How Can I Become an Airport Manager?

Research what it takes to become an airport manager. Learn about job duties, education requirements, average wages and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Driver Training degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Airport Manager?

Airport managers are responsible for overseeing operations in an airport. They work to prevent threats to passengers and crew, and must also be prepared to implement emergency response plans in the event of a security threat or an extreme weather situation that may require them to ground planes. They respond to mechanical and medical emergencies and must ensure that all personnel comply with Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines and any other applicable regulations. They may also have to have wildlife removed from airport grounds. Their duties involve scheduling aircraft and ensuring that all of the aspects of airport operations, such as checking passengers in, transferring luggage, security screenings and other tasks are performed efficiently so that unnecessary delays are avoided.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Airport management; aviation; business management
Key Skills Communication, negotiation, leadership, management and problem-solving
Licensure and/or Certification Membership in American Association of Airline Executives may be preferred; U.S. Customs security clearance may be required
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5.5% (all general/operations managers in air transportation)*
Median Salary (2016) $59,080**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

What Does an Airport Manager Do?

In order for airplanes to safely carry passengers around the nation and world, it's necessary for everything to be professionally managed on the ground. Many components, such as security, parking and gate management, must be maintained and run smoothly so that an airport can function. As an airport manager, you'll need to keep the facilities clean, oversee airline contracts and ensure the safety of the concourses for passengers, flight crews and visitors. With increases in federally regulated airport security, you'll have to ensure that the facility can adequately supply the necessary requirements for security equipment and personnel.

What Education Do I Need?

If you have your high school diploma or a GED, a good way to get the education you need to become an airport manager is to enroll in a bachelor's degree program in airport management or a closely related management field. In a typical bachelor's degree program in airport management, you'll gain a firm understanding of aviation, business and administration. A few topics you can expect to cover include airport planning, aerospace law, air cargo, human resource management, aviation safety, macroeconomics and business ethics. If you want to continue your education, you could consider enrolling in a master's degree program in airport management or business administration.

What Skills Do I Need?

In order to become an airport manager, you'll need to develop skills that allow you to effectively direct teams of people. A firm understanding of business psychology is necessary. You'll need to apply administration strategy to the very specific needs of an airport environment, such as development projects, facility use and emergency preparation. You must also be able to negotiate contracts with a wide variety of food and product vendors that operate from airports, as well as manage customer parking and ground traffic.

What Is the Job Market Like?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of general and operations managers in the air transportation industry was expected to grow 5.5 percent between 2014-2024 ( In 2016, PayScale stated that airport managers earned between $36,774-$99,953 per year. reported that as of January 2017, aviation managers earned a median annual salary of $158,377.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Emergency management directors and medical and health service managers share aspects of their work that are similar to the work that an airport manager does. Emergency management directors respond to emergency situations, such as extreme weather, natural disasters or terrorist attacks. They have plans in place to address locating survivors or preventing further damage or loss of life. This is similar to the preparation that an airport manager needs to have to address emergency situations in an airport. They may need to implement safety procedures in the event of a terrorist threat or may need to ground planes in the event of extreme weather. Emergency management directors need a bachelor's degree.

Medical and health services managers coordinate medical treatment for patients. The aspect of their work that's similar to the work of an airport manager is the need to respond to medical emergencies and make prompt arrangements for appropriate medical care of the patient in the event of an emergency. They also need a bachelor's degree.

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