Best Pilot Schools in the US

A career in the aviation industry comes with many benefits, such as traveling while earning, earning a competitive income, and meeting different people. Some companies also offer excellent healthcare benefits and travel perks for you and your family members.

Whether you want to become a commercial, military, or private pilot, you’ll find several universities or colleges in America offering aeronautics and aviation programs. Most of them also offer degrees for pilots who want to operate or fly unmanned vehicle systems (UVS) or unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAV).

Not only is it because of technological advancement, but the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International also predicts that thousands of jobs will be created within three years after the U.S. airspace system gets integrated with unmanned aircraft.

Below is a list of 10 of the best pilot schools in the US offering quality programs for future pilots. These institutions meet the following criteria:

  • An average annual cost of no more than $40,000
  • Accredited by recognized and authorized bodies
  • A median starting salary not lower than $45,000 after graduation

Note that these colleges were ranked from lowest to highest average cost. Data and other information have been pulled out from the specific college and U.S. Department of Education websites.

10 Best Pilot Schools in the US

1. Farmingdale State College

4 Year; Farmingdale, NY

Average Annual Cost: $8,638

Farmingdale State College’s Aviation Center, located at Republic Airport, is recognized as one of the top pilot schools in the US. With its AABI accreditation and inclusion in prestigious college rankings, such as Forbes’ Top Colleges 2021 and America’s Best Value Colleges 2019, the center offers comprehensive programs for aspiring aviation professionals. Its prime location near the tri-state area provides convenient access for students, and the center’s proximity to the main campus enables easy commuting options.

As the largest collegiate Flight School in the Northeast Region, the Aviation Center stands out by offering a 4-year degree program in Aeronautical Science, making it the only SUNY school to do so. The center aims to equip students with a solid undergraduate education while maximizing their career prospects. With an average of 5,800 flight hours dedicated to flight instruction annually, the Aviation Center provides extensive practical experience and maintains rigorous standards, including FAA certification rides and student progression checks.

Graduates of the Aviation Center have achieved success in various aviation-related occupations. Popular career options include becoming a Certified Flight Instructor, an Airline Pilot, a Charter Pilot, a Corporate Pilot, a Banner Tow Plane Pilot, serving in the Armed Forces as military pilots, or pursuing employment within the FAA. The favorable graduate statistics demonstrate the strong employability of Aviation Center graduates, with high employment rates and a significant number of graduates employed at Farmingdale State College as flight instructors.

The Aviation Center at Farmingdale State College excels in several areas. It holds accreditation from AABI, ensuring that its programs meet industry standards. The center boasts a modern fleet of aircraft and advanced flight simulators for training purposes, while its well-equipped facilities provide essential resources for aviation education. Internship opportunities offer students real-world exposure, and the active alumni network provides valuable connections and career guidance.

Continuing education programs cater to industry professionals seeking career advancement, while industry partnerships result in unique opportunities such as guest lectures and recruitment events. The center also promotes research and innovation in aviation, with faculty members and students engaging in projects that contribute to the industry’s growth and advancement.

It’s important to note that Farmingdale State College has a stringent retention policy, requiring permission from the chairperson for students retaking AVN courses for the third time.

2. Purdue University – Main Campus

4 Year; West Lafayette, IN

Average Annual Cost: $13,986

Purdue University’s Bachelor of Science in Professional Flight degree program offered through the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology provides students with a comprehensive education that goes beyond traditional flight training. The program offers a larger perspective of the aviation industry, covering various aspects from aircraft construction to decision-making in the airline industry. Students learn from aviation professionals with significant industry experience, gaining valuable insights and real-world knowledge.

In addition to flight training, the program offers several special features and opportunities for students. Students have the opportunity to earn private and commercial pilot certificates as well as an instrument rating during the program, enhancing their qualifications and enabling them to pursue diverse career paths within the aviation industry. Purdue University’s pilot school is recognized as an Elite Restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) flight school, allowing individuals to become eligible for the R-ATP certification by accruing a mere 1,000 flight hours, accelerating their progression toward becoming airline pilots.

Students can also work toward certification to become flight instructors, gaining teaching experience and mentoring younger students. Purdue University’s pilot school provides students with access to state-of-the-art airplanes for flight training, ensuring they train on advanced and well-maintained aircraft. Additionally, students can enhance their proficiency by engaging in flight simulators, experiencing authentic flying scenarios firsthand.

