Use What You Already Know to Expand Your Career Horizons

You know why a degree is important — enhanced employability, a better chance at promotions, and improved communication and leadership skills. What you may not know is that your experience as an aviation professional makes you an excellent candidate for college.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with hundreds of aviation professionals as they earn a bachelor’s degree. Their experience in a demanding industry provides a solid background that makes getting a degree a very realistic goal.


Leverage your experience into a degree

You’ve gone through training and you have years of professional experience under your belt. Put that experience to work by looking for schools that award credit for things like A&P certificates, military training, or work experience.

Online programs are a good bet for most professionals and there are hundreds of degree options to boost your career. A four-year degree shows a willingness to learn and improve, and a bachelor’s degree is a requirement for most high-end positions.

A Regent’s Bachelor of Arts degree, for instance, is an excellent choice for aviation professionals as it awards credit for previous experience and creates a tailor-made degree plan that fits the student’s needs and interests.

In my capacity at West Virginia University Institute of Technology (WVU Tech), I’ve worked on RBA plans with certified A&P mechanics who start day one with their degree nearly halfway complete. What’s more, they have gone on to do great things in their careers because the four-year degree barrier is out of the way.


The nuts and bolts of getting started

As an aviation professional, you can get a jump-start on a degree. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Applications: Applications should be completed as early as possible.
  • Resume: Update your resume. Programs that give credit for work experience will want to see your resume, so make it shine.
  • Certification/Training Documentation: Gather any certificates or training documentation you may have received during your career. From FAA certificates to software training, every piece of documentation you provide will help your chances of getting credit for your experience.
  • Cover letter: Be prepared to write a statement or cover letter. Don’t rehash your resume or application. This is your chance to show the school who you are and why you want to join their program.
  • Transcripts: After you have applied, contact your previous schools and request official copies of your transcripts. (Official transcripts should be sent directly to the school — not to you first).
  • Financial Aid: Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid ( This is the foundation for all types of financial aid. Be sure to reach out to your school’s financial aid department to answer questions about financing your education.
  • Acceptance: Once you have been accepted into a program, you’ll want to register for classes as early as possible to get the best courses and find deals on textbooks. Make sure you also understand the school’s policies on dropping courses, particularly in online programs.

Getting a degree takes time and effort, but it opens up a world of career-changing opportunities. It may seem daunting, but with these tips and your experience, it will be easier than you think.


Dave Robbins is the Aviation Management and RBA Program Coordinator at West Virginia University Institute of Technology. He is an Airline Transport Pilot with over 14,000 flight hours and type ratings in a CE 500, CASA 212 and BA 31 as well as a Flight Instructor with Single Engine, Multi-Engine and Instrument ratings. He can be reached at For more information on WVU Tech’s RBA degree program, visit