Air Transportation Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in air transportation. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and licensure information. Schools offering Aviation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can You Do With an Air Transportation Major?

Air transportation degrees are typically offered at the bachelor's level, teaching students about aeronautics, aviation history and safety procedures, meteorology, and more. A degree in the air transportation field can prepare you for a variety of careers, including air traffic controller and airfield operations specialist. Air traffic controllers track and direct aircraft entering and leaving designated airport airspace to ensure safe travel. Airfield operations specialists oversee the landing and takeoff of airplanes on the runway, coordinating the efforts of air traffic controllers and maintenance workers for clear skies and functional machinery. Many program graduates are also in the position to earn a private pilot certificate.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about two of these careers.

Air Traffic Controller Airfield Operations Specialist
Education Required Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program High school diploma (minimum)
Certification Certification required Professional certifications available
Training Required On-the-job training On-the-job training
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 1%* 7%*
Median Salary (2018) $124,540* $52,200*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Air Transportation Majors Are Available To Me?

Air transportation majors are typically management degrees, such as a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management or Air Transportation Management. You might also pursue a Bachelor of Science in Aviation with a specialization in air transport administration. Many colleges and universities offering these 4-year programs include private pilot training as part of the curriculum. A Bachelor of Business Administration with a major in Air Transportation also exists, but may not include pilot training.

What Will I Learn?

A 4-year air transportation degree includes study in aviation business, aviation technology, and air transportation laws and regulations. As an air transportation major, you'll take classes in aviation history and policy, airport planning and management, and aviation safety and regulations. These required courses are designed to give you a foundation in the technical and business components of the air transportation industry.

Courses in the principles of aeronautics, aviation meteorology, and air traffic control help you learn about aircraft engines and structures and analyzing weather and aircraft mechanical failures. If you choose a business degree in air transportation, you may be required to take additional aviation business courses, such as airline management, aviation risk management, and economics of air transportation.

If your degree program includes a private pilot training component, you'll have the opportunity to earn your private pilot certificate, the first step in obtaining a private pilot license. This training will include coursework in navigation, aerodynamics, and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. A pilot training laboratory course is designed to prepare you for a solo flight and may include the use of a single-engine aircraft simulator.

Do I Have to Work in an Airport?

Earning an air transportation degree doesn't mean that you have to work in an airport, but airports are where many air transportation jobs are centered. Airport careers include working in airport management, air traffic control, airline management, and general aviation operations. Non-airport jobs include transportation analysts and aviation transportation planner.

Airport managers oversee financial, legal, and security operations at an airport. As an airport manager, you would be responsible for ensuring that the day-to-day operations of your airport comply with FAA regulations. If you set your sights on becoming an airport manager, you'll likely need to gain experience in airport operations. Airport operations jobs include maintaining grounds, equipment, and facilities at an airport.

Air traffic controllers work for the FAA directing and tracking aircraft in U.S. air space. To become an air traffic controller, you must qualify for and complete FAA training after you finish your degree program. Air traffic controllers work in airport towers, at FAA regional centers and at FAA's command center.

How Much Could I Make?

As of May 2018, median annual salaries for airfield operations specialists were $52,200, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Air traffic controllers earned a median annual wage of $124,540 in 2018, according to the BLS ( These are just two examples of air transportation salaries; your salary in air transportation depends on your career choice and location.

What Are Some Related Careers?

Aircraft mechanics work on the ground to repair and maintain aircraft, performing scheduled maintenance and inspections on mechanical and electrical systems as regulated by the FAA. You may need on-the-job training or a certificate in order to find employment in this career, and though a degree is not required, it may improve your chances significantly. Another related career is an avionics technician. These technicians inspect the electronics used on flights, as well as flight data, in order to identify problems in performance that normal maintenance may overlook. They'll often replace parts and install software to fix these issues. These professionals require an associate's degree to find work.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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