Purdue University offers a dual degree option, allowing students to obtain both a Flight Bachelor’s degree and an Aviation and Aerospace Management Master’s degree in just five years. Students can also get involved in various student organizations catered to aviation students, facilitating networking, professional growth, and extracurricular engagements to foster connections and enhance skills in the industry. The Polytechnic Institute’s immersive, hands-on education approach equips students with practical skills and experiences, making them career-ready upon graduation.

It’s important to refer to Purdue University’s official website or contact the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology for detailed and up-to-date information regarding fees, policies, and program-specific requirements. The program’s educational goals aim to develop proficiency in key competencies such as leadership, technical excellence, decision-making, communication, teamwork, and resilience. Students attain essential abilities imperative for success in their aviation pursuits.

Additional points to note include the Degree in 3 program, which allows certain first-year professional flight students to expedite their bachelor’s degree attainment within three years. Purdue University provides flight operations information to enrolled students, offering details on scheduling, procedures, safety guidelines, and training updates. The pilot school also offers research and scholarly opportunities for students interested in exploring aviation-related topics further. Professional development resources and career services are available to support students in their transition to the aviation industry. After completing the degree, students can pursue continuing education and advanced training to enhance their skills and career prospects.

For the most accurate and up-to-date information about Purdue University’s Bachelor of Science in Professional Flight degree program, prospective and current students should consult the official website or directly reach out to the School of Aviation and Transportation Technology.

3. University of North Dakota

4 Year; Grand Forks, ND

Average Annual Cost: $15,657

The University of North Dakota (UND) is renowned for its John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, which is highly regarded for its pilot school and aviation programs. UND offers a wide range of degree programs and flight training options, making it a top choice for students aspiring to build a career in aviation. Accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI), UND ensures that students receive a high-quality education and training.

UND offers various degree programs in the field of aviation, including Commercial Aviation, Aviation Management, Air Traffic Management, Airport Management, Aviation Safety & Operations, Aviation Technology, Aviation Flight Science, and General Aviation. These programs equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills to excel in their chosen aviation specialization.

In addition to degree programs, UND provides comprehensive flight training programs. Students can pursue certifications such as the Private Pilot Certificate, Instrument Rating, Commercial Pilot Certificate, Airline Transport Pilot Certificate, Multi-Engine Rating, Flight Instructor Certificate, Certified Flight Instructor – Instrument, and Certified Flight Instructor – Multi-Engine. These programs enable students to acquire the practical flight experience required for their aviation careers.

UND boasts extensive resources and facilities that enhance the learning experience. Its location at the Grand Forks International Airport provides a convenient and immersive environment for aviation education. The university maintains a large fleet of over 50 aircraft, including popular models such as Cessna 172s, Piper Cherokees, and Beechcraft Barons. Moreover, advanced flight simulators and training facilities allow students to gain realistic virtual flight experiences. UND’s faculty comprises experienced industry professionals who provide top-notch education and mentorship to students, ensuring they receive the highest quality of instruction.

UND’s industry connections and partnerships offer valuable networking opportunities for students. The university facilitates internships and job placements within the aviation industry, allowing students to gain practical experience and establish professional connections. Additionally, industry professionals frequently visit UND to share insights and provide mentorship, further enhancing students’ understanding of the aviation field.

Research and innovation play a vital role in UND’s aerospace programs. The university actively engages in cutting-edge aerospace research, contributing to advancements in the field. Students have opportunities to participate in research projects and collaborate with faculty members, enabling them to develop critical thinking skills and contribute to the field of aerospace sciences.

UND’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences offers a prestigious and comprehensive aviation education. Accredited degree programs, a diverse fleet of aircraft, experienced faculty, industry connections, and research opportunities are among the many resources UND provides to prepare students for successful careers in aviation. Whether students aspire to work in commercial aviation, aviation management, or other aviation-related fields, UND equips them with the necessary resources, training, and support to excel in the dynamic and exciting world of aviation.

4. Lewis University

4 Year; Romeoville, IL

Average Annual Cost: $18,664

Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois, presents outstanding aviation programs, encompassing a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Flight Technology, a Bachelor of Science in Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and an Associate of Arts in Aviation Flight Management. Their FAA-approved flight program is nationally recognized, and it recently received the prestigious Loening Trophy for being the outstanding collegiate aviation program in the country.

