How Can I Begin a Career in Airport Management?

Find out what airport managers do. Read on for more information about educational requirements, job responsibilities and career prospects in this profession. Schools offering Driver Training degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Airport Manager?

Airport managers oversee all operations related to how an airport functions. They manage aviation traffic, oversee check-in and screening procedures, follow all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, and ensure employees follow FAA guidelines. They oversee maintenance, scheduling and safety operations. They may need to handle situations with wildlife on the airport grounds and have wildlife safely removed. They coordinate their activities with air traffic control and any other agencies as needed, and respond to any mechanical emergencies or medical emergencies. Airport managers ensure the safety of passengers and crews and must coordinate information from regulatory agencies as needed and take appropriate measures in the event of a security threat.

Degree Required A bachelor's degree in most cases, but a master's may be required for the most advanced positions
Education Field of Study Aviation management
Key Skills Knowledge of safety guidelines, accounting, personnel management
Job Growth (2014-2024) 5.5% for general/operations managers in air transportation*
Median Salary (2017) $158,377 for aviation managers**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Salary.com**

How Can I Become an Airport Manager?

Airport managers can enter this field with a variety of degrees. Some managers have a master's or bachelor's degree in business administration; others may have a bachelor's degree in aviation management or a related field. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that competition for general and operations management positions is often strong due to high earnings and job prestige (www.bls.gov).

Most airport managers have prior industry experience. For example, some managers started out as operations agents. These agents have duties similar to those of an airport manager, including oversight of airport operations, terminals and airfields. Other candidates for this position may have experience as assistant managers. Additional skills you'll need to have as an airport manager might include:

  • Personnel management and assessment
  • Knowledge of the air transportation industry
  • Ability to negotiate contracts and leases
  • Ability to maintain regulatory compliance
  • Public relations

What Are the Job Duties?

Like many general managers, airport managers may be responsible for human resources management, budgeting, marketing and business development. You may have to ensure that your airport meets safety and security standards established by local governments and the Federal Aviation Administration. Additional job duties may include training employees or determining the future needs of an airport.

Managers in small airports could be responsible for managing technical operations. For example, you might run a repair station, conduct flight lessons, sell fuel, oversee flight controllers or supervise an airfield. Managers of smaller airports may also be responsible for administrative tasks, like accounting and record keeping.

What's the Job Outlook?

The number of employed general and operations managers in the air transportation industry was expected to grow by 5.5 percent between 2014 and 2024, as reported by the BLS. Growth in this profession was driven by increases in business travel and international tourism.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Emergency management directors and school administrators share some responsibilities in common with airport managers. Emergency management directors may implement and oversee response plans when there is a natural disaster or other emergency situation, such as threat of a bomb or attack. These are things that airport managers may also need to deal with, because planes are at risk of being bombed or hijacked. While airport managers deal with preventing these situations from occurring, they are also required to take measures to resolve the situation in the event that there is an attack. They may also have to deal with extreme weather and take preventative measures, such as grounding flights. Emergency management directors share the response aspect of addressing extreme situations and may coordinate efforts with an airport manager after an incident or event has occurred. They need a bachelor's degree, which is the entry-level requirement for airport managers.

School administrators oversee the operations of a school. Their work includes scheduling, which is a task that airport managers perform. They also need to respond to any emergency medical situation. Another aspect of their duties that they share in common with airport managers is the need to take preventative measures to eliminate potential threats to students and faculty, and the need to respond in the event of an incident. School administrators also need emergency plans in place to respond in the event of extreme weather. They are required to have a master's degree, which is required for advanced positions in airport management.

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