Earning an Online Bachelor's in Aeronautics/Aviation

You can expect textbook studies in an aeronautics and aviation program, but flight education classes also provide practical experience.

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An online aviation degree prepares you for an exciting career in flight and ground control through coursework that combines textbook and hands-on learning. If you want to know what to expect as you pursue a bachelor's degree in aviation, this page can help. It provides information about admission requirements, course topics, potential career pathways, and professional organizations in the field.

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Overview of Aeronautics and Aviation Degrees

An online aviation degree deepens students' knowledge of aeronautics and aviation as they prepare for careers as pilots, air traffic controllers, or aerospace engineers. These students explore security and safety, unmanned aerial systems, and meteorology, all of which prepare them for multiple certifications from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). You can expect textbook studies in an aeronautics and aviation program, but flight education classes also provide practical experience, allowing students to fly in either a single- or multiple-engine aircraft. Ground control classes emphasize emergency protocols and the weather's effects on flight navigation.

This degree proves ideal for military service members and veterans, and learners with strong mechanical skills. Those with previous aviation experience also find this degree an outstanding choice for their academic endeavors, especially since some schools may accept that experience as college credits.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the number of airline and commercial pilot jobs to increase 4% by 2026. As pilots retire and leave the workforce, companies must hire knowledgeable, skilled professionals to replace them. This includes positions for experts who fly helicopters, airplanes, and other kinds of aircraft.

Application Process

Prospective students who want to earn an aviation bachelor's degree online must first complete an application form, which generally incurs a fee. They must also submit a high school transcript, plus transcripts from other colleges they previously attended. In some instances, colleges mandate that applicants meet a minimum GPA requirement.

Some schools require applicants to interview with an alum or admissions officer, and some ask that they submit a personal statement explaining why they want to enter the program and how they plan to contribute to the field. The application process may also require letters of reference from former teachers or employers who can vouch for the applicant and their work ethic.

What Will I Learn?

Online aviation classes examine topics including aviation law, flight theory, airport management, and FAA regulations. You can also expect to study best practices in safety and how to assess aircraft performance, plus financial accounting, statistics, and aviation legislation. Moreover, depending on your school and the academic path you pursue, you may complete a flight training program.

Aviation students might also choose to specialize their degree. Learners who specialize in unmanned aerial systems, for example, learn about FAA-regulated emerging technologies and how to design, construct, and test these systems. Other concentration options may include air traffic control and aircraft dispatch.

This degree typically comprises 120 credits, broken down as follows: 40 general education credits, 40 aviation science credits, 20 business credits, and 20 credits in other disciplines, such as calculus and laboratory science.

While each aviation program maintains its own unique curriculum, most offer common foundational courses, such as the following:

  • Air Navigation

    Students in this course learn about visual flight rules from the National Airspace System. This class explores how flight computers function, how to use navigation logs and publications, and how to read sectional charts. This class builds skills required by the FAA for a private pilot certificate.

  • Private Pilot Ground School

    This class prepares students for FAA private pilot certification by equipping them with the aeronautical knowledge they need. In addition to learning the basics of flight, students in this class explore how to adhere to radio procedures, monitor weather conditions, and navigate as they fly. They also learn FAA regulations.

  • Aircraft Systems

    In this class, students learn the basic theory, operation, principles, and application of hydraulic, fuel, electrical, pneumatic, and warning systems. They also look carefully at control systems employed by various kinds of aircraft, along with industry trends, including civil and military designs.

  • Instrument Ground School

    Learners study navigation and instrument radio fundamentals required by instrument flights. This class explores practical use of navigation systems, plus charts that support instrument navigation and FAA regulations.

  • Economic Analysis and the Environment

    Learners in this class consider environmental challenges that face society — such as energy needs, air pollution, ecology, and natural resources development — so they can perform economic analysis. Their studies also explore strategic thinking about appropriate policy formulation, employing benefit-cost analysis and social welfare analysis.

  • Airport Management

    This class provides intensive exploration of airport design standards, according to FAA regulations. It also examines airside and landside business management, based on knowledge modules from the American Association of Airport Executives. Students also learn the connection between the airport and community development.

What Can I Do with an Online Bachelor's Degree in Aeronautics and Aviation?

Graduates who have earned an online aviation degree rarely stop their education there; they continue developing their competencies after they enter the workforce, building knowledge and honing expertise on the job. The following discusses how a bachelor's in aviation science can help kick-start a lifetime of learning. It also discusses career options, earning potential, and professional network benefits.

Core Skills

The complexities of aeronautics and aviation can pose serious challenges to people, proving fatal if they go unaddressed and unresolved. Students learn the fundamentals of aviation systems, how to evaluate systems' performance, and what types of troubleshooting helps pinpoint issues. Aviation students also sharpen their reflexes, a vital skill for pilots, who must know how to solve problems quickly and with short notice.

