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University Bachelor’s Degree (Aviation) V’s Flight Training with CASA approved Flight school.

There are two pathways to obtaining a Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL) these are through a CASA Approved Flight Training School or a Degree in Aviation through a University or VET program.

When we speak with ambitious aspiring pilots, we commonly get the question about which way they should go for their training, either obtain an aviation-related degree through a university flight training program or choosing flight training at a local CASA Approved Flight school.

In terms of career options, as soon as you are issued with a Commercial Pilot licence (CPL), you can start working as a Commercial pilot and get paid to fly. You can then continue to train and progress in your career to achieve additional certifications, such as Flight instructor and Airline transport licences. This is no different for you if you have chosen to undertake a university degree, you must continue to train and progress the same pathway from the CPL issue.

If you wish to fly as a Captain for an airline, you will require the Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL), this licence requires a minimum of 1500 flight hours experience and to have passed the relevant theory examinations. Most pilots will start working straight after a CPL issue with around 250 hours of flying experience, so it takes some time to build the hours towards an Air Transport licence minimum.

A University Degree is Not Required for a Commercial Pilot Job

Students do not realise that a university degree is not required to become a Commercial pilot. Many pilots that are working in the aviation industry today do not have a bachelor’s degree.

While there are Pros and Cons to each pathway, in this post, we want to share with you the different options and help you choose what is best for your flight training.

Let’s look at what you can expect through the two different pathways!

CASA Approved Flight School Pilot Training

The qualification achieved at the end of a Commercial Pilot training program is a CASA issued Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). A university degree will issue the exact same CASA issued Commercial Pilot Licence. The CPL licence is used to obtain a job within the aviation industry, flying aircraft in any area of aviation that is paid work.

Duration & Cost

Under the CASA approved flight school pathway, students can choose a full-time, part time or casual flight training options to achieve their pilot certifications.

If you choose a full-time pathway, you can achieve a commercial pilot licence within 12 months. If you choose a part-time or casual training pathway, the time frame would obviously increase, on average a part time/casual training would take 16-22 months depending on how often you can attend training.

Generally, most local flight school options are more cost effective, as they are not carrying the huge overheads of a university.

The average cost for a commercial pilot licence through a flight school is around $70,000 compared to the university degrees which are around $125,000+.

No VET Fee Student Loan Program

Smaller flight schools do not have access to the federally funded Student loan program, this means that you are paying as you go along for your flight training. Although some will say this is a downfall for the flight school training option, the significant cost savings ($55,000+) and the time it takes (1-year V’s 3-Years) to complete the training will far outweigh the student loan program benefits.

One on One Training

With a small flight school, you will generally get one on one training, this brings a more personalized approach to your training which is tailored to your learning needs. Most flight training schools will have a smaller number of instructors, so you will generally be partnered with an instructor of your choice, who will train you through your syllabus, helping you along the way. The downfall of this is that there are not as many instructors to choose from.

Flexible Training Pathway

Flight schools can offer more flexibility with training, you may wish to train from knowing absolutely nothing as a novice pilot through to Recreational Pilot (RPL) then onto Private Pilot (PPL) then onto Commercial Pilot (CPL), or you may wish to go straight through to CPL from novice and skip RPL altogether, there is far more flexibility through this pathway.

Students often include additional training into their CPL programs, such as Multi Engine or night training, which can all be included into the training syllabus without additional time added to the syllabus. This saves time and money for the student. Instrument training can also be commenced during a CPL syllabus.

University Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation

What a lot of students do not realise is that a bachelor’s degree in aviation is not just about flying, the degree also includes aviation management and aviation safety, so if you are looking for a career in aviation management or aviation safety, then this is the degree for you.

The aviation degree is a structured 3-year program. There is no flexibility in the delivery and the student must meet each milestone of learning at the designated time or they must run the risk of additional training and additional cost.

Duration & Cost

The Bachelor’s Degree will take you 3 years to complete full time and will cost $125,000+. Remembering that aviation flight training is competency based, if you do not meet the minimum required within the syllabus you will have to undertake additional training at additional cost.

Student Loan (VET Fee) Program

Through the University pathway there is the option to offset the cost of the degree through approved student loans (HEC Fee/VET Fee), REMEMBER these loans do eventually have to be paid back, one way or the other. Although it may seem like it at the time, it is not FREE money, you carry that debt with you your entire life.

The university will charge the maximum fee that they are entitled to charge under the current Federal program, currently this is $125,000 per student for the minimum syllabus. Any additional training is charged at a premium.

Large Group Training

In a university pathway you will attend group learning, there will be at least 15 -20 students in your class with one instructor. For practical flying you will have various flight instructors based on the availability of the instructors and aircraft.

Flexible Training Pathways

These are not available through a university, you must complete the syllabus as it is set, you must complete all stages of the pilot licence RPL/PPL/CPL. Additional electives can be added to your degree, these are at additional cost and additional time. These are charged at a premium rate.

What Does it all Mean?

If you want to be a Commercial Pilot and get paid to fly, you have two choices:

  • Enroll with a small CASA Approved Flight school, spend 12 months full time, and spend around $70,000 to obtain your Commercial Pilot Licence.


  • Enroll with a University and spend 3 years and an additional $55,000 + to do a university degree and obtain your Commercial Pilots Licence.

If you want to be a Commercial pilot and get paid to fly and have a pathway into aviation management or aviation safety, then you will need to do the University degree, along with the various additional training programs that will be required to get into aviation management and aviation safety careers.

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