Lewis University’s flight program provides aspiring pilots with numerous advantages. Their arsenal boasts a contemporary array of aircraft, comprising Cessna 172s and Piper Cherokees, along with an exclusive training facility boasting a 4,500-foot runway. The experienced and certified flight instructors ensure students receive top-notch training. With its convenient location near Chicago, Lewis University offers students access to a thriving aviation industry.

Financial aid options are available to help students afford their education at Lewis University. Their flight program prepares students for Private Pilot, Instrument Pilot, Commercial Pilot, and Multi-Engine Pilot licenses. Additionally, they can earn a Bachelor’s degree in Aviation Flight Technology or Unmanned Aircraft Systems. The comprehensive curriculum covers both technical and business courses, providing a well-rounded education.

Lewis University’s aviation programs go beyond pilot training. They offer specialized programs in Air Traffic Control, Aviation Administration, Aviation and Aerospace Technology, Aviation Maintenance, and Unmanned Aircraft Systems. With partnerships at O’Hare and Midway International airports, students gain practical experience and networking opportunities. The university’s holistic approach and industry reputation make it a prime choice for aspiring aviation professionals.

Overall, Lewis University’s aviation programs provide high-quality education, experienced instructors, modern facilities, and valuable industry connections. Whether students aim to become pilots, air traffic controllers, aviation technicians, or managers, Lewis University equips them with the skills and knowledge needed for successful careers in the aviation industry.

5. Walla Walla University

4 Year; College Place, WA

Average Annual Cost: $20,571

Walla Walla University’s Aviation program offers three degree options: Bachelor of Science in Aviation Technology, Associate of Arts in Aviation Technology, and a minor in Aviation. Accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International, this program prepares students for successful careers in aviation by providing comprehensive knowledge and skills. The program features a 13,700 square-foot flight center located near the campus at a tower-controlled commercial airport, equipped with various aircraft for hands-on training. With small class sizes and personalized instruction, students receive guidance from experienced faculty and staff who are committed to their success.

The Aviation program at Walla Walla University focuses on aircraft operation, safety, and professional aviation. Students learn to operate aircraft safely and effectively while gaining an understanding of aviation history, different aircraft types, and flight principles. The program also offers a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management for those interested in aviation administration and airport management careers. Through practical training and flight instruction, graduates of Walla Walla University have a competitive edge in the job market, often transitioning directly into pilot positions.

Located in the Walla Walla Valley, the program benefits from favorable flying conditions, with 200 clear sky days on average and diverse landscapes. Students have access to a supportive aviation community and networking opportunities, thanks to the program’s proximity to a tower-controlled commercial airport and involvement in the aviation industry. The flight center, with its two paved runways and multiple instrument approaches, provides a real-world training environment. Additionally, the availability of the Computerized Aviation Testing Service (CATS) on campus simplifies the FAA written examinations process.

Regarding costs, flight training expenses at Walla Walla University vary depending on the certificate or rating sought. Students can expect to pay around $55 per hour for flight and ground instruction, with additional costs for the FAA Flight Medical and Practical Tests. However, the program’s emphasis on flight instruction allows students to build flight hours, offsetting costs and ensuring practical experience.

Interested individuals can obtain further details regarding Walla Walla University’s Aviation program, encompassing admission prerequisites, curriculum specifics, and financial assistance alternatives, by accessing the program’s website or directly reaching out to the program director. The program’s commitment to quality education, experienced faculty, and extensive resources make it an excellent choice for aspiring aviation professionals looking to launch their careers.

6. LeTourneau University

4 Year; Longview, TX

Average Annual Cost: $23,196

LeTourneau University’s College of Aviation & Aeronautical Science is a renowned aviation program in the United States. It offers a range of programs to prepare students for successful careers in aviation, including professional flight, aviation management, aircraft maintenance, dispatch, unmanned aircraft systems, and mission aviation. The FAA-approved pilot training program equips students for the airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate through ground school, flight training, and simulator exercises. Graduates are well-prepared for various aviation roles such as airline pilots, corporate pilots, flight instructors, and aircraft maintenance technicians.

Attending LeTourneau University’s pilot school offers several advantages. The program has an FAA approval, ensuring adherence to industry standards. The school boasts a fleet of modern aircraft, including Cessna 172s, Piper Cherokees, and Diamond DA40s. Moreover, the state-of-the-art aviation training center with a flight simulator enhances the learning experience. Experienced instructors with diverse aviation backgrounds provide valuable insights into the industry.