Aviation coursework also strengthens students' ability to communicate clearly and accurately. Experts in the field rely heavily on communication to mitigate risks and ensure safety. A combination of textbook lessons, peer and faculty interaction, and hands-on training equips students to deliver accurate messages to other individuals and groups. It also ensures prospective aviation professionals can gather and analyze the information others communicate to them.

Students also learn to remain calm under pressure, since professionals like air traffic controllers must maintain a steady, even-tempered disposition and not become easily flustered.

Potential Careers and Salaries

Graduates with an aviation bachelor degree may choose from an array of career opportunities. Many opt to pursue work as pilots, while others might go on to work in military services, aviation management, or aircraft manufacturing. Graduates might also consider working for a flight simulator company or helping to create unmanned aircraft systems.

Classroom knowledge combined with experiential learning prepares aviation graduates to work in government, nonprofit organizations, or the private industry. They can leverage their talents for the job that best aligns with their desired work, which might include positions with commercial airlines, big industry agencies like the FAA, or aircraft design firms.


Aeronautical Engineer 

These engineers design and lead research and development for aircraft, missiles, spacecraft, and satellites. They test design prototypes to determine functionality, and evaluate and manufacture aerospace products. Government and defense contractors generally employ these professionals.

Annual Median Salary

$78,600 per year

Aerospace Engineer 

Aerospace engineers receive and assess proposals for aircraft, satellites, and spacecraft to determine their feasibility, cost, and safety. They design and manufacture products, and perform testing to ensure those products meet quality standards.

Annual Median Salary

$82,126 per year

Project Engineer 

These specialists oversee aeronautic and aviation projects, developing efficient systems, machinery, and communication equipment. Their role requires extensive collaboration with other engineers to achieve project goals on time and within budget. Much of their work helps bring new products to market.

Annual Median Salary

$92,178 per year

Program Manager, Aviation / Aerospace 

Program managers prepare proposals and lead projects in aeronautics and aviation. They possess a deep understanding of airport operations, air transport, and airline revenue management. They may also lead grants management and work with civic planners, engineers, and government officials.

Annual Median Salary

$108,247 per year

Aviation Analyst 

These experts interpret data to project outcomes in the aviation field. They use this information to make flight route decisions, control costs, ensure safety, and encourage efficiency. Within aviation, they may focus on equipment upgrade investments.

Annual Median Salary

$52,000 per year

Will I Need a Graduate Degree for a Career in Aeronautics and Aviation?

Graduates can enter the workforce upon completing their online aviation bachelor's degree, and from there gain field experience and on-the-job training. Still, some aviation students may consider obtaining a graduate degree, particularly if they want to advance to leadership or senior roles. Advanced degrees deepen students' knowledge, build management capabilities, and hone research skills.

Still, while employers value master's degrees, they also pay careful attention to prior experience, past project involvement, and each candidate's ability to collaborate with their colleagues.

Accreditation for Aeronautics and Aviation Bachelor's Programs

Employers and master's programs look favorably on graduates from accredited institutions. Accreditation verifies a program's academic quality and rigor, demonstrating that it upholds high standards. The Aviation Accreditation Board International promotes quality in aviation programs by accrediting programs that maintain integrity and add value to the educational community.

If your chosen program does not hold accreditation, make sure its institution does. University-wide accreditation verifies the school's rigor, and demonstrates its commitment to outstanding teaching and learning. Regionally accrediting bodies include the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Most colleges and universities in the U.S. hold regional accreditation. Some — usually vocational or technical schools — instead obtain national accreditation through entities such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges.

Aeronautics and Aviation Professional Organizations

Professional organizations provide networks of like-minded colleagues and keep their members current on developments in the aviation field. Most host conferences and symposia, offer access to research publications, and provide training workshops. These organizations also post jobs in online databases for members who want to explore career opportunities. Aviation students should consider joining a professional organization to take advantage of these benefits, plus more.

Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance

This international organization invites women and men as members, but aims to support women in the field and help them network with each other. Members include engineers, scientists, pilots, and maintenance technicians, who can participate in mentoring activities and apply for scholarships.

National Aeronautics Association

Founded in 1906, the NAA remains the oldest aviation club in the country. An original member of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, it offers members a subscription to Air & Space Magazine and a free sporting license.

Aerospace Industries Association

Established in 1919, the AIA represents more than 340 defense and aerospace companies and their vendors. It advocates on behalf of the aerospace and defense budget. Members participate on the association's committees and councils, and attend AIA-sponsored international air shows and membership meetups.

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