Complete Guide to an Online Aviation Degree

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Quick Facts
Accreditation: AABI
Degree Levels: Associate, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, and Certificate
Avg Tuition: $19,128

An online aviation degree covers material relevant to a variety of careers in the aviation industry, from administrative positions such as aviation management to flight positions such as piloting or instructing. Aviation degrees are available at the associate, bachelor's, master's, doctoral and certificate levels. Graduates may utilize their degrees at airports, air route traffic control centers, and flight training centers with the goal of transporting people and goods around the world.

It is important that aspiring aviation professionals attend a program that is institutionally accredited, as well as accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International. Accreditation will not only allow students to feel confident that they are receiving a high quality education, but will also reassure employers that a graduate is qualified for jobs that require the utmost skill, efficiency, and concentration, especially when dealing with passengers' safety.

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Comprehensive List of Schools for an Online Aviation Degree (26)

Overview of Available Online Aviation Degrees

There are several different educational paths aspiring aviation professionals can take in order to start their career in the industry. An associate degree is comprised of 60 credits and will take two years to complete. This level of degree will is the typical minimum required for entry-level positions as an aviation professional. A bachelor's degree in aviation can be earned in four years by completing 121 to 128-credit hours of study. Graduates will be competitive for entry-level work and may be able to find positions at the management level. They will also be well prepared to enter into graduate programs if they wish. For those interested in graduate studies, a master's degree would be the next step. Master's programs typically take two years to complete the required 30 to 36 credits. Graduates will become competitive in receiving leadership positions and pay advancements. Master degree holders can then go on to doctoral studies where they will be required to complete rigorous studies comprising of at least 60 credit hours and a dissertation over the course of five to six years. Holding a Ph.D. in aviation can prepare professionals for senior jobs in aviation management, air traffic control, and aviation research. Teaching aviation at the university level would also be an option. 

Online Associate Degrees in Aviation

Students participating in an aviation associate program will complete 60 credit hours of coursework over the course of two years. Coursework is comprised of liberal studies and degree specific courses. Key aviation courses include aviation legislation, terminal operations, aviation foundations I & II, flight safety, tower lab, and tower operations. Earning an associate degree in aviation will prepare graduates for a number of entry-level jobs within the field, including air traffic control, airway transportation, and aviation safety inspection. There are enrollment requirements to consider prior to applying for any associate program. Applicants must submit their high school diploma; if the applicant has not graduated high school they may submit their GED as an equivalent. Students who have earned college credits from another institution will be required to submit those transcripts as well. Lastly, applicants will need to submit an essay describing their career goals and how education will aid in achieving those goals. Aspiring aviation professionals can pursue their associate education at universities as well as vocational schools.  

Online Bachelor's Degrees in Aviation

Students participating in an online bachelor's program will complete 121 to 128 credit hours of study over the course of four years. A bachelor's program will prepare graduates for various entry-level and management level positions in the aviation industry. Job titles include airline manager, director of aviation, general aviation manager, airport manager, and airport security manager. The skills and knowledge needed to excel in any of these positions will be gained through the completion of courses like introduction to aviation, aerodynamics, airport management, airport design, aviation law, air transportation management, aviation planning, and national airspace system. Aspiring aviation students applying for bachelor's programs must keep certain admission requirements in mind. If the applicant has completed less than 24 credits at an accredited institution they must turn in their high school diploma or GED. Students who have completed 24 or more accredited credit hours will be eligible to transfer those credits. A placement test demonstrating the applicant's efficiency in math and English will also be required. Aviation programs offered at the bachelor level can be found at universities and vocational schools. 

Online Master's Degree in Aviation

Students looking to continue on with their education once they have completed a bachelor level program can consider earning their graduate degree in aviation, which can be pursued at the university level as well as at technical schools. An online master's program will consist of 30 to 36 credit hours and can be completed in as little as 11 months or up to five years depending on the student's schedule and preference of pace. Key courses that students will be required to complete include human error and safety, airport operations, aviation organization operation, aviation leadership, operational assessment and improvement, and critical 1ystems thinking.

