Unmanned Aircraft Pilot Makes Big Career Leap with Purdue’s Online Aviation Management Master’s

For aviation enthusiast Victor Migliore, succeeding in the aviation industry has been an exercise in continually rising to the challenge. His career started in a niche sector of aviation – unmanned aircraft (also known as drones). Working with unmanned aircraft gave Migliore a novel perspective on the industry and introduced him to a lot of challenges within aviation, such as how to make a relatively new invention accessible, and therefore profitable, to a wider audience.  

“The unmanned aircraft industry is growing, but it’s still a nascent technology,” Migliore said. “A big issue the industry is facing is how to become financially viable.” 

Migliore’s interest in unmanned aircraft landed him in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he worked as an operations engineer for a startup focused on drones. However, by 2022 Migliore was starting to feel a lack of momentum in his career. He was passionate about working with drones, but he felt that just having a bachelor’s degree was holding him back. He wanted to help solve some of the pressing problems in his industry and move up the career ladder. 

In January of 2022, Migliore started researching online master’s programs in aviation management. He wanted a program that taught a broad range of skills and had enough flexibility so that he could continue working full-time. The first university that came to mind was Purdue University, which is known for its strong aviation programs and aviation industry ties, as well as for being the cradle of astronauts and home to the country’s first university-owned airport. 

“I was attracted to Purdue because of its rich aviation background,” Migliore said. “Neil Armstrong went there of course, so that was the first thing that came to my head.” 

I was attracted to Purdue because of its rich aviation background. Neil Armstrong went there of course, so that was the first thing that came to my head.

Victor Migliore

Purdue University MS in Aviation and Aerospace Management Alumnus

Moreover, Purdue had an online Master of Science in Aviation and Aerospace Management that checked all Migliore’s boxes. For one, it was a high-quality program taught by academic leaders and industry professionals with decades of experience. It was also offered on a flexible schedule, so Migliore could complete his schoolwork while continuing to grow his career. 

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With Purdue, Migliore found exactly what he needed to expand his career horizons and professional network. The program’s focus on management allowed him to take courses in topics he was interested in but didn’t know much about, like finance. Since becoming financially viable is a hot topic for unmanned aircraft companies, Migliore was able to use these courses to consider potential solutions and growth areas within his industry. 

“I took a class on aircraft leasing, which is where you purchase a drone, sell it to a third party, and then lease that drone back from them to take advantage of financial benefits,” Migliore said. “At first it seemed out of left field, but then I saw that there are different ways to apply that to my job.” 

Migliore also took advantage of Purdue’s extensive alumni network, especially in the aviation industry. Through this network, Migliore was able to complete a summer mentorship program with American Airlines as part of their route planning team. This experience gave Migliore invaluable insight into managing a large fleet of commercial aircraft. 

When Migliore began his master’s program, he wanted to use his newfound knowledge and experience to grow in his career. Thanks to his mentorship program and the experience he was picking up in his courses, he was able to make a big career move before his graduation date. In the course of completing his master’s, Migliore was offered a new job as a chief Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) pilot for an aviation company in the Chicago area – and a 50% salary increase.  

“I put that I was pursuing a master’s degree at Purdue on the job application,” Migliore said. “And I think that actually helped me get the job that I have now. My supervisor is also a Purdue alum, so that helped too.” 

Now that Migliore has graduated, his ambitions are in full focus. Having already accomplished one of his biggest goals, he sees a bright future ahead – earning his master’s is just the first step.  

“After graduation, I plan on applying [my degree] to my current job since our unmanned aircraft fleet is growing,” Migliore said. “And later on, I’d like to start my own company. [Unmanned aircraft] are a wide and open career opportunity, and my master’s is a stepping stone towards the things I can accomplish in the future.” 

To learn more about Purdue’s online master’s in aviation and aerospace management, visit the program’s webpage.