Are you interested in becoming a professional or commercial pilot? Are you dreaming about being in the skies? Perhaps you want to stay grounded but you hope to design or maintain complex aircrafts. Or perhaps you envision yourself leading a team of researchers in a jet propulsion lab.
Whatever your aspirations, one of these elite degrees in aviation will help you get there.
What kind of aeronautics/aviation degree should you get?
Though all of these programs will ensure you graduate an expert in aeronautics, each program varies in its emphasis and requirements. For example, some programs are engineering based while others are career focused. Furthermore, within some schools you can specialize in hydrodynamics while others more broadly consider aeronautics.
Meaning, it’s important the school’s curriculum, as well as research and intern opportunities, reflect your passions and vocational goals. Here at College Choice we’ve made sure to highlight the unique differences among each degree.
And you may want to consider online learning too. Online education is not only a flexible way to advance your education and career, but it’s affordable too.
So, be sure to check out College Choice’s Most Affordable Online Aeronautics Degrees.
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Explore our featured online programs and find the right match for you today.
How much money do people make with a aeronautics/aviation degree?
Take it from us, a degree in aeronautics will set you up for a lucrative, secure career. And if not us, then take it from Boeing, who predicts another half million jobs for pilots will spring up in the next few years. Those pilots make more than $111,000 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Even if you don’t want to fly, the numbers still look good. Aerospace engineers make around $113,000 a year. Though with added experience and specialization, that average leaps above $133,00 annually, according to PayScale.
What are the requirements for a aeronautics/aviation Degree?
The requirements that go into earning an aeronautics degree really depend on the type of degree. But for starters, each program will require a couple years of general education core classes.
Once you’ve finished those, however, you will start in on your aviation-based course load. This includes classes on aerodynamics, electrical systems and signals, circuits, structural mechanics, and much more.
Depending on the degree you seek, you may find yourself during your final semesters taking advanced thermodynamics if you’re in engineering. Or you may may be elbow deep in engine grease, if you’re earning a mechanically based degree.
However you tailor your degree and whatever your specialization, all of these programs are the best in the nation.
What can you do with a degree aeronautics/aviation degree?
As we wrote above a degree in aeronautics and aviation will guarantee you entry into an array of industries. For those who graduate from an engineering-based program, you are prepared for careers as:
- Aircraft and spacecraft designers
- Military aerospace engineers
- Inspector and compliance officers
- Aerospace technicians
And for those who earn a degree in aviation and maintenance, you will be fully trained and equipped to become:
- Private or commercial pilots
- Flight controller
- Avionics maintenance technician
What are the best aeronautics/aviation degrees?
Though some of these programs are housed within large research universities and others are offered through the US Naval and Air Force Academies, all ten share one thing in common: they offer the nation’s best aeronautical degrees.
To determine the best we first looked at every program across the nation offering such a program. From there we factored in additional concerns, such as academic reputation. We also looked at student retention, which is a sign of student satisfaction. Finally, we examined early salaries of graduates and tuition rates too. What we found after such comprehensive research are the nation’s top 10 Best Aeronautics programs.
Our figures and information come from the university and colleges’ websites, PayScale, and nationally recognized U.S. News & World Report and The National Center for Education Statistics.
See our rankings methodology page.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of the world’s brightest and best universities. It is located in Cambridge and specializes in polytechnic and STEM degrees. Around 11,000 students attend the highly competitive MIT.
There are two ways to earn an aeronautics degree from MIT. The university offers a traditional BS in Aerospace Engineering or the broader engineering program, through which you’ll study aviation through a multidisciplinary curriculum. Both programs are the best of their kind. And both give comprehensive overviews of:
- Fluids and Aerodynamics
- Physics and Dynamics
- Electronic Signals and Systems
MIT has graduated (or brought on as faculty) dozens of Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, MacArthur Fellows, astronauts, and much more. MIT is ranked among the top 5 best schools in the nation and worldwide. And it specifically became a space-grant school to support its aeronautics program.
Georgia Institute of Technology
The Georgia Institute of Technology, known as Georgia Tech, is a public university located in Atlanta. It is a member of the University System of Georgia and organized into six separate colleges, all of which provide degree programs in engineering, business, and the sciences. Nearly 30,000 students attend Georgia Tech.
Georgia Tech’s Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering offers a BS degree that combines coursework with a ton of lab and research experience. As a student you will explore everything from structural analysis to jet propulsion. And in your senior year you will invest in a capstone project in one of three areas: rotorcraft, fixed-wing, and spacecraft. Classes include:
- Introduction to Avionics Integration
- Mechanical Behavior of Composites
Georgia Tech is ranked among the top universities in the country and world. It is one of the top 10 best public schools in the US. And many of its individual departments are equally renowned. For example, the engineering and aerospace programs are ranked among the top 5 best in the nation.
United States Naval Academy
The United States Naval Academy is located in Annapolis, MD, and is one of the nation’s oldest service academies. It is designated as an approved “technological institution” and offers a number of degree programs across the STEM fields. Around 4,500 students, or “midshipmen,” attend the United States Naval Academy.
When you earn a degree in aerospace engineering from the US Naval Academy you have two options for specialization: astronautics and aeronautics. While the former introduces you to rocket propulsion and astrodynamics the latter highlights airplane stability, control, and design. Both are founded on the same curriculum, which covers:
- Principles of Aerospace Engineering
- Structural Mechanics for Aerospace Engineers
- Mechanics and Materials for Aerospace Engineers
- Fundamentals of Aerospace Engineering
The entirety of campus, which is nestled between the Severn River and the Chesapeake Bay, is designated a National Historic Landmark. Ranked a top public liberal arts college by U.S. News & World Report, the Academy unsurprisingly is considered among “America’s Top Colleges.”
