In addition to providing an exciting career path, pilots, copilots, and flight engineers are also highly compensated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for airline pilots was $134,630 in 2022! This makes aviation a very lucrative career pathway for students. The good news is that there are aviation scholarships and flight training scholarships to help support your education.
Keep on reading to learn more about specific aviation scholarships that students can apply for, whether you are hoping to be a pilot, technician, or a crew member! We also include some great college-specific scholarships and organizations that future aviation professionals should consider joining.
How to win aviation scholarships
Like any type of scholarship, aviation scholarships receive a lot of applications, and so it’s important to make yours stand out in order to win one. Two of the best ways to put together a compelling application are to do some research into the organization offering the opportunity, and to read the application materials thoroughly. Try to find the values and principles they are looking for in a candidate, and then emphasize these throughout your application.
Once you have an idea of what to write about, it’s time to focus on fine-tuning your writing. We’ve got guides to help, including how to write a winning scholarship essay, how to write about yourself, and how to tailor your writing to 250 or 500 word limits. We can also walk you through the steps of making a scholarship resume, and give you tutorials on answering some of the most common scholarship prompts.
Finally, don’t forget about local scholarships! Local scholarships have a much lower number of applicants, so you have a higher chance of winning. Try looking at some local community organizations to see if they offer any opportunities.
Top colleges for aviation scholarships
The above private aviation scholarships are an important part of paying for your education. However, savvy students will also identify specific colleges and universities where they can qualify for need-based and merit-based financial aid. We recommend that students use the Net Price Calculator to estimate need-based financial aid.
If you are interested in aviation and aerospace, here are some of the top colleges and universities that you should be considering:
Purdue University (West Lafayette, Indiana)
- Purdue offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate degrees in their School of Aviation and Transportation.
Embry–Riddle Aeronautical University (Arizona & Florida)
- Do you want to attend a college that is completely focused on aviation and aerospace? Embry-Riddle offers just that and is the largest such institution in the world.
Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio)
- Ohio State is home to the Center for Aviation Studies which includes the Ohio State University Airport (which is the third busiest airport in the entire state!)
University of North Dakota (Grand Forks, North Dakota)
- The John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences at UND provides students with a blend of liberal arts courses and professional aviation education.
Resources for aviation students
Like many fields of study, aviation students can gain a lot from joining student and professional organizations. These organizations can connect them to others in their field, giving them great career advice, networking opportunities, and could even lead to a job or internship. Here are some aviation organizations you may consider joining, and remember to look for more local and regional ones as well:
Whether you are looking for a career in aviation or enjoy it as a hobby, this organization will connect you to pilots and aviation enthusiasts all around the country! They offer multiple tiers of memberships, so you can find one that works as a good price point for you.
Alpha Eta Rho is an aviation fraternity that connects aviation students across the country. They also offer scholarships, networking opportunities, connections to mentors, and even act as a middleman between colleges and airlines! Don’t miss out on this organization.
Members of the LGBTQ+ community may find a great network and community in this organization, which unites LGBTQ+ pilots across the country. If you are wondering what it is like to be LGBTQ+ in the aviation field, this is a great place for firsthand information! They also offer a considerable number of scholarships.
Frequently asked questions about aviation scholarships
Do airlines give aviation scholarships?
Many airlines offer scholarships to help future pilots through flight school. One example is Envoy Air’s Future Airline Pilot scholarship. Envoy Air is the company that runs pilot hiring for American Airlines. So, not only will this scholarship help you pay for flight school, but it may help you secure a job with American Airlines after graduation.
Some airlines have been taking steps to become more involved in the training and recruitment process. For example, United Airlines founded the United Aviate Academy in 2020. They have a wide selection of scholarships available, and they automatically strike certain costs for students who go on to fly with them.
Do I need a bachelor’s to get an aviation degree?
In general, airline pilots do not need a college degree. There is no law mandating a pilot’s degree for pilots. However, some airlines may require their pilots to hold a degree, so you’ll have to do research specific to the airlines you are considering.
Becoming a pilot can be a great way to find a well-paying job without putting up the huge sum required to go to college. But it is also true that a lack of a college degree may limit your options for advancement and earning higher pay.
How many hours do I need for a pilot’s license?
The FAA requires that all students earn 1,500 hours to become a pilot. However, you should note that this requirement may vary by airline. While 1,500 hours is the minimum, some airlines may require that you earn more in order to land a job as a pilot.
Is becoming a pilot worth the cost of a degree?
For the most part, being a pilot is well-worth the cost of a degree. If you know that piloting is the career you want, it is a great option, with a 2020 median salary of $130,440 and a lower education cost than most bachelor’s degrees. For example, the 2022 cost for a full education at United Aviate Academy is $71,250, which is a small fraction of full tuition at any four-year institution.
Especially if you supplement that tuition with scholarships, this is extremely affordable considering the high pay of the profession. Just remember – it is an intensive profession that is not for everyone. Before paying the money for a degree, make sure to talk to pilots and get an idea of the lifestyle they live to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Also see: How much student loan debt is too much?
Can I use FAFSA for aviation school?
Some flight schools may use the FAFSA to assess a student’s financial need, but this can vary school-by-school. You might also be able to qualify for the Pell Grant and Stafford loans through the FAFSA. However, this can vary based on the accreditation status of your flight school. Make sure to check with your prospective schools to see whether their students can receive Pell Grant money and federal loans. This could have a substantial effect on the school’s affordability.
Can crew members and technicians apply for aviation scholarships?
Yes! Many of the scholarships on this list accept applicants who are in any field of aviation. That includes technicians who keep the planes running and crew members who perform duties other than pilot. For example, the Amelia Earhart Academic Scholarship is open to any female student pursuing a career in aviation.
Explore these other scholarship categories:
- Top STEM scholarships
- Scholarships for women
- Top engineering scholarships
- Scholarships for high school seniors
- Top no essay scholarships
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