The Best U.S. Aviation Colleges

There are numerous aviation schools out there and it can be difficult for prospective students to narrow down the search. If you're looking for a career as a professional pilot, air traffic controller, or another career in aviation, consider one of these six top schools. Tuition figures do not include flight costs, which can range from less than $10,000 for earning a simple private pilot's license to upwards of six figures for more technical and complex certifications.

Purdue University

Neil Armstrong statue at Purdue University
Michael Hickey / Getty Images

As the university from which Neil Armstrong graduated, the flight school at Purdue University has earned the nickname "Cradle of Astronauts," according to U.S. News & World Report. It's also the only university at which every flight student in the flight program flies a jet.

Location: West Lafayette, Indiana

Degree Programs: Purdue has 10 colleges and schools, with a total of almost 200 majors. Within Purdue's College of Technology, students can major in aeronautical engineering technology, air traffic control, aviation management, or flight (also called professional flight technology). The College of Technology at Purdue also offers a master of science in aviation & aerospace management.

Tuition: Tuition ranges from $10,000 for residents to $28,000 for nonresidents, as of 2018.

Fleet: Purdue's Aviation Department operates 16 Cirrus SR20s, two Piper Seminoles, a Super Decathlon, a Beechjet, and a Phenom 300.

Students: Total number of undergraduate students at Purdue is approximately 30,000.

University of North Dakota

Students walking below walkway at University of North Dakota

Scott Olson / Getty Images

The John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Studies at the University of North Dakota has long been known as one of the best aviation schools in the country. UND Aerospace offers two aviation degree programs with a total of seven academic majors. Each has its own flight course requirements, which affect the cost of a degree program.

Location: Grand Forks, North Dakota

Degree Programs: Within the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, students can earn a degree in airport management, aviation management, air traffic control, aviation technology management, commercial aviation (fixed-wing or helicopter), flight education or UAS operations. UND also offers a master of science in aviation and a doctorate in aerospace sciences.

Tuition: Tuition ranges from $8,447 for North Dakota residents to $20,047 for non-residents, as of 2018.

Fleet: UND has a fleet of over 120 aircraft consisting of airplanes, helicopters, and unmanned aerial systems. 

Students: UND has almost 12,000 students throughout all of the university's degree programs. About 900 of those are in the flight program.

Ohio State University

Students gathered outside on Ohio State campus
Jamie Sabau / Getty Images

OSU’s aeronautical programs can be found within the College of Ohio OSU's Engineering’s Center for Aviation Studies, considered among the best aviation colleges in the world. Partnerships between OSU and prominent agencies in the industry serve to further a student’s employment opportunities, such as internships and research, as well as employment post-graduation.

Location: Columbus, Ohio

Degree Programs: Both undergraduate and graduate aviation degree programs are offered including an undergraduate bachelor of science degree in aviation (via the College of Engineering) to professional pilot specialization degrees affording students the opportunity to earn their commercial pilot’s certificate with the advantage of an instrument rating.

Tuition: Tuition ranges from $4,223 to $10,023 depending on residency versus nonresidency, as of 2018.

Fleet: Ohio State's fleet of 10 Cessna 172s are used for private pilot training, instrument pilot training, and commercial pilot training, as well as currency training and introductory flights.

Students: The total number of undergraduate students enrolled at Ohio State University is 45,800.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Smiling pilots walking on a runway at Embry-Riddle Aeronautic University.

Connor McShane / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is dubbed, by many, as the "Harvard of the Skies." That's because it is the oldest and largest when it comes to aviation university programs. The university website says that the airlines hire more graduates from ERAU than from any other aviation university. 

Location: ERAU is divided into three campuses:

  • Daytona Beach, Florida
  • Prescott, Arizona
  • ERAU Worldwide & Worldwide Online

Degree Programs: More than 60 degree programs are offered at ERAU, including aeronautical science (the flight program), aeronautical and aerospace engineering, global security & intelligence, air traffic control, and business administration, to name a few. ERAU also offers master degrees in aeronautical science, aerospace engineering, business administration (MBA and MBA-Aviation), human factors, and space education, among others, and is one of the only universities to offer a doctorate in aviation.


  • Tuition for Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Daytona Beach, Florida, is $50,570 for all students regardless of their residency, to attend on a full-time basis, as of 2018.
  • Tuition for Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Prescott, Arizona is $48,992.

Fleet: Embry-Riddle's two main campuses each offer the aeronautical science program, with more than 90 airplanes (many of which are ADS-B equipped) and 40 simulators, including at least one full flight Level D simulator. The Worldwide campus offers online courses and classes at more than 150 satellite locations across the world.

Students: There are 6,900 students on all three campuses.

Western Michigan University

Exterior of a building on the Western Michigan University campus.

Fbthpg / Wikimedia Commons / CC0 1.0 

Western Michigan University is one of the top 100 public universities in the country. Its College of Aviation has been in existence for 75 years and has established itself as a well-regarded program in the aviation industry. The College of Aviation offers the only comprehensive aviation program at a public university in Michigan. 

Location: WMU is located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The flight department is located at W.K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Degree Programs: Students in the College of Aviation can major in aviation flight science, aviation management & operations or aviation maintenance technician.

Tuition: Tuition ranges from $10,000 for residents to $24,000 for nonresidents, but students enrolling from Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin receive a reduced tuition rate.

Fleet: The WMU College of Aviation has 26 Cirrus SR20 aircraft, two Piper Arrows, six Piper Seminoles, an American Champion Super Decathlon, two Cessna 150 aircraft, and a Piper Super Cub.

A Level 5 CRJ—200 flight training device provides jet equivalency training for WMU aviation students. 

Students: There are about 24,000 students enrolled at Western Michigan University. With nearly 900 undergraduate students, it boasts one of the largest aviation programs in the nation.

San Jose State

Fresno State v San Jose State
Brian Bahr / Getty Images

The San Jose State University College of Engineering offers a Department of Aviation and Technology. SJSU’s aviation department began in 1936 when students in the math department expressed interest in flight. Ever since, the school has been serving students with an interest in business, technical, or active flying careers. 

Location: San Jose, California

Degree Programs: This aviation college offers two bachelor’s programs, a bachelor of science in aviation degree and a bachelor of science in industrial technology. Within either of these degrees in aviation, students can specialize in operations, maintenance management, aviation management, or professional flight.

Tuition: The graduate business professional tuition fees are $270 per unit/credit.  

Fleet: Students in the professional flight program are required to select an affiliated flight school where they can earn three FAA pilot ratings. 

Students: Total number of undergraduate students enrolled at San Jose State University is about 32,000.