Do I need a degree to be a Pilot in Singapore

TLDR You don’t need a degree to be an Airline Pilot in Singapore. Hack, you don’t need any form of …


You don’t need a degree to be an Airline Pilot in Singapore. Hack, you don’t need any form of academic qualification to be a Pilot anywhere in the world. All you need is a licence.

In Singapore, what you need is a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) from any ICAO participating states. That could be an FAA CPL or a CAAS CPL.

Thats the simple answer.

The story is a little more complicated. Read further for more details.

To be a Pilot through a Cadet Programme

Cadet programmes in this article refers to both SIA’s Ab-initio Cadet Programme and Scoot’s Cadet Programme. The main differences between the two programmes is that SIA provides full sponsorship for pilot training (worth SGD$200,000), while Scoot’s Cadet programme requires you to pay the entire cost of training yourself.

So why do you want to become a Pilot through a Cadet Programme? Well, you are more assured of a job after you graduate (not guaranteed, but at least you have a good chance of landing a job after graduation).

Imagine spending SGD$200,000 for your licence to find yourself job hunting for 5 years, only to return to your previous boring job. Naturally, competition for a place in any Cadet programme is going to be tough.

If Scoot’s selection for their Cadet programme is described as tough, I would say SIA’s Cadet programme would be described as extremely though. Both programmes have an extremely large pool of applications to choose from.

Imagine a pool of 1,000 applicants, where 99.5% of those wouldn’t have any prior flying experience. How would SIA and Scoot select people for their Cadet programme? With nothing to compare individual candidates from one another, the only thing they can go by is academic results.

A candidate with a good GPA from a good university with flying experience is a better candidate than a candidate with no university degree without flying experience.

Don’t have a degree? Don’t worry, maybe you can prove your commitment to potential employers by investing in your own licence.

Get your own licence & than apply for a job

If academic studies just isn’t your forte, there is still hope. While competition for a slot in any of the cadet programme is fierce, if you are fully committed to becoming an airline pilot, you could consider getting your own licence. You could consider getting a CAAS Commercial Pilot Licence or a FAA Commercial Pilot Licence.

It wouldn’t be cheap though. The FAA CPL would cost you up to US$50,000, and the CAAS CPL could cost you up to SGD$200,000. However, having invested that amount of money for your own pilot certification proves to potential employers that you are committed to the profession.

This is where a non-degree Commercial Pilot Licence holder would look better than a degree holder with no flying experience to show for.

There are risks here thoug h, Since there are no guarantees. Whether or not airlines hire really depends on the market conditions, and whether they want to be choosy or not really depends on the available number of job applications. A licence holder would be apply for a direct Second Officer or direct First Officer job (thereby bypassing the competition for limited cadet pilot slots), but there is no say how the market is going to look after you finally get your licence.

Comparing these two candidates.

 Candidate ACandidate B
LicenceCAAS CPL 200 hoursCAAS CPL 200 hours
Flying SkillsNot quantifiableNot quantifiable

If there was only one job opening, who do you think the employer will choose? And nope, flying skills isn’t a quantifiable skill.

Sorry Tom Cruise… At least we can outshine Maverick at something.

Degree first or Licence first

Once common and related question I get very often is;

You’ve just graduated with an A’Levels or Diploma. Qualified and secured for a place in University. Want to be a Pilot. What should you do?

Without going deep into individual circumstances, and without providing any specific advice to any individual, here is a possible route someone could take.

  1. Apply to SIA’s Cadet Programme. I know what I said about the likelihood and the competition for this programme. But since SIA provides a fully sponsors the licence, there really is no risk to trying. Who knows, you might just get through the selection? If that didn’t work out
  2. Apply to Scoot’s Cadet Programme. Provided you are in the financial position to finance your own training, you can consider applying to Scoot’s Cadet Programme. You are better assured of a job upon completion of your licence. If that didn’t work out
  3. Go get your own licence. Consider deferring your studies in University and getting your own licence. The CAAS CPL should take you about 1 – 1.5 years, while the FAA CPL should take you about 0.5 years. Whats the difference between the FAA and CAAS CPL? Once you get your licence
  4. Job hunt while completing your Degree. Armed with your licence, you can return to the University to complete your studies, and at the same time, start your job hunt at any of the Airlines in Singapore. The advantage of doing this is, you will never know when the next hiring wave is. For all you know, you could be jobless for the next 2-3 years. If you were just sitting around at home, you would have nothing to show for at the end of waiting. If you returned to school, at least you would be building your credentials while waiting for a job.
  5. Job secured. You can defer your degree programme, or simply drop out from school. If you finished your degree (3 year job hunt for example), you’ve got a nice certificate to hang at home.

Congratulations. Dream unlocked.

Never made the decision for the airline

Even if you don’t think you are a prime candidate for the job, there is no cost in just applying and seeing where that takes you! Maybe you’ll impress the interview board so much that your interview day performance helped you to out perform all other (better on paper) candidates? What ever your circumstances, never make the decision for the airline.

There are other routes you could take though. You could try to be an RSAF Pilot before making the transition to the airlines (RSAF to Airlines how-to), though getting in is equally, if not more, competitive than the Cadet programmes. What ever it is, Just Try.

Good luck!

Keep reading

More >