LeTourneau University’s pilot school emphasizes professional development and encourages participation in aviation organizations and competitions. The National Intercollegiate Flying Association (NIFA) team at the university supports Texas’ largest “fly-in” event, offering students opportunities to showcase skills and network with industry professionals. Specialized tracks within aviation, such as mission aviation and aircraft maintenance, enhance students’ expertise in their chosen fields.

The college’s strong emphasis on mission aviation prepares students for service in remote areas and humanitarian efforts. Mission aviation courses and opportunities for mission trips and outreach programs provide unique experiences. LeTourneau University recognizes the importance of continuous learning and offers advanced training courses, enabling pilots to expand their qualifications and career prospects.

The pilot school promotes research and innovation, allowing students to engage in projects, explore emerging technologies, and contribute to aviation advancements. Strong industry connections and partnerships with aviation companies, organizations, and government agencies provide students with access to resources, internships, and employment opportunities.

LeTourneau University’s pilot school within the College of Aviation & Aeronautical Science offers a comprehensive aviation education. With an FAA-approved program, modern aircraft fleet, state-of-the-art facilities, experienced instructors, professional development opportunities, specialized tracks, mission aviation focus, continuing education options, research emphasis, and industry connections, the program prepares students for diverse aviation careers and success in the industry.

7. Jacksonville University

4 Year; Jacksonville, FL

Average Annual Cost: $24,084

Jacksonville University’s School of Aviation offers accredited degree programs in aviation management that provide students with the knowledge and skills for a successful career in the aviation industry. With options like Aviation Management (AVM) and Aviation Management and Flight Operations (AVO), students can choose a program that suits their interests and goals.

The AVM program focuses on aviation management and covers essential subjects such as aviation law, finance, marketing, and safety. On the other hand, the AVO program combines aviation management with flight training, allowing students to earn a commercial pilot’s license and an instrument rating alongside their management education.

The School of Aviation partners with L3Harris Airline Academy, offering access to a fleet of modern aircraft for flight training. This partnership ensures students receive high-quality training from experienced instructors and have access to state-of-the-art resources.

In addition to academic programs, the School of Aviation provides various extracurricular activities to enhance students’ experiences. The JU Flight Club, JU Aviation Professionals Association, and JU Aviation Safety Association offer networking opportunities and professional development within the aviation community.

One significant advantage of graduating from the School of Aviation is eligibility for a Restricted-Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) certificate with 1,000 flight hours. This certificate gives graduates a competitive edge in the job market, as it allows them to be hired as first officers with fewer flight hours compared to graduates from non-approved programs.

Overall, Jacksonville University’s School of Aviation offers comprehensive programs, industry partnerships, and extracurricular activities that prepare students for successful careers in aviation management. The location near Jacksonville International Airport provides convenient access to training facilities, making it an ideal choice for aspiring aviation professionals.

8. Auburn University

4 Year; Auburn, AL

Average Annual Cost: $24,104

Auburn University’s School of Aviation presents a FAA-approved Part 141 pilot school program, equipping students with the expertise and abilities necessary to excel in the aviation field. The Professional Flight degree prepares students for various FAA certifications, including Private Pilot Certification, Instrument-Airplane Rating, and Commercial Pilot Certification. By prioritizing hands-on flight training, graduates can acquire these certifications by accumulating as few as 1,000 hours of flight experience.

Located at the Auburn University Regional Airport, the program boasts a convenient and accessible learning environment with modern flight training aircraft. Auburn’s School of Aviation is highly regarded, ranking second in the nation for 2023 according to FLYING Magazine. Furthermore, it has gained recognition as a highly cost-effective aviation academy, providing exceptional education at an affordable price.

Transfer students can join the Professional Flight program in either the Fall or Spring semester, granted they fulfill space availability requirements and maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.70. Students can complete the program’s curriculum, encompassing 120 credit hours and incorporating 60 hours of flight training, within a span of four years. Attendance in flight instruction labs is mandatory, emphasizing the importance of safety and adherence to guidelines.

One distinguishing feature of the program is the emphasis on advanced certifications. Students are required to complete at least one advanced pilot or flight instructor certification/rating, equipping them with specialized skills for the aviation industry. Additionally, Auburn University’s Professional Flight program is approved for Federal VA education benefits under the Post 9/11 GI Bill®, covering flight instruction and ground school fees up to maximum reimbursement limits.

