Aviation Scholarships — Get Paid To Learn

Frustrated by the high cost of flight education? Behaved poorly to your cranky great uncle and he left you out of his will? Have we got a deal for you: Free money! Well, it'll cost you some time and effort, but there are ways to get others to help pay your way into the profession.


The cost is staggering, isnt it? The price of admission to a professional flight deck wherein you can actually be paid to aviate can be overwhelming to the average Joe or Joan.You were first impressed by those great-looking, four-color display ads in the magazines. But a quick call to the admissions reps at a dozen academies spread throughout Florida and the warm-clime states had them saying something like this: “Why, yes! We can prepare you for a career flying an RJ with our affiliate carriers for, oh, only $65,000 to $80,000. By the way, there is really no guarantee that any of our airline partners will hire you. In fact, you can fork over enough dollars equivalent to a small condo in Orlando and we might not even hire you as a CFI at this school!” Huh?With any amount of research, you will learn that college or academy-based aviation training requires an investment between $50,000 and $150,000. Even the mom-and-pop flight school at the local aerodrome can extract $25,000 from your bank account as a minimum before you work yourself up to Commercial ASEL/AMEL and MEI.So, what to do? Resign yourself to a career as a Xerox salesman? Join your pappy down at the body shop? Well, guess what? There are people out there who actually want to give you money to fulfill your dreams! Believe it or not, there are hundreds of thousands of free dollars waiting for aspiring professionals who have “the right stuff.” Curious? Read on!

Where Is The Money?

Money to float your dreams can come from several sources: scholarships, grants, fellowships, assistantships, education loans, and student employment. Of these, scholarships represent the best potential for acquiring free seed money to build a career for the inexperienced low-timer.Scholarships are considered “gift aid” and the recipient is never expected to pay the donor back. Such money can come from a variety of sources such as the federal and state governments, colleges and universities, businesses, private organizations, and individuals. Some of these are awarded once, while others can be renewed.Bear in mind that scholarships are generally granted to students engaged in traditional, collegiate-level studies. However, there is funding available for flight training exclusively.According to the folks at AvScholars, scholarships are often categorized according to origin.National Awards: These are very competitive and usually have several restrictions, including the pursuit of a specific field of study and/or test scores. Typically, national awards offer large monetary scholarships. The major aviation manufacturers like Boeing and stellar organizations such as the AOPA, EAA, NBAA, and WIAA figure prominently in this category.Regional Awards: Regional awards are very competitive and are restricted to a students geographic location, field of study, ethic background, test scores, gender, etc.State Awards: State awards are competitive and are restricted to students that are residents of a specific state. Other restrictions may include a specific field of study, ethic background, test scores, gender, etc.Local Awards: Local awards are less competitive and are usually aimed at students who are residents of a specific city, county, or district. Other requisites may include enrollment at a specific high school, field of study, gender, etc. Generally, local awards are $1,000 or less, not publicized, overlooked, and given on a one-time basis.A case in-point is the local EAA Chapter in Granby, CO., which annually awards $1000 to a graduate of an area high school who enrolls in any accredited aviation career program including flight, maintenance, air traffic, management, etc.Institutional Awards: Scholarships awarded by colleges and universities are also quite competitive and generally require that an enrolled student demonstrate financial need. However, some institutional aid is awarded to students based on their merit and/or academic achievements.

Who’s Giving The Money?

Here are just a few examples of funding available:

AOPA Air Safety Foundation: ASF lists three scholarships awarded annually, including the AOPA Air Safety Foundation/McAllister Memorial Scholarship. It is administered jointly by ASF and the University Aviation Association. One award in the amount of $1,000 is made to a promising young man or woman who, without assistance, would find it difficult to obtain a college education.The application requirements typify those of most scholarships, which can include maintenance of a high grade-point average, college enrollment, specific class status, demonstration of need, and a written submission on a relevant topic. For instance:

  1. Be of junior or senior standing at the time the application is submitted with at least one semester/quarter to be completed after September 1, 2004.
  2. Have achieved academic proficiency (grade point average) at time of application of 3.25 or better (on a 4.0 system).
  3. Be enrolled in a baccalaureate level, non-engineering aviation degree program at a four-year institution and plan to continue the following year (community college students are eligible when they have transferred to a four-year institution). The applicant’s college must be listed as an organization described in section 170( c) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954.
  4. Submit a 250-word maximum typed, double-spaced paper on: “What is one safety issue not adequately taught to primary students, and how can that be changed?”
  5. Application must be accompanied by an official transcript from applicant’s college or university.

Women In Aviation International: WIAI is truly a shining example of professionals helping future professionals. The organization has provided over $3 million in scholarships to its membership over the past seven years. Viewing their Web site, nearly 50 scholarships are listed encompassing all fields of aviation valued from $750 up to $35,000.National Business Aircraft Association: Surfing NBAAs Web site shows ten scholarships promoting professional development for flight attendants, international operators, schedulers, dispatchers and more.Ninety-Nines: The Amelia Earhart Memorial Career Scholarship helps members advance their aviation career by paying for the cost of training to complete an advanced pilot or aviation training course, such as a multi-engine rating or jet type rating, a flight instructor or airline transport pilot certificate, or a college course. These unique scholarships cover the entire cost of flight training or tuition to complete the certificate, rating, or coursework. Among other eligibility requirements, the applicant must be a two-year member of the Ninety-Nines.The aforementioned is just a glimpse of what is available. A good tool for beginning the hunt for dollars is available at the University Aviation Association. For $20, UAA will send either a book or a CD listing hundreds of scholarship sources.Now, are you ready for a startling statistic? Just for grins, do an internet search for “aviation scholarships.” At this very moment, there are over 60,000 web addresses featuring aviation scholarships! Chances are, there is some good-hearted person, company, school, or organization that just might be willing to give you a financial push up the career ladder!

For more about a career in aviation, check out AVweb’s career section.