aviation career

College Calculus 

I remember when I was in college getting my degree in flight technology.  Back then everything was so fresh and new.  College was new and exciting and you pretty much took everyone’s word about what you needed with your education.  I wanted to be a professional pilot so I majored in that and worked my way through it.  As I look back on my aviation career, I see things that were required to take in school that I have had very little use for.

I remember several courses giving me a hard time, economics one and two and calculus.  It’s funny hearing my kids talk today about classes they are taking that they think are stupid and that they will never use in their careers.  Now I am inclined to agree with them despite what current day educators are trying to create in regards to courses that make a well rounded individual. I don’t know about you, but two courses of economics just does not make much sense to me.  I get the logic, but it seems to me that a well thought out course on personal finance would be so much better.

Once you graduate most people have no idea how to make or maintain a basic budget and keep their head above water at the student level. Most college students are use to being poor and the concept of “elasticity of demand” does not do much to help you when you graduate and become a flight instructor.

So, Why Calculus?

Calculus was also required to get my degree and I remember asking myself why in the world do I need to take this class. It’s been 30 since I got my bachelor’s degree, 25000 flight hours later and four type ratings, never once did I call on calculus to help me fly a plane. In fact the more I think about it, the more perplexed I get about what we really need in aviation prep verses what is offered. 

Somethings make perfect sense: classes in hydraulics, electrical systems and aerodynamics have all come in handy.
So how do we solve these degree requirements?  My kids are currently in college and part of me wanted to urge them to create their own custom degrees and think outside of the box.  Take or create courses in practical matters that are not only interesting but actually help you in your pursuit of your chosen field.  The problem most college students have no idea what they want to do for a living so they end up taking some of these general courses.  If you are going to get any type of advanced degree, calculus is usually in there.  If you are not good at math, then chances are you will have to take a couple of Algebra classes to get ready for calculus.

Out of the box Ideas

So how would you prepare for your aviation career if a human resources genius was not involved and decide all pilots need degrees to fly for a living?  Here are some of my ideas:
Possible Classes to add for an Aviation Career
1.  Personal Finance.  As previously discussed early but with an emphasis on how to plan for retirement and some basic concepts of investing including compound interest.  This would be extremely helpful after you finally get your career figured out and pointed in some better paying flying jobs.

2.  How to be influential.  Forget psychology and sociology, learning how to speak to people, inspire people, how to mentor and influence people because of your aviation background is sorely needed.  People are amazed by aviation and it is inspiring all by itself.  I can’t tell you how many people introduce me as a pilot like it’s an accomplishment they had something to do with personally. It’s is an impressive field and we can do a lot of good with the credibility.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of entitled jerks out there that need a wake up call.  In my opinion every kid that gets on an airplane should have the chance to visit the cockpit and be inspired whether they go into aviation or not.

3.  Ethics.  This really should speak for itself.

4.  Aviation career safety.  I actually took this course in college but it in no way prepared me for actual flying events.  Sure you can study out accidents and how not to be in one, which is good, but how about pressure?  Pressure from management to fly in weather that is marginal?  Pressure to fly airplanes that may have some questionable maintenance items.  How about flying for companies that have questionable maintenance reputations to begin with?

5.  A foreign language. If you live in the USA, and you learn Spanish, you will instantly have a tactical edge over other pilots.  Not all parts of the world speak English and many of the emerging nations are Spanish speaking nations.  Accents can be tough to decipher, air traffic controllers have a hard time with your accent as well. Being able to whip out some Spanish in times uncertainty is amazing.  It also helps immensely on the ground when overnighting in a Spanish speaking country.  You will be amazed at how many Latin countries are excited about the fact you can speak their language and that you enjoy their cuisine.

6.  Nutrition.  Everyone should know the basics of nutrition.  What is good for you and what is not seems to elude most people.  Pilots have to eat in airports most of the time, which does not usually lend itself to the best food.  While your young it seems ok, but as you get older, it is not.

7.  Effective Study Habits.  Passing a check ride used to be a jeopardy event, studying for one can be challenging.  I found over the years that getting a new type rating or passing a check ride always goes in steps.  Studying evolve over time and you have to find a effective way to make it work for you.  Believe it or not it can be taught.  Anxiety is usually the major blocking factor to good study habits.


One other point before closing that has become very clear.  A lot of airlines have dropped their requirements for a college degree.  The massive pilot shortage is not going to get better anytime soon.  The pilot supply chain is always limited by how fast someone can get their ratings AND gather the minimum hours needed to apply to an airline or corporation.  In my opinion this is a very good thing.  In fact you maybe be able to stretch this out to five years from this writing and go from start to getting hired in less than five years.  Many training companies offer this type of program already which gives merit to skipping college.  We have a detailed article on this very subject of choosing a degree for a pilot, here.

As you can see advanced math or calculus is not really part of the modern equation to getting hired today.  Do you have a thought or subject?  If so, please let us know and we will add it to the list.

More posts on the subject of math in your aviation career

Ask a CFI


Here is a good video from Mentor Pilot that more or less talks about math and aviation.


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Imagine talking to a room full of aviators and getting lots of input about flying and your career

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