United States Air Force Academy
The United States Air Force Academy is based in El Paso County of Colorado. It is a military academy and the ideal place to earn an aviation degree if you hope to fly for the Air Force. Around 4,300 students, or cadets, attend the US Air Force Academy.
What better place to study aviation than through the US Air Force Academy? This program gives students a sturdy and broad foundation in flight mechanics and aircraft design. Graduates have gone on to work within and outside the Air Force as defence contractors, project managers, and aeronautical R&D engineers. Some of the classes you’ll take include:
- Aircraft Dynamic Stability and Control
- Flight Test Techniques
- Aircraft Feedback Control Systems
- Aircraft Engine Design
As a cadet with the United States Air Force Academy your entire tuition and room and board will be paid for fully by the Academy. You’ll even have a monthly stipend. However, it’s expected that you will commitment to several years of military service after graduation.
Purdue University is a top-ranked school located in West Lafayette, IN. Though strong in many academic and professional areas, Purdue is known for its science and technology programs. More than 40,000 students attend Purdue.
Purdue’s BS in Aviation Management degree comes with a lot of perks. There are nearly 10 aviation student clubs on campus. You can earn both a BS and an MS in just five years. And you will be fully prepared for the Certified Member Exam from the American Association of Airport Executives. Purdue’s curriculum covers:
- Basic Aircraft Science
- Aerospace Vehicle Propulsion and Tracking Systems
- Aviation Operations Management
Purdue University is a flagship school and a land, sea, and space-grant institution. As a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, Purdue has built a solid reputation for its academic and research-based achievements. And it maintains close relationships with the National Science Foundation and NASA.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
A private, research-based university, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is located in Troy, NY. Organized into six colleges, RPI specializes in engineering, business, computing, technology, and the sciences. Nearly 8,000 students attend RPI.
RPI’s BS in Aeronautical Engineering program is equal parts fixed-wing, rotary-wing, and aerospace technology. But at RPI you also have the opportunity to study across disciplines, exploring wind-turbine technology and hydrodynamic environments, among other subjects. Core classes cover:
- Fundamentals of Flight
- Introduction to Engineering Analysis
- Strength of Materials
- Engineering Processes
RPI graduates have gone on to become National Medal of Science winners, Fulbright recipients, Nobel Prize winners, National Academy of Science members, and so much more. Indeed, RPI is ranked among the 50 best universities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.
The Ohio State University is located in Columbus and is a renowned research university. It was founded as a mechanical and agricultural school, and still today OSU is strong in the areas of science, medicine, engineering, and more. Approximately 60,000 students attend OSU.
OSU’s Center for Aviation Studies and the College of Engineering offers a BS in Aviation. This program is steeped in engineering foundations, aviation introductions, and technical applications. And at OSU you have the unique opportunity to earn a Professional Pilot Specialization, which grants you a commercial pilot certificate. Classes include:
- Instrument Flight Fundamentals
- Air Transportation Analysis
- Advanced Multi Engine Operations
- Airport Management
OSU is a Public Ivy and a member of the Big Ten Academic Alliance. OSU is also home to several renowned research projects and facilities. For example, the Aeronautical/Astronautical Research Laboratory is housed on campus.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide
Daytona Beach, FL
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University has primary campuses both in Daytona Beach, FL, and Prescott, AZ. Specializing in aviation and aerospace education, ERAU offers academic programs at all degree levels to its 31,000 students. ERAU is the world’s largest aviation university.
Embry-Riddle’s BS in Aeronautics degree is offered at both its Florida and Arizona campuses as well as online and abroad. Students are able to specialize in a range of subjects, such as aviation maintenance, air traffic control, and unmanned aircraft systems. All tracks prepare students for a diverse array of careers. Indeed, graduates have gone on to become:
- Air Traffic Managers
- Air Safety Controllers
With a university fully committed to aviation research and education, it comes as little surprise that it is also one of the best aviation and aeronautical universities in the world. ERAU is nationally ranked in numerous categories. For example, not only is the university academically renowned, but it is considered among the top 10 best schools in the nation for veterans.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Virginia Tech is based in Blacksburg, Virginia and is designated as one of six senior military colleges in the US. The university offers more than 200 academic degree programs across a diverse range of subjects and departments. But VT is best known for its research and education in the fields of engineering, the sciences, and agriculture.
Virginia Tech’s aerospace engineering program covers the aviation spectrum. Students investigate flight dynamics as well as aerospace structures, propulsion as well as aerodynamics. Unique to VT’s program is a joint major in ocean engineering, which offers a highly distinctive curriculum combining aero and hydrodynamics. Both the single and joint major’s core includes classes such as:
- Computational Methods
- Fundamentals of Flight Training
- Exploration of the Space Environment
One of America’s 100 best universities, according to U.S. News & World Report, several of VT’s individual programs and departments are equally well ranked. For example, the aerospace, IT, and engineering programs are all ranked among the top 20 of their kind nationwide.
San Jose State University
San Jose State University is the oldest public university based on the West Coast. Its proximity to the Silicon Valley has established the university as a leader in all things tech, science, and innovation. Around 33,000 students attend SJSU.
SJSU offers a BS in Aviation degree that is notably hands-on and career-focused. The program readies its students for careers in commercial flight, avionics, air traffic control, and more. At San Jose State University there are four areas of specialization:
- Professional Flight
- Aviation Management
- Maintenance Management
As a space-grant institution, SJSU is known for its research endeavors and accomplishments in aerospace. In fact, the university is a member of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program. And NASA has consistently helped fund many of the university’s research projects.