Whether you want to become a pilot, airport manager or safety researcher, the aviation industry has boundless career opportunities. However, pursuing an aviation career path often means obtaining a degree or certification.
Financing your aviation education doesn’t have to be a struggle. Let your aviation career take flight with the following financing options for your aviation education.
As a specialized field, there are many scholarships available in the field of aviation. Local, regional, national and international organizations in the industry often have scholarships. For example, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) provides members with multiple scholarship opportunities for prospective and current pilots.
Similarly, the following organizations offer aviation scholarships for a variety of programs:
- National Business Aviation Association (NBAA)
- Aviation Insurance Association (AIA)
- University Aviation Association (UAA)
- Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA)
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)
- Air Traffic Control Association (ATCA)
- Airports Council International (ACI)
- National Aircraft Finance Association (NAFA)
- National Coalition for Aviation and Space Education (NCASE)
Many more aviation organizations provide scholarships to both members and non-members depending on the scholarship requirements. A few examples from these organizations include:
Offered through the NBAA, this $5,000 scholarship is available to an undergraduate student enrolled in an aviation management program at an NBAA or UAA member school.
The AIA provides four $2,500 scholarships each year to undergraduate and graduate aviation students who are completing or have completed an internship in the aviation insurance industry.
This scholarship is worth $500 to applicants enrolled in aviation programs at UAA member colleges.
Minorities in the aviation field should also consider the following national and international organizations for scholarships:
- Women in Aviation International (WAI)
- The Ninety-Nines
- Association for Women in Aviation Maintenance (AWAM)
- National Gay Pilots Association (NGPA)
- FAA Minority Scholarships
- Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP)
Scholarships from large national and international organizations can mean stiff competition, however, so students should also consider regional and local scholarships. Here are a few examples of local scholarships students can pursue:
The Alaska Airmen Association provides a diverse range of scholarships for students interested in becoming a pilot, working in aircraft maintenance, pursuing aviation management and more.
Like the Alaska Airmen Association, the Aero Club of New England provides pilot, maintenance and management scholarships.
The GBAA offers scholarships to high school graduates as well as current GBAA members.
By filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), prospective students can become eligible for federal financial aid, including scholarships, grants, work-study programs and loans. The U.S. Department of Education awards more than $120 billion per year to over 13 million students. Federal aid is only applicable to accredited colleges. Here are some common options:
Federal Pell Grant – awarded based on financial need, the Pell grant has a maximum award amount of $6,195 for the 2019-20 academic year.
Federal Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans – these low interest loans are offered by the federal government. The Federal Direct Subsidized Loan is available to undergraduate students with financial need, while the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan is available to undergraduate and graduate students and does not require students to demonstrate financial need.
Federal Direct PLUS Loan – graduate or professional students and parents of dependent undergraduate students are eligible for these loans to fund college or career school after checking your credit history.
You can learn more about federal financial aid here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/.
Other Financing Options
In addition to federal aid and scholarships, students can consider the following to finance their aviation education.
If your institution is not eligible for federal student aid or if you need to borrow more, private student loans may be available through banks and private lending organizations. Sallie Mae is a private institution that offers loans for undergraduate programs, career training and more. Your bank or credit union may also offer a private student loan program. WellsFargo, Citibank and Chase all offer private student loan programs.
Several airlines offer training programs with a variety of support. The PSA Airlines Cadets training program, for example, partners with universities to provide students a pathway to flying for American Airlines along with tuition reimbursement, flight training assistance, mentorship, and more. JetBlue, Air France, Aer Lingus, Emirates, British Airways and other airlines are offering training programs to potential pilots.
Your current employer may offer tuition assistance or reimbursement for your education or training. Contact your human resources department to see if this benefit is available to help finance your aviation education.