Best majors for future pilots?

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by Mikeandcris, Jan 2, 2010.

  1. Mikeandcris

    Mikeandcris Parents of 2014 Grad and F-15 Pilot

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    Is there a connection between majors and becoming a pilot? In other words, do most pilots come from one or a handful of majors at the Academy? Or, can you major in anything offered by the Academy and still be competitive for a pilot's slot? Certainly some majors are harder than others depending on a number of factors. However, if cadets with the highest GPA's are favored regardless of major, why pick an extremely difficult major when a less difficult major results in better grades and more opportunities? (Please excuse my possible ignorance. When I attended college, many students loaded up on mickey mouse courses [History of Jazz ring a bell with anyone?] and majored in "lite" subjects in order to boost their GPA. My best friend did that and got in to the Uni. of Virginia Law School....one of the top law schools in the country.) My guess is that the Academy has few, if any, mickey mouse classes. Nevertheless, I'd like to hear from some cadets and grads on this subject. Thanks, Mike
     
  2. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    The ONLY time a major has anything to do with being a pilot, is if the individual's dreams have anything to do with being a test pilot, astronaut, or similar. For normal fighter/heavy pilots, you have degrees in english, behavioral science, history, or anything else. It has no bearing whatsoever on your chances of becoming a pilot. None whatsoever.

    As for the gpa having a bearing on the opportunity of being a pilot; not so much. Basically; if you want to be a pilot, you can be a pilot. Now; once in flight school; your class rank there will partially determine "WHICH" plane you get to train for. But the actual undergraduate degree from the academy doesn't matter. best of luck. mike....
     
  3. aggie83

    aggie83 Member

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    Exception to the above is entry into ENJJPT - Euro Nato Joint Jet Pilot Training which almost assures you a fighter or bomber unless you wash out. Entry into ENJJPT is selective and GPA will factor into that selection along with other criteria.
     
  4. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Aggie and CC are correct, if your long term goal is to be a Test Pilot or go into NASA you need the engineering background.

    That being said, a great pilot is not born out of just their academic ability, it is born out of an additional unique quality...FLYING BY THE SEAT OF THEIR PANTS! It is something called SA. You can be the #1 cadet at the AFA, and still wash out of UPT because you can't get the feel for landing a plane. It is not like an Xbox game. Bullet has seen several guys go FEB and some make it by the skin of their teeth to only carry it with them forever...we know a guy who has the call sign ZERO, because he once scored a ZERO on his ride.

    Some guys/gals have that inate ability to process things before it actually happens, some are more checklist oriented. Both of them are great, but even at ENJJPT people will wash out/back. Just having a great GPA at the AFA means nothing when you get to UPT because it starts all over again. You know what they call the #1 newly commissioned AFA cadet who is at ENJJPT compared to number 550 at Columbus? LT or FNG!

    FYI, we know several ROTC officers that were DG at UPT and FTU. Your commissioning source has nothing to do with your flying abilities. (Bullet was DG at FTU and LIFT- he was ROTC)
     
  5. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    Mike is exactly correct.

    I have friends that are pilots, like myself, that have degrees ranging from military history (F-15 pilot), mechanical engineering (me), all the way on to...are you ready???

    Maritime (marine) Dual License Program. Yes, he's a graduate of the USMMA. he's actually the 4th USMMA (Kings Pointer) that I've flown with/trained in the USAF.

    There is no "typical" degree for a pilot. As Mike correctly pointed out...if you have aspirations of Test Pilot School, then you MUST have an engineering degree or (I think) something like Physics, Mathematics, etc.

    FYI...when I left the active force and moved to the active reserve, I went looking for a job (non-flying) and two things were HUGE in my favor:

    a. Network/Security Clearances
    b. Degree in Engineering from USAFA

    I went to work as a "Staff Electrical Engineer" at Motorola...and if you read earlier, I'm NOT a "EE" but I did have a few classes at USAFA...

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  6. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    "...which ALMOST assures you a fighter or bomber unless you wash out...

    EXCEPT when the AF decides that there are NO fighters or bombers for the assignable class (like they recently did to a ENJJPT class) and they were sent to C-17s, KC-10, and...UAV'S!!!

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  7. raimius

    raimius USAFA Alumnus

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    Rumor mill here has it that pilot slots may be more limited in the next few years. Take that for what its worth (i.e. not much until something official happens).
    A good GPA gives better odds...

    As far as majors, whichever one you do the best at is the best one for a future pilot (i.e. those with higher GPAs are more likely to get their 1st choice for jobs). That assumes you don't want to be a test pilot, etc.
     
  8. flieger83

    flieger83 Super Moderator Moderator

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    "Rumor mill" out here in the field says the same thing...

    And your comment re: "...whichever one you do the best at is the best one..." Is DEAD ON ACCURATE!!

    Steve
    USAFA ALO
    USAFA '83
     
  9. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Let's hope that they won't close the pipeline like they did in 91-92. Back then, they basically shut down the fighter pipeline so even the number one grad got a heavy.

    I am sure the rumor mill is true, because at SJAFB they have had several AFA grads on casual status prior to going to UPT. When AFA cadets are placed on casual that means the pipeline is slowing down.

