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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Should I Go to College?

I've been receiving numerous emails with the question, "Should I go to College or Fly?" In a perfect world I say, "Go to school and get your degree if you want to work for the airlines." But I also know that we don't live in a perfect world. What if you're offered your dream job to fly?

"How do I pass up this opportunity?"
"I need hours!"
"What shall I do? Fly? College?" "Help!"

Maybe the answer for you is to attend college part time while flying. I earned two masters degrees while working a full-time job. It's doable. There is a lot of down time while building flight hours, or on the road. This could be excellent study time.

There are also many accredited colleges to choose from. You could keep both dreams alive. I chose Capella University to earn my degrees. They were flexible for the professional, working student. I also had many students in my classes from Boeing. Learning was never so rewarding as it was attending classes with students from all over the world. Diversity of thought per region made this experience valuable. Time spent was spent on research verses commuting to and from school.

You don't have to give up on college to fly, you can attend a on-line college while flying. Earn your credits to graduate, one class at a time. The opportunities are many with the flexibility with an on-line college.

My friend Daniel Sallee is attending Embry Riddle, on line, while he flies his 757 around the world for Omni. He's six months away from graduation, and he will have his degree while building excellent experience.

What are the downfalls of attending college part-time? The article: The Hazards of Attending College Part Time says that college students attending part time are far less likely to graduate. Perhaps, but I wish they took stats on the pilots attending school part time. I suspect the graduation rates are higher. Pilots are dedicated, committed people who know what it takes to make their dreams happen. They are very task oriented.

You do not have to give up your dreams of wanting to fly, to attend college. It doesn't have to be a choice. You can do both.

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene
(Photos... compliments of Daniel's adventures)


  1. And some people do all that, and still manage to raise a family and write a book (which arrived yesterday- thanks!)

    1. Yeah! You have it! Can hardly wait for your thoughts. The Twitter world is rumbling with positive.... hope you think so too! Thanks for letting me know.

  2. I've been formulating a picture of the 'pilot-type' in my mind over the past couple of years knowing you and meeting others who fly, Karlene, and it does seem like pilots are people who like lots of specifics and like getting things done, every day. If anyone can multitask well, seems like it would be this type of person. Flight time plus college? Maybe not a snap, but doable.

    1. Linda, you're right... not easy, but doable. And anything worth having is worth doing, despite all obstacles. Thanks for your comment.

  3. That's a tough one, great advice though Karlene. I would say, you never know what life is going to throw at you and college is an experience you don't want to miss. So do both!

    1. Thanks Heather, it may not be for everyone, but this is a must for some airlines. And... it's great just to learn!

  4. Good topic. One that could be very helpful to many aspiring pilots. I'll give my inputs :)

    A-type get'r done personalities are what Pilots are. It's important, but also important to know it as to not fall into the trap of get-home itis.

    Anyway as for the college and flight school, all these are good options.
    For me, I went to a flight college. I'm not embarrassed to say the name so, it's Seneca College (in Toronto).
    It is an integrated airline transport pilot licence program. Upon completion, in such timely manner, it gives you a CPL, a Group 1 Inst Rating (MIFR), completed ATPL exams (prior to 750hrs min to write it), and around 200 to 230 hours total time, as well as a Bachelors Degree in Aviation Technology.

    It is 4 years though. But the best part of this program is that it is government subsidized. You only pay the tuition fees for every semester, academic and flying. It's a trimester program. First year is all academic. Then Flying semesters are done in the summer and the other semesters are flying mixed with academics in the schedules. IT IS A FULL TIME JOB.
    It was really difficult for me to find even a part-time job that would allow such changes in schedules but it's what had to be done.

    Total flying hours converted into money spent would probably be around $120k whereas we only paid around $45k. What a deal!

    But it's not for everyone. I'm just putting it out there as a viable option for some people.

    Cheers :)

    1. Ramiel, This is a HECK of an opportunity! Sorry for the delayed response... I'm on the road and schedule has been a challenge. I am so glad you shared this viable option. There are schools in the US like this too. A great option for someone with limited funds. While it seems a lot of money, it really is a great value. Learning is a full time job for sure!

  5. Hey, I know Danny Sallee (since his preschool days in fact)Glad to hear he is flying the big stuff now!

    1. Hi Cathy, Thank you for the comment! Yes... it's such a small world. We'll have a reunion soon! Looking forward to seeing you. We'll have to bring Danny!

  6. Karlene, I just saw this, awesome! I would stress to anyone learning to fly and wanting to do it professionally, that a degree is a MUST! I have seen a lot of people trying for jobs like fedex or southwest and never getting call because they don't have a degree. I think it's a crazy retirement as many of these people are highly qualified pilots and would make great employees but that's what human resources wants to see so it's very important to meet all qualifications when your time comes. Thanks for posting this!

    1. Hi Danniel (Danny) thank you for the comment. It pulled me back to this page and I had so many wonderful comments to address. You are so right, a degree is a must. I know this is not easy for you with the schedules, but I also know anyone can do it if they want it badly enough!
      Sometimes it doesn't make sense, but then HR must have a way to select the top achievers from the pool. Thanks for the comment!


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