Some master's programs will also give interested students the time and opportunity to earn their pilot license and ratings. In order to pursue a graduate degree in aviation, applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in aviation or a related discipline. Applicants who hold a degree in another field may apply if they have previous work experience within the industry. Academic transcripts from all institutions previously attended must be submitted along with an essay explaining how the master's program will help the student reach their career aspirations. Additionally two letters of recommendation must be submitted. Upon graduating with a master's degree in aviation, professionals will become competitive among leadership positions within the workforce. Opportunities are available in air traffic control, airport management, aviation consulting, aircraft mechanics, piloting, and aviation meteorology. 

Online Doctoral Degrees in Aviation

Doctoral degree programs are also available in the area of aviation. Participants will be required to complete at least 60 credit hours of study over the duration of five to six years. Advanced theories and concepts will be studied through core classes covering topics such as aviation security and safety, law and ethics as they pertain to aviation, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and the economics of aviation. Students will also be required to complete a dissertation in order to graduate. In order to qualify for an online Ph.D. program in aviation, applicants must have previously graduated from a master's program in aviation or similar field of study. Potential students will need to participate in qualifying exams to determine whether they are ready to continue on with doctoral studies. 

Extensive work experience in the industry will also be necessary before applying for any doctoral program. After earning a PhD, job opportunities will be available in consulting, research, and academia. Consultants can find work, for example, with airports and airlines to help navigate changes in the industry, or they can offer insight into various aviation-related issues, like shortages of pilots or increasing in fuel costs. Teaching aviation at the college level is also a career option for graduates who are interested. Doctoral programs can be sought at universities and vocational colleges. 

Online Certificate Degrees in Aviation

Online certificate programs are available for professional development and growth at vocational schools and universities. The number of courses and length of time to completion vary depending on what the certificate specialty is, but students can typically earn one in a year or less. Certificate programs are often designed to deliver both aviation and management components to equip students will skills that are necessary in all facets of the industry. Coursework includes air transport fundamentals, airport operations, converting strategy into action, executing complex programs, airline revenue management, and leadership for strategic execution. In order to qualify for a certificate program the applicant must have work experience within the field of aviation prior to enrolling. Upon graduation the graduate will gain a competitive edge and may face opportunities to qualify for promotions or salary advancements within their current work place. 

The Importance of an Accredited Online Aviation Degree

Regional accreditation is important for several reasons and should always be considered before enrolling in any online program or institution. Accreditation is the process in which schools and programs are evaluated by outside, non-profit agencies for quality assurance. If students have any interest in transferring to another school or program in their educational future, accreditation will ease the process, as most institutions will only accept transfer credits from another accredited institution. Federal student financial aid is also only available for students who attend accredited institutions. 

The Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) is the main accrediting body for programs in aviation. The organization aims to ensure the quality and relevance of aviation education. They also assist in making any improvements to an organization or program that will benefit all students involved in higher education. AABI make's their assessment of the program based on faculty, staff, administration, students, and resources. Once all information has been gathered the organization decides if the program fits the quality criteria. Participating in a AABI accredited program will make a graduate's resume more attractive to potential employers.

Aviation Jobs

There are many different career paths that aviation graduates can take within the industry based on their professional interests. Sample titles include air traffic controller, airport manager, and airport operations manager. Air traffic controllers help to make sure airplanes land and take off safely, as well as stay an appropriate distance apart while they are in the air. Typical job duties include coordinating the arrival and departure of aircraft, issuing takeoff and landing instruction to the pilot and crew, authorizing changes in flight path, providing weather reports and changes to the pilot and crew, and alerting airport employees when an emergency situation occurs.

Aspiring air traffic controllers will need a minimum of a two to four year degree in aviation or similar field to qualify for positions. All air traffic controllers are required to be certified and must pass a yearly physical exam as well as a bi-yearly job performance exam. Due to the daily mental stress of this job many air traffic controllers retire at an early age. Retirement eligibility comes after 20 years of experience and becomes mandatory at the age of 56. 

Aviation management is another notable career for those who are interested in working in the industry. Aviation management positions require a bachelor's degree. One aviation management position is that of an airport manager, who is responsible for watching over everything that goes on at a particular airport. Airport managers may find work at smaller airports in rural areas, or large, international airports. Duties will vary greatly depending on the kind of airport being managed. Aviation operations managers are responsible for ensuring safe take off and landing and also work as a liaisons between air traffic controllers and maintenance. 


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