Aviation Colleges in the US

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By Sakina Taher
Last updated on September 19, 2023

Want to fly planes for a living? Learn with expert flight instructors at state-of-the-art campus facilities when you study at aviation colleges in the US.

Two international students studying aviation sit in a cockpit and look at an airplane's controls

Many students dream about learning to fly – and when you study aviation in the USA, you can do just that! Aviation colleges in the US give international students a multitude of resources: Curriculum at top aviation universities in the USA provides vital skills required to excel in the industry, such as aeronautical expertise, flight training, analytical thinking, and more.

Careers in aviation are projected to increase by 13% from 2020 to 2030, higher than average compared to other occupations. Even more lucrative, an aviation degree is applicable to a wide range of professions — you can choose to be a pilot, flight attendant, aviation flight coordinator, or flight instructor!

There are many aviation colleges in the US that offer licenses, certifications, and bachelor’s or masters degrees required to prepare you for a career in aviation.

What Is Aviation School?

Aviation teaches students how to fly aircraft, like airplanes and helicopters. Training is typically available at aviation schools in America and can include specific trade schools, universities, or colleges.

Programs offered at aviation schools in the US for international students are designed to deliver an in-depth technical understanding of aircrafts and how to fly them. Courses can cover advanced flight operations, aerodynamics, air navigation, jet engines, meteorology, and more.

Aviation schools in America train you to build a well-rounded skill set needed to expertly fly aircraft in all types of conditions, for a multitude of purposes. At top aviation universities in the USA, you will learn:

  • Communication – Communicate clearly and purposefully, sometimes under stressful situations.

  • Situational awareness – Understand location, flight conditions, and configuration of the aircraft.

  • Teamwork – Coordinate with aircraft crew, flight deck, or other pilots for smooth navigation.

  • Quick thinking – Make fast and accurate decisions, especially in challenging situations.

Additionally, aviation schools create opportunities for international students to network with colleagues, faculty, and industry professionals. Many aviation colleges in the US have long-standing partnerships with airlines that support students in landing internships and full-time jobs as well.

Aviation Colleges in the US

There are many types of aviation colleges in the US that international students can choose from, including flight schools, community colleges, and universities. Aviation training options cover vocational certificate programs, associate degrees, and bachelor’s or master’s degree programs, depending on where you study.

The first step toward enrollment involves determining which type of license or certification you want to earn. To decide, consider which type of pilot you want to become. Here are a few licensing and certification options to consider:

  • Private Pilot License (PPL) – Authorized to fly a single-engine land aircraft, solo or with other passengers. However, PPL license holders are not allowed to fly for commercial purposes and cannot be compensated for pilot services.

  • Commercial Pilot License (CPL) – CPL allows you to be paid for your pilot services. Training for commercial pilots is more complex and requires advanced flying knowledge and skills.

  • Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) – Most commercial airlines require pilots to hold an ATP certificate, along with PPL and CPL. ATPs can fly for major airlines with bigger aircrafts.

  • Flight instructor – As a flight instructor, you can train other student pilots. Obtaining the license requires 1,500 hours of flight time and you must demonstrate your ability to coach students.

When considering aviation training possibilities, remember to check if your preferred aviation college in the US offers Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved certificates or degrees – these indicate legitimate, respected programs that provide the required credentials to qualify you for the next steps in your aviation journey.

Let’s take a look at the best universities for aviation in the USA where you may want to study!

Best Universities for Aviation in the US

After deciding which type of aviation qualification most appeals to you, the next step is to identify where you want to study. As you begin to research the best universities for aviation in the USA, consider the school ranking, faculty and instructors, and campus resources. Look out for aviation colleges in the US that are FAA-approved, match your career goals, and provide coursework that interests you.

To support your research, here are some of the top aviation universities in the USA to consider:

Auburn University

Study aviation in the USA at Auburn University, an FAA-approved school, and get hands-on experience at the Auburn University Regional Airport, located less than three miles from campus. You can learn from expert flight instructors, practice on flight simulators, and get trained flying aircrafts at the 420-acre airport. Founded in 1856, Auburn University is ranked #99 by U.S. News & World Report.