    Fleiger is correct, in the end of the day it is networking that will help with not only your 2nd career, but your AD career. As you progress up the ranks, there is a thing called By Name Request. Wing Kings are not required to give a command from within the base, they can call MPC and say "I want SO and SO", if available, they will be pulled. The base goes wild when they see a flier come in for X training, because they know that person is being brought in for a leadership position. In 20 yrs, I don't recall one time that this did not occur.

    As far as 2nd carreer, even as a pilot who desires to be a busdriver in the sky networking is still the biggest IN! I know for a 100% fact that SWA still uses the black ball program. (The stealth was known for this...there was literally a bag and the pilots would either place a white or black ball into the bag to vote if they were worthy). The interviewing committees are filled with pilots, and if one person on that committee knows you from days gone by and hated you, it is all over! When you decide to leave and fly commercial, you will scurry for the people you know that crossed over to the dark side. You want your recs to be written from their current employee. For the contracting world it is the same, it is not what you know, but WHO you know. Plot your career wisely. Your career, be it 5, 8 , 14, or 20 yrs will go by in a blink of an eye.
     
  10. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Two of my favorite cadets :wink: are both Physics majors for a couple reasons including the chance to be test pilots. When we discussed with each of them their choice of major, we stressed to them (thanks to this site, mostly) that they should choose the major which will best help them to fulfill both long- and short-term military and civilian career goals. And,primarily, to do what they love. I guess there are still a few kids in the world who love Physics - these guys do. They (shockingly) took our advice and we're all hoping they don't end up flipping burgers. haha

    It would seem to me, as a parent, to be such a waste of mind-potential to major in management if astronautical engineering was your true passion (and vice versa too). Careers are indeed short, but ten years doing something you hate can seem a life-time long (like doing dishes... I'm just saying...).
     
  11. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    Very well said fencersmother. Those considering, should definitely be majoring in something that they truly desire. Fortunately, if being a pilot is in their stars, the major isn't as important. As noted, for test pilots, nasa, etc... it's a different story.

    For my son, he likes the idea of being a pilot, but he's been around the air force his whole life and knows about TDY's (Temporary Duty) and being away from the family. He also understands that a pilot's life isn't always "Guns & Roses". Fighter jock definitely gets more time home at the end of the day; (Or whatever their schedule is); but you do deploy. And flying after the military may or may not be something you might want to continue. (Remember; after 20 years of anything, many people look to do something different). As a Heavy pilot; you are gone from your family a whole lot more. You see the world more than your own family. So, for my son, he has actually decided to make being a pilot, his backup choice. He figures that he'll be able to maintain the grades to have the choice. Currently, his major is pre-med with an emphasis in the Behavioral Sciences. He wants to go to Med-school if he can. Most likely head into the field of being a psychiatrist. But if he doesn't get selected to med-school, he'll probably lean towards being a pilot. He doesn't want to have anything to do with "Playstation Planes" however. But he'll also see in the next 12 months what the wait time is for pilots and the acceptance rate of med-school.

    And if he gets neither, than he'll cross that road when he gets there. The thing I always pressed upon him and his sister, was to have "OPTIONS". I also press that upon every applicant on this and other forums applying to the academy or traditional colleges. Have options so you aren't limited to what you want to do. But no matter what; major in the area that you are most interested in. Don't major in something thinking that it's going to give you an edge. Your GPA will be affected a lot more if you're majoring in something you like and are passionate about; and that GPA is what's going to give you the edge when it comes time to choosing a career. Best of luck to everyone. Mike....
     
  12. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    CC - USAFA does not have a pre-med major, doesn't exist. He is a Behavioral Science Major with extra classes (like organic chemistry and biology) to fulfill Med School requirements.
     
  13. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    That is correct hornet. I use the phrase "Pre-med" because many of those on these forums aren't yet at the academy, and don't understand the process. This is my way of explaining to those interested in majors and careers that my son is "Aiming" to go to Med-school. Thanks for their clarification. I try to word things in civilianese language. Or as close to a civilian school as possible. Something they are more accustomed to. Hopefully we don't confuse anyone. mike.....
     
  14. hornetguy

    hornetguy USAFA Cadet

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    I understand CC. But even the "civilianese" actually accentuates the possible misconception. A pre-med program (of which many of my civilian friends are doing) is VASTLY different than any type of equivalent at USAFA. You know well how the core schedule affects that here. I made the correction because I think the attempt to civilianize it can actually make it more deceiving. Not a knock at you (and I'm not calling you deceptive! ;) ), just my candid opinion in my experience.
     
  15. CyberCommando

    CyberCommando Member

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    My ALO was an ergonomics major, and he's a pilot.
     
  16. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    In the end of the day when you remove the clutter, it comes down to two things.

    1. To become a TEST PILOT you want to major in a science field.
    2. You can't become a PILOT unless you graduate, you can't graduate unless you pass the courses required. If you hate Math and Science, I suggest you look at the AFA "required" curriculum.

    If you want to be just a fighter or heavy pilot, than your major means nothing. Ask yourself what is it you want to do as a pilot.
     
  17. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Sounds like lots of good advice here from all the "old folks." I wonder if our kids will actually listen to any of it? :shake:
     
  18. tallbutshort

    tallbutshort Member

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    CC, if you don't mind me asking, what is your son majoring in?
     
  19. Christcorp

    Christcorp Member

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    Behavioral Science. And he's taking the med-school pre-req like org-chem, biology, etc... If he gets accepted to med-school, he'd like to get into psychiatry.
     

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