
|10||Lynn University||Boca Raton, FL|
Choosing a Program
All bachelor's programs in aviation and aeronautics cover the basics of airport operations, including aviation safety and security, aviation law, air traffic control, aircraft design, and meteorology. The right program for you should feature a concentration or focus that is aligned with your career goals. Some of the popular concentrations include aviation management (flying or non-flying), professional pilot studies, air traffic management, and aeronautics.
If your goal is to become an airline or commercial pilot, consider a program approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to shorten the required flight training hours. For careers in aviation management, flight training is not required, but some schools encourage students to obtain a private pilot certificate. If your interest is in aeronautics, aircraft design, or engineering, a concentration in aerospace engineering can lead to prestigious and lucrative careers in government or defense agencies.
Another popular specialization is unmanned aerial systems (UAS), an emerging aviation technology field strictly regulated by the FAA. Schools offering this concentration give you the opportunity to design, build, and test a UAS application for your senior capstone project.
What Are The Best Online Bachelor's in Aeronautics/Aviation Programs?
|San Antonio, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 49%||
Nationally recognized for the quality of its bachelor of science in aviation maintenance management, Hallmark provides elite practical training with a strong focus on career growth. Intended for established aviation professionals seeking to advance into management positions, the program rewards those who meet its demanding admissions standards. The program's comprehensive training leads to a bachelor's degree in just 20 months.
The program's rigorous structure includes an intensive overview of the business and administrative necessities of aviation management. In particular, coursework focuses on leadership, project management, business administration, and human resource management skills. Graduates of this nationally accredited program emerge ready to enter growth-focused careers in maintenance analysis, supervision, and planning.
Applicants require an associate degree in a related field, along with current FAA-issued airframe and powerplant certification and at least 30 undergraduate credits in arts and science coursework.
|Longview, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 61%||
Founded in 1946, LETU holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. Its technical programs also hold a prestigious endorsement from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, a STEM-focused specialized accreditor.
Students in LETU's bachelor of science in aviation management engage with a multidisciplinary curriculum that combines detailed technical training with advanced business education. Degree-seekers can specialize in four fields: aircraft dispatch, homeland security, aircraft maintenance, and professional piloting. Every concentration maintains a sharp focus on the human factors that influence along with safety, operations, and management topics.
Delivered entirely online in an asynchronous format, learners can study year-round to advance their degree completion. The program features an accelerated structure that includes 122 required credits, with about one-third of the degree path concentrated on a rigorous program of technical and business courses.
North Carolina State University at Raleigh
|Raleigh, NC||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 81%||
NC State supports a unique degree path through its acclaimed online and distance education platform. Leading to a bachelor of science designation, this program begins with one year of pre-engineering coursework at a partner school. Students then transfer to NC State to complete the final three academic years of their aerospace engineering degree.
Degree-seekers complete coursework at the University of North Carolina system, either online or at the Asheville or Wilmington campus. Craven Community College in eastern North Carolina also hosts a qualified pre-engineering program. Learners benefit from transferring to NC State once they hold the basic knowledge that makes the school's world-class labs, equipment, and research facilities valuable.
NC State's advanced, academically rigorous program features instructors and faculty members with elite expertise and extensive experience. NC State also furnishes online learners with full access to the institution's career development assistance resources, guiding graduates to immediate and successful transitions into the job market.
|Boca Raton, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 59%||
Everglades University, located in Boca Raton, Florida, features a bachelor of science in aviation/aerospace with six practical, career-oriented concentrations. Degree-seekers can specialize in technical or administrative areas, including aviation safety, aviation security, flight operations, facilities management, maintenance management, and operations management. Small class sizes and flexible, asynchronous course delivery methods create convenient learning opportunities.
Students proceed toward degree completion one course at a time, maximizing the program's practicality while affording learners the ability to master topics and concepts individually. Local learners also can attend traditional, campus-based classes or combining face-to-face and online study.
A noted military-friendly school, Everglades University holds regional accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school strives to put students in control of their own academic development, with some concentrations offering capstone project opportunities that support synthesized and applied learning.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Worldwide
|Daytona Beach, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 19%||
Originating from a symbiotic business partnership between aeronautics pioneers T. Higbee Embry and J.P. Riddle, ERAU holds distinction as one of the most prestigious aviation academies in the United States. The regionally accredited Florida-based institution offers degree programs in seven specialized areas, with its bachelor of science in aeronautics marking one of its most popular learning paths.