Aviation programs offered at Auburn include:

Bachelor of Science in Professional Flight

The professional flight degree is an FAA-Restricted Airline Transport (R-ATP) certification requiring 1,000 hours of flying experience for completion. Certifications and ratings include:

  • Private Pilot Certification

  • Instrument Rating

  • Commercial Pilot Certification

  • Multi-Engine Rating

  • Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)

  • CFI with Instrument Rating (CFII)

  • Multi-Engine Instructor (MEI)

Auburn requires professional flight students to maintain a minimum 2.70 overall GPA or a C to continue the program. Students in other majors can apply for a minor in professional flight as well.

A two-day orientation program welcomes freshmen to campus and covers an introduction to the aviation program, along with planned coursework.

Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management

The aviation management program focuses on the business of the aviation industry. It consists of a general business minor and 14 hours of electives.

An aviation management minor is also available for students in other majors. It provides an understanding of the aviation industry and general flight operations.

Certificate in Aviation Hospitality Management

The certificate is a joint program offered in partnership between the School of Aviation in the College of Liberal Arts and the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Hospitality Management in the College of Human Sciences.

This 15-hour program covers service, communication, and flight hospitality skills that are applicable in the field of air transportation, in-flight services, or airport management.

Auburn University offers degrees accredited by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI), an establishment known for ensuring the best is offered to students who wish to study aviation in the USA.

Learn more about Auburn University >

Louisiana State University of Alexandria

Louisiana State University of Alexandria (LSUA), a branch of Louisiana State University, is recognized for outstanding flight instructors and state-of-the-art campus facilities for aviation studies.

The professional aviation degree offered at LSUA provides credentials including:

  • Private Pilot certificate

  • Instrument Pilot rating

  • Commercial Pilot certificate

  • Flight Instructor certificate

Additional FAA ratings can be obtained in:

  • Flight Instructor-Instrument

  • Multi-Engine

  • Multi-Engine Flight Instructor

LSUA creates a welcoming environment for international students. Program advisors are always available to go over options for funding, internship or job opportunities at the Alexandria International Airport, and other skills and qualifications you can work toward to meet your career goals.

Learn more about Louisiana State University >

University of Dayton

In 2013, the University of Dayton partnered with GE on the GE Aviation Electrical Power Integrated Systems Center (EPISCenter). This 139,000-square feet, four-story office and lab space on campus strengthens ties between the research community and extends opportunities for students entering the aviation industry.

International students applying to the University of Dayton for aviation studies can get hands-on experience on industry developments, network with professionals at the research center, and participate with GE on leading projects.

Aviation schools in the US for international students equip you with skills to enter the aviation industry with confidence. The knowledge and skills you gain help you identify your strengths as you move forward in your career. Before you know it, you may be part of an aviation school’s distinguished alumni, sharing your experience as an aviation professional!

Learn more about University of Dayton >

Studying Aviation in the US as an International Student

Moving from your home country to study aviation in the USA widens your industry expertise, encourages you to adapt, and helps you build a professional network that can support your future career development. Aviation schools in America are recognized for their state-of-the-art facilities and expert faculty, giving you the chance to work toward becoming a leading aviation professional.

Here are a few factors to keep in mind before you arrive to study aviation in the USA:

  • Application – Make sure you have received admission to an FAA-approved aviation school in the US.

  • Visa – As an international student, you will need a student visa to study in the US. Be sure to check that your visa is valid and relevant to the type of program you plan to study.

  • English-language skills – As most aviation curriculum is conducted in English, being fluent in English will be beneficial for your future flight training and career.

  • Medical examination – You must undergo a medical exam with an FAA-authorized aviation medical examiner before you begin flight training.

Navigating through the college research process and identifying which bachelor’s degree in the US suits you best offers a world of possibilities, showcasing your many options. A Shorelight counselor can support your journey toward studying in the USA. If you want to discuss what it’s like studying in the US, are interested in browing a list of Shorelight universities, or need visa assistance, you have access to a range of international scholar advisory services. Get ready to fly!

Learn more about your opportunities with Shorelight >