For those seeking a career in aviation, Auburn University’s School of Aviation offers an exceptional education. With experienced faculty, an FAA-approved Part 141 program, and affordable tuition, students receive a well-rounded aviation education that prepares them for success. Prospective students are encouraged to consult the AU Flight Operations Manual (FOM) and seek guidance from the appropriate advisors to gain detailed insights into the Professional Flight program.

9. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott

4 Year; Prescott, AZ

Average Annual Cost: $35,396

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott is a prestigious pilot school in Prescott, Arizona, offering a comprehensive flight program and a variety of aviation-related degrees. The university prepares students for careers as commercial airline pilots through a four-year program that combines academic coursework and practical flight training. The program produces highly competent graduates who excel in the aviation industry, possessing the expertise and abilities essential for acing the FAA’s Airline Transport Pilot certification exam.

With an acceptance rate of 61%, Embry-Riddle Prescott is highly selective in choosing students for its flight program. Applicants must meet specific criteria, including a high school diploma, a minimum GPA of 2.5, and a passing score on the SAT or ACT. A physical exam and interview are also required to assess applicants’ suitability for the program.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is renowned as the largest and oldest aeronautical university in the United States. It sets high standards for aviation education and actively contributes to the formation of aviation policies on a national and international level. The university offers a wide range of degrees and programs, accommodating full-time students, working professionals, and military personnel.

Embry-Riddle’s state-of-the-art facilities and resources provide students with a superior learning environment. The Prescott campus features advanced labs, flight training devices, and a diverse fleet of aircraft. Notable facilities include an Air Traffic Control Lab, a Weather Center and Meteorology Suite, and an Accident Investigation Lab. These resources enable students to gain practical experience and engage in hands-on learning, preparing them for the demands of the aviation industry.

Embry-Riddle graduates have excellent career prospects, with growing global demand for pilots and maintenance technicians. As the aviation industry expands and the number of daily flights increases, the need for educated and trained professionals continues to rise. Embry-Riddle’s strong industry connections and reputable alumni network further enhance career opportunities for graduates. By choosing Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott, students can embark on a successful aviation career and join the ranks of the university’s distinguished alumni.

10. Baylor University

4 Year; Waco, TX

Average Annual Cost: $36,039

The Bachelor of Science in Aviation Sciences (B.S.A.) degree with a Professional Pilot concentration at Baylor University offers a comprehensive program for students aspiring to pursue careers as commercial pilots, flight instructors, or aviation managers. The program combines academic coursework and flight training to provide a well-rounded education and practical experience. Baylor University’s Institute for Air Science brings industry expertise into the classroom, covering topics such as aerodynamics, navigation, meteorology, aviation law, and more.

Students undergo flight training at the Baylor University Flight Center, which operates out of the Waco Regional Airport. The flight center offers state-of-the-art facilities and utilizes modern aircraft models, including Tecnam for fixed-wing airplane training and Robinson for rotary-wing helicopter training. This integrated pilot training system provides hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced instructors.

Baylor University’s aviation programs boast esteemed accreditations, including recognition from the Aviation Accreditation Board International and the Federal Aviation Administration’s approval. These credentials ensure a high standard of quality and compliance with industry regulations. The private university setting allows for smaller class sizes and personalized attention from faculty members who bring real-world experience in areas such as airport management, aviation law, and weather analysis.

Located in Waco, Texas, Baylor University benefits from being situated in a major aviation industry hub, providing students with networking opportunities and potential career paths. The university provides various extracurricular opportunities that enable students to deepen their passion for aviation, such as the Baylor Flying Club and the Baylor Aviation Scholars Program, fostering connections with fellow aviation enthusiasts.

In order to obtain a pilot’s license from Baylor University, aspiring students must engage in an application process, encompassing submission of transcripts, standardized test scores, a personal statement, and an interview with a faculty member from the Institute for Air Science. Once accepted, students complete the academic coursework required for the B.S.A. degree, fulfill the flight training requirements, and pass the FAA written and practical exams to earn their pilot’s license.

Baylor University’s Bachelor of Science in Aviation Sciences program with a Professional Pilot concentration offers students a comprehensive education, combining academic coursework, flight training, and extracurricular opportunities. Baylor University empowers students for thriving careers in the aviation industry by providing prestigious accreditations, a committed faculty, and entry to a vibrant aviation industry hub, equipping them with the essential knowledge, skills, and connections.

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