Incorporating multiple disciplines into its scientific perspective, the program examines both the human and technical factors that influence aeronautics. Students in this rigorous 120-credit program engage with various topics that focus on aviation safety and security, aircraft maintenance, air traffic control, and the science of aeronautics. Supplemental minors offer unique customization options, allowing students to earn certificates and notations in 29 aviation management disciplines.
ERAU boasts impressive student achievement rates, with a 2015 peak seeing 97.7% of online graduates earning effective job or continuing education placements within one year of matriculation.
Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus
|Portales, NM||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 35%||
This bachelor of science in aviation science program affords students the chance to customize their learning experience. ENMU makes the degree available in two different entirely online modes, along with a hybrid structure that blends online and campus learning. Online students can opt for asynchronous web-based study or a real-time, lecture-capture format.
In either case, students earn an ideal knowledge base for careers as pilots, air traffic controllers, and airport managers. Military students can also advance their academic credentials through the program, and ENMU maintains supportive policies for learners with armed forces backgrounds. ENMU also offers affordable pricing and extends low in-state tuition rates to all learners, regardless of their physical locations, if they take six or fewer credits per semester.
Buoyed by impressive rankings from multiple respected review agencies, the degree path takes a broad, survey-oriented focus of aviation science. Students engage with a comprehensive set of topics that examine aeronautics from both technical and commercial perspectives.
|Lynchburg, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 50%||
Home of Virginia's largest flight school, Liberty University features highly accomplished faculty members and an online bachelor of science in aviation that builds both hard and soft skills. To qualify for admission, applicants must hold a valid pilot's license or acquire one through one of the institution's approved aviation training affiliates.
Liberty University's program covers 120 credit-hours of coursework, but many students qualify for advanced standing thanks to their flight training and experience. On average, degree-seekers earn their credentials in just two and a half years. Coursework focuses on essential aspects of aviation, including safety and security, aircraft maintenance, and navigation. It also explicitly works to build the soft skills essential to career success: leadership, professionalism, communication, and critical thinking.
In 2018, Liberty University's School of Aeronautics won the Loening Trophy. This venerable award recognizes the best all-around college aviation program in the U.S., and carries major prestige in the professional flight community.
University of Nebraska at Omaha
|Omaha, NE||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 48%||
At UNO, online learners engage with an innovative program leading to a bachelor of multidisciplinary studies degree. Students interested in aeronautics can customize their coursework to earn a concentration in aviation studies through classes delivered by the school's nationally renowned Aviation Institute.
By design, the program features a fluid structure that gives students enhanced control over their own learning. Under the guidance of academic advisors, students craft custom course lists that further their own intellectual and professional development goals. Supplementary internship requirements elevate the program's value through hands-on learning and networking opportunities.
Budget-conscious learners also appreciate this acclaimed 120 credit-hour program's affordable cost, set at $280 per credit-hour for in-state students and $390 for out-of-state students as of the 2019-20 academic year. Asynchronous course delivery facilitates "anytime, anywhere" learning, with core courses covering everything from aviation history to the industry's business, corporate, and human factors.
|Hampton, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 58%||
Virginia's HU delivers a 122 credit-hour program leading to a bachelor of science in aviation management with a concentration in airport administration. Designed to meet the needs of emerging aviation management professionals, the program ranks as the only FAA-approved degree path of its kind offered at a historically black college. HU now welcomes students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds.
The program includes advanced instruction in aviation management science along with liberal arts disciplines. The program helps pique student curiosity and inspires them to embrace lifelong learning as a professional growth model. Coursework remains sharply focused on the business, project management, and human resource management aspects of airport administration.
Sound ethics, problem-solving proficiencies, and leadership abilities define every aspect of its skills development perspective. Learners proceed through a highly structured degree path that culminates in cooperative work-study placements and senior capstone or practicum projects in their final year.
|Boca Raton, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 55%||
The bachelor of science in aerospace engineering program at Lynn provides students the chance to combine detailed theoretical learning with advanced practical training. Students engage in a rigorous core curriculum of aerospace engineering courses, supplemented by instruction in innovation and entrepreneurship. As a result, learners emerge with the ratings and licenses necessary to enter the aerospace field.
