Background N6-methyladenosine (m6A) is a dynamic and reversible internal RNA structure of eukaryotic mRNA. YTH domain family 2 (YTHDF2), an m6A-specific reader YTH domain family, plays fundamental roles in several types of cancer. However, the function of YTHDF2 in lung squamous cell carcinoma (LUSC) remains elusive. Methods The knockdown and overexpression of YTHDF2 in LUSC cells were conducted to detect the biological characteristics of YTHDF2. In vivo assays, the role of YTHDF2 in tumor growth was further uncovered. In vitro assays, YTHDF2 was confirmed to be involved in activating the mTOR/AKT signaling and YTHDF2 overexpression induced the EMT process in LUSC. Clinically, immunohistochemical staining revealed the relationship between YTHDF2 expression levels and the clinicopathological characteristics of lung squamous cell carcinoma patients. Moreover, quantitative PCR (qPCR), western blot, CCK8 assay, transwell assay, and wound-healing assay were used to detect the expression level and function of YTHDF2 under hypoxia exposure in LUSC cells. Results The results showed that hypoxia-mediated YTHDF2 overexpression promotes cell proliferation and invasion by activating the mTOR/AKT axis, and YTHDF2 overexpression induces the EMT process in LUSC. Moreover, YTHDF2 is closely associated with pN (pN- 37.0%, pN + 73.9%; P = 0.002) and pTNM stage (pI 50.0%, PII 43.3%, pIIIa 80.6%; P = 0.007), ultimately resulting in poor survival for LUSC patients. Conclusion In brief, the results highlight high-YTHDF2 expression predicted a worse prognosis of LUSC, while hypoxia-mediated YTHDF2 overexpression promotes lung squamous cell carcinoma progression by activation of the mTOR/AKT signaling pathway.