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Aviation Program FAQs

Aviation at a Glance

  • AABI Accredited (Aviation Education specialization)
  • R-ATP certified
  • Seven FAA certificates earned (Private Pilot, Instrument, Commercial Single and Multiengine, CFI, CFII, MEI)
  • Cost effective
  • All classes taught by faculty members
  • Small class sizes

 

 

Tell me a little bit about the Aviation Program.

We are the premier Aviation Program in South Dakota and train more students here at South Dakota State University than everywhere else in the state combined!  Our Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation with a specialization in Aviation Education is designed to make sure you are ready to for the aviation industry when you graduate college.  You will complete seven Federal Aviation Administration flight tests resulting in earning your single and multi-engine commercial certificate with instrument ratings.  Additionally, you will earn your Certificated Flight Instructor (CFI), Certificated Flight Instructor Instrument (CFII), and your Multiengine Flight Instructor (MEI) certificate- all before your senior year!  We believe that regardless of your career path in aviation, you will be on a path of continuous improvement where you will be in a position of learning or you will be teaching others how to do better. 

I want to know more or come for a visit?

If you would like to schedule a visit and tour our aviation facility, please talk to our Admissions office and let them know you are interested in aviation, they will schedule a personalized visit just for you!  If you have a specific question or need more information, contact Dr. Christensen at 605-688-4983 or cody.christensen@sdstate.edu.

I want to fly, now what?

Great, you started at the right spot!  The first step is to apply to South Dakota State University and talk with our awesome Admissions staff, which can help guide you through the process.  Towards the end of May we will send you out a welcome packet with a few tasks to complete before you come to campus for New Student Orientation in the summer. 

How much does it cost to complete the BS in Aviation- Aviation Education degree?

This is a trick question and it really does depend on what is all included in the cost.  On average it takes about $140,000 to complete a BS in Aviation- Aviation Education degree at SDSU.  Half of that number is tuition, room, board, fees, and books.  The other half (about $72,200) is additional expenses related to the extra expense of aviation (airplane, fuel, checkrides, and instructors).  Please see our cost sheet that helps break down the full expense involved with our program:

(effective July 1, 2017)

We try very hard to consider ALL the costs associated with the flight potion of the program, not just the minimum. 

The costs that we quote are based on what average students paid to complete the program.  Also our graduates come out of SDSU with seven FAA ratings and certificates, versus the standard four or five at many other institutions.  We do not quote you the minimum number of hours to complete the program; we take a different approach in trying to be as up front as possible with the total expense of the aviation program.  We do include examiners fees, a modest headset, books and charts, and three additional flight instructor certificates that most other schools do not include in the cost sheet. 

I am a VA student or have a specific scholarship, can I use that to pay for some of the extra expenses involved in aviation?

First off, thank you for your service!  We have a number of students who are veterans, guard members, reserve members, and ROTC. We are authorized to offer flight training within the Aviation Education degree program paid with Post 9/11 (or some variations) VA funding.  Please note the VA and some other specific scholarships only pay for the course fee (which is a minimum amount of training).  Please see the MINIMUM Flight Training Costs listed here:  

These costs are billed at the beginning of the semester and are applied to your total flight bill.  Students should expect to pay additional expenses due to the individual nature of flight training.

How do most people pay for college and specifically aviation?

The majority of students will use alternative (private) educational loans to pay for the bulk of the expenses related to flight training.  More information about the financial aid process can be found here or by talking to an Admissions counselor.  SDSU offers some great scholarships like the SD Opportunities Scholarship and the Jackrabbit Guarantee to new incoming students.  The Aviation Program does offer some scholarships, usually to sophomore and junior level students each year.

Are there any exploratory courses or camps to see if aviation is the right fit?

There are a few options to help make a more informed decision.  The first is called ACE (Aerospace Career and Education) Camp and is designed for high school aged students that are interested in a career in aviation or aerospace studies.  If the camp is of interest, we suggest signing up early as the camp fills fast. 

For those of you in the Sioux Falls school district there are aviation courses available at the CTE Academy in Sioux Falls.

If you are a current SDSU student or are a new Aviation Education major we do offer an elective course in the spring semester called AVIA 120 – Exploring Aviation (1 credit) which is designed for you to learn a little about aviation and career choices in aviation as well as to actually get in an airplane a few times and experience the thrill of flying.  There is an additional fee of $600 which covers two flights where you are at the controls of a Cessna 172 and one simulator session at the airport.  If you have ever thought of what it would be like to fly an airplane, this course is for you!

Where do your graduates go?

Our graduates come out of our program with seven FAA ratings and from here generally instructor for a year or two and then go to a regional airline or corporate flight department.  There is a huge need for pilots right now and we have had no problems finding positions for our graduates.  Over the last six months we have seen an influx in flight schools and regional airlines who are actively recruiting our graduates.  Some airlines are offering up to an $80,000 retention bonus for four years of service.

What does the typical graduate make?

Pay has not kept up with the demand for pilots right now; however we fully expect that to change in the future, according to our alumni survey the average salary right after college is about $26,000.  First year pay at a regional airline is currently $60,000, which generally takes one year after graduate to accumulate the required 1,000 of total flight time to get.  It is not uncommon for graduates ten years after graduation to make over $100,000 in a pilot position. 

Should I get my private pilot license before I come to school?

We find that students do best when they start out with zero flight time along with other students.  While we do accept credit for students that have their Private Pilot already, there are some caveats that we would want to discuss before going that route.  As each student is just a little bit different, please talk to Dr. Christensen about any flight training that you will or plan to complete before you come to SDSU.

How does the Aviation Maintenance Management degree work?

Our Aviation Maintenance Management degree is designed as a 2 + 2 program.  What that means is you are required to have your Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) License from the FAA before you can begin the program, which usually means completing an Associate’s degree at a technical institute first. If you already have you’re A&P license, you can transfer to SDSU and it will take about 4-5 semesters to complete your coursework.

Do you accept international students?

Of course! Due to Transportation Security Administration restrictions, there is additional paperwork that must be completed prior to starting any flight training.  Please talk to an aviation faculty member as soon as possible to start the process so that your training is not delayed.  All international students must complete their TSA background check prior to the add drop date.  The process should be started at least one month before you begin flight training. 

 

What books and headsets to you recommend?

Headsets are very individualist and range in price from $99 to $1,300.  We suggest a good passive noise cancelling headset in the $200-$400 range as a starter set.  We do have loaner headsets you can use to see what features you like.  If you already have a headset, great bring that with and it is one less thing you need to buy.  As far as the books go, almost all our books are available for free online or depending on your preference, you can buy the paper copy.  The SDSU bookstore does carry many of our books as does the Brookings Airport and many online websites.  You can wait until the first day of class to decide which books are best for flight courses.