Lynn supports fieldwork opportunities and encourages students to gain hands-on experience through simulations. These initiatives offer degree-seekers the chance to apply their learning to the global aerospace and aeronautics industries.
Online students also benefit from Lynn's various internship opportunities and many alumnis receive employment from companies like LaGuardia airport authority, American Airlines, and Delta Airlines. The program's structure also emphasizes business and leadership skills through ground personnel and industry management along with cockpit training.
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Bachelor's in Aeronautics/Aviation Program?
While program requirements differ among schools, you can expect a strong focus on aeronautical decision-making and problem-solving skills. Courses such as flight theory, air traffic control, security, and aviation law are completed by all aviation majors. Here's a general overview of what to expect in an aviation bachelor's program.
CURRICULUM FOR AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN AERONAUTICS/AVIATION
Below is a sampling of courses offered by most aviation bachelor degree programs. While course titles vary by school chosen, some material is foundational for all aviation students.
- Flight physiology: This course explores human physiological responses to stressors in flight environments, which prepares students for careers as commercial pilots or certified flight instructors. Topics include fatigue, acceleration, decompression, hypoxia, pressure alterations, and spatial disorientation. Students participate in lab simulations of altered pressure environments in an altitude chamber.
- Air traffic control: By simulating the role of an air traffic controller in a terminal radar approach control environment, students gain experience in air traffic management. Topics include surveillance, navigation subsystem technology, collision avoidance systems, and sequencing in the terminal area. Students learn realistic, hands-on experience managing landings at civilian and military airports.
- Aviation law: This course covers the basic legal framework of aviation law through case reading, legal research, and argument. Topics include aviation operations, aviation accident litigation, state and federal tort law, constitutional law, criminal law, administrative law, federal statutes and enforcement actions, aircraft ownership issues, contract law, and international treaties.
- Aviation meteorology: Students interpret and measure meteorological elements and their effect on aircraft performance. Topics include stability, temperature, pressure, clouds, fronts, air masses, atmospheric heat exchange, thunderstorms, aviation weather equipment, meteorological flight planning, and weather forecasting with specific application to flight.
- Aviation safety: An introduction to aviation safety for those aspiring to commercial airline flight. Topics include aviation safety culture, risk management, disaster and emergency planning, pilot psychology and physiology, human performance, internal reporting systems, and accident investigation. Students participate in classroom exercises that introduce the techniques and tools of safety promotion.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET AN ONLINE BACHELOR'S IN AERONAUTICS/AVIATION?
Most bachelor in aviation science programs are completed in three to four years and require 120 credits. If you have transfer credits, or certifications and ratings from the military or FAA, you may qualify for advanced standing, which considerably shortens your completion time.
A program's structure will also influence the length of your degree. Some programs are offered in a cohort model, where students progress through a fixed course of study together, enjoy increased peer support, and graduate as a group. If you prefer to complete coursework at your own pace, select a program that offers individually paced learning. Some schools also offer exceptional students an accelerated track, which may eventually lead to a master's degree. For pilot career paths, you should factor in flight time requirements. If you graduate with a bachelor's degree from an FAA-approved school, fewer hours of flight training are required for pilot licensing.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Aeronautics/Aviation Degrees
Accreditation is an official review process handled by regional and national agencies to ensure a school's adherence to rigorous quality standards. You should look for three types of accreditation: regional, national, and field-specific. Regional accreditation is the most widely held and respected designation; it is awarded to schools that meet standards for their state and region. National accreditation requirements are less standardized, and typically apply to vocational and technical schools featuring for-profit status or religious affiliations. Online programs undergo peer reviews by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission to ensure they meet national quality standards. For field-specific accreditation, look for a stamp of approval from the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI), which ensures that aviation programs meet stringent industry standards for relevance, improvement, and quality.
Uniform standards of accreditation are made possible by the oversight of two organizations: the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The DOE does not accredit schools itself, but recognizes accrediting agencies. The CHEA approves agencies that award national accreditation, and provides assurance of academic integrity. Before you decide on an online aviation degree program, you should verify that it is recognized by the DOE, the CHEA, and the AABI. This ensures that you are eligible for financial aid and receive the best education available. It's also wise to verify that the accrediting agency itself is qualified to evaluate schools properly. To see a comprehensive list of accredited schools and programs, visit the DOE and CHEA websites.
