Military Pilots


Education and Training Requirements

High School

You will need at least a high school diploma in order to join the armed forces, and a college-preparatory curriculum is recommended. High school courses in science, mathematics, physics, computers, and physical education will be the most helpful. It's also a good idea to take a foreign language, which may expand your job opportunities. To enter the military, you must be at least 17 years old. Applicants who are 17 years old must also have the consent of a parent or legal guardian.

Postsecondary Training

A four-year college degree is usually required to become a military pilot. Courses in engineering, meteorology, computer science, aviation law, business management, and military science are especially helpful. Physical education courses will also be important, as your physical health and endurance levels will constantly be challenged in the military.

There are several paths that you can choose from to get your postsecondary education. You may want to attend one of the four service academies: the U.S. Air Force Academy (for the Air Force), the U.S. Military Academy (for the Army), the U.S. Naval Academy (for the Navy and the Marines), or the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (for the Coast Guard). Competition to enter these institutions is intense. You will need to have a very strong academic background, involvement in community activities, and leadership experiences. Most applicants also need a nomination from an authorized source, which is usually a member of the U.S. Congress. If you choose one of these four academies, you will graduate with a bachelor's degree. You are then required to spend a minimum of five years on active duty, beginning as a junior officer.

Another option is to attend a four-year school that has a Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program. Most state-supported colleges and universities have aviation programs, as do many private schools. Some schools focus solely on aviation education, such as Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of North Dakota John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences.

Each branch of the armed services has specific training requirements for its military pilots. Training in all branches will include flight simulation, classroom training, and basic flight instruction. For more information on specific requirements, contact a recruiter for the branch in which you are interested in entering.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

The military does not offer certification or licensing for military pilots. During the advanced portion of your civilian flight training, though, you must pass the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) guidelines and regulations. If you hope to someday transfer your military skills to a similar job in the civilian sector (for example, with a commercial airline), you may need additional training and/or certification or licensing.

Other Requirements

To join any branch of the military you need to be a U.S. citizen or have permanent residency status (that is, hold a Green Card). To enter the Army, Navy, and Air Force, you must be at least 17 years of age. The maximum age to enter the Army is 35; the Navy, 34; the Air Force and Coast Guard, 39; and the Marine Corps, 29. (The maximum age limit is subject to change depending on such factors as the nature of the military service and the demand for recruitment.) You also cannot have a criminal record. There are height and weight standards that you should ask your recruiter about since they may vary among the services. Some jobs have special requirements, such as certain vision standards, which you will also need to find out from your recruiter.

Stable physical and emotional health is essential for the aspiring pilot. Military pilots are expected to remain calm and levelheaded, no matter how stressful the situation. The physical requirements of this profession are very strict—you must have 20/20 vision with or without glasses, good hearing, normal heart rate and blood pressure, and no physical handicaps that could hinder performance.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Previous flight experience will be beneficial for aspiring military pilots.

You should have quick decision-making skills and reflexes to be a successful pilot. Decisiveness, self-confidence, good communication skills, and the ability to work well under pressure are also important personality traits. You should maintain an adaptable and flexible lifestyle, as your orders, missions, and station may change at any time.

Although military pilot careers are available to both men and women, some combat positions are only open to men.