Study Aviation in the US

Collegiate Aviation Programs in the United States

Study Aviation in the US

Of growing importance in the United States Aviation infrastructure is education through aviation programs offered by more than 100 colleges and universities. These programs include two-year Associate (114) programs, four-year Baccalaureate (151) programs, Master’s (15) programs and (2) Doctoral programs.

Designed to meet unique technical requirements, flight, electronics/aviation and aircraft maintenance are the three most common Associate degree programs, generally requiring around 60 semester hours, with 15-20 hours devoted to general studies. Flight, sometimes referred to as professional flight or ‘career pilot’, focuses on flight operations leading to the commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating, with options for multi-engine and/or flight instructor certificates. Electronic/aviation programs offer basic and advanced electronics theory, preparing the graduate for the manufacturing, maintenance, troubleshooting and testing of communication/navigation equipment. Graduates should then qualify for the FCC general telephone licence. Maintenance programs are designed to meet the minimum requirements of Federal Aviation Requirements, leading to the FAA airframe and/or powerplant (A&P) maintenance technician certificate. Programs concentrate on theoretical and practical knowledge and skills of maintenance and repair, as well as relevant technical documentation methods, specifications and standards.

The Baccalaureate aviation programs are typically 120-130 semester hour programs, requiring an average of four years or more to complete. The major difference between the Associate and Baccalaureate programs are the general studies component and breadth of required aviation courses. A typical Baccalaureate program requires between 45-60 hours of general studies including English, communications, humanities and social science; math, science and technology; algebra or calculus, chemistry and/or physics; computer science and management. Maintenance and avionics programs require higher levels of math (calculus and physics) and computer science.

Management programs often require 9-15 hours of business management courses, and 12-15 hours of aviation core subjects, such as introduction to aviation, aviation legislation/law and aviation safety are generally required. Options include management, flight, avionics or maintenance and usually require 36-40 semester credit hours. Aviation management, for example, prepares the student for a variety of administrative and management positions, and generally includes a strong foundation in business and management courses that prepares graduates for entry-level positions to areas such as airport management, airline management/operations and general aviation management/operations.

In flight programs, many institutions are now using flight-training devices (simulators) extensively, and emphasise cockpit resource management (CRM). An increasing number of institutions are including turbo-prop and/or turbo jet simulators and flight education in their flight programs. Some programs combine maintenance and avionics to educate a maintenance technician to troubleshoot not only the mechanical or electronic systems of the aircraft, but also the newer computerised electronic components. These programs often take five years to complete, but address a growing demand for electronics/avionics-qualified maintenance technicians.

In addition to the basic degree programs, many institutions offer speciality options such as space studies, aviation computer science, atmospheric science, and air traffic control. Such programs may be appropriate for students who already have a specific career in the industry segment in mind, and want the specialised education leading to that career field.

The accreditation of collegiate aviation programs is conducted by the Council on Aviation Accreditation (CAA), which was sponsored by UAA and incorporated in 1992 as an independent accrediting organisation for non-engineering aviation programs at colleges and universities. CAA has formalised its relations with industry through a structure that involves equal representation of educators and industry representatives on CAA’s governing board, the use of industry members on every accreditation visiting team, and the development of a formal industry advisory board to provide input on the CAA standards used for accreditation. As of December 1999, there are 52 accredited programs at sixteen institutions, with fifteen programs at nine institutions that are now candidates undergoing the process of accreditation.

A look to the future indicates that the aviation industry will have a greater reliance on the product of the collegiate aviation programs, with the last retirements of World War II aviators and the significant decline in the US military as a source for trained aviation personnel. Through the networking efforts of UAA and CAA, the industry is gaining a better understanding and acceptance of the collegiate aviation product, which will lead to more direct support by the aviation industry, recognizing that they will be the benefactors of such support through better-educated hires. This support can consist of expanded formal or informal partnerships between certain companies and colleges and universities, leading to cooperative education internship programs, interviews and placement after graduation. The sponsorship of scholarship programs, equipment donations and grants, faculty industry exchange programs and industry participation in institutional industry advisory boards are other significant areas where industry can support education.

Those in collegiate aviation believe that the safe, efficient and profitable skies of tomorrow will depend upon the product that they can deliver to the industry from collegiate aviation programs. The UAA will continue to work through its 650 members to strengthen the aviation infrastructure through education. For countries with a developing aerospace industry, the extensive private educational network of colleges and universities in the US that offer every type of aviation program can serve as an excellent model.

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