Employment Outlook for Bachelor's in Aeronautics/Aviation Graduates
A bachelor's degree in aeronautics/aviation gives you an advantage in career prospects, salary outlook, and job placement. According to a recent report by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, a bachelor's degree leads to increased lifetime earnings in the aviation and aeronautics field as a whole. For example, helicopter pilots do not traditionally require a bachelor's degree. However, a 2014 report from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's scholarly commons concludes that as helicopter companies continue to expand, employers are increasingly favoring candidates with bachelor's degrees. For airline and commercial pilots with bachelor's degrees, the BLS projects a five percent increase in available jobs over the next decade.
BACHELOR'S IN AERONAUTICS/AVIATION SALARY
Salaries for graduates of bachelor's in aviation science programs vary depending on location, employer, and level of experience. Aerospace engineers and air traffic controllers have the highest median salaries at all stages of their careers. Commercial pilot salaries in later career stages can match or exceed those of aerospace engineers and air traffic controllers. Using data from PayScale, the table below provides expected median salaries for aerospace engineers, commercial pilots, and other aviation staff at various stages of their careers.
Median Salary by Experience
|Job Title||Overall Median Salary||Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees||Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees||Median Salary for Late-Career Employees|
|Air Traffic Controller||$83,791||$64,000||$87,000||$123,000|
|Certified Flight Instructor||$60,330||$42,000||$49,000||$82,000|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
BACHELOR'S IN AERONAUTICS/AVIATION CAREERS
While many online aviation degree holders pursue careers as airline pilots, graduates can find employment opportunities in aviation management, military services, aircraft manufacturing, unmanned aircraft systems, and flight simulator companies. Employers typically prefer to hire reliable candidates with strong teamwork and decision-making skills who are able to work under pressure. Interpersonal communication skills and accurate, organized record-keeping habits are also important. Here's a brief look at a few potential career paths for aviation graduates.
- Airline and Commercial Pilot
Airline pilots operate controls and engines to navigate and fly planes that transport people and cargo. Commercial pilots fly aircraft for other purposes, including fire fighting, rescue operations, agricultural irrigation, and charter flights. Major airlines typically require a bachelor's degree from a program approved by the FAA.
Median Annual Salary - $105,720
Projected Growth Rate - 5%
- Air Traffic Controller
Air traffic controllers monitor weather conditions and other factors to ensure that aircraft remain at safe distances from one another during flight and ground movement. A bachelor's degree from an FAA-approved program and a favorable score on an aptitude test are usually required for employment.
Median Annual Salary -$122,410
Projected Growth Rate - -9%
- Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technician
Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians maintain and repair aircraft, and perform inspections when required by the FAA. While an associate degree can provide entry into the field, some employers also require airframe or powerplant certifications, and a bachelor's degree can provide hiring advantage.
Median Annual Salary - $60,270
Projected Growth Rate - 1%
- Aerospace Engineer
Aerospace engineers design, build, and test aircraft, missiles, spacecraft, and satellites. A bachelor's degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology is required for all entry-level jobs.
Median Annual Salary - $109,650
Projected Growth Rate - -2%
- Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians install, operate, maintain, and test equipment used in development and production of aircraft and spacecraft. They also calibrate aircraft computer systems and perform quality checks. While a bachelor's degree is not required for entry-level employment, FAA certification and continuing education can provide a career boost.
Median Annual Salary - $68,020
Projected Growth Rate - 4%
As a future aviation professional, it's worth your time to look closely at the many valuable membership benefits available through professional organizations. You can take advantage of members-only scholarship programs, networking opportunities, annual conferences, discounts on travel expenses, research assistance, and resources for continuing professional development. Some organizations also provide policy advocacy and member representation in governmental proceedings, and participate in the accreditation process.
Financing Your Online Bachelor's in Aeronautics/Aviation Program
College costs can seem daunting, but fortunately there are many sources of aid available. For access to grants, loans, and other funding offered through the U.S. government, complete a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. Loans and scholarships are also available through professional aviation organizations such as AOPA. For programs requiring flight training, consider the additional costs of flight time. Many students receive their initial flight training in the military, and attend schools offering tuition discounts to military personnel.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.