How Can I Find Employment in the Aviation Industry?

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in the aviation industry. 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 Are Career Options in the Aviation Industry?

The aviation industry is a wide-ranging field that includes ticket agents, flight attendants, air traffic controllers and airline pilots, among others. As a ticket agent, you would be responsible for inspecting passengers' documentation and issuing boarding passes before they board aircraft. You may also be tasked with helping passengers find designated loading zones for baggage, tracking down lost baggage and providing assistance to passengers who need special help getting on or off an aircraft.

Flight attendants attend to passengers' and pilots' needs before and during flights. This includes inspecting the cabin's emergency equipment and discussing flight details in preflight briefings. They also show passengers how to use emergency equipment and ensure they're properly prepared for take off. During flights, they may hand out snacks and beverages and reassure nervous passengers during turbulence. When needed, they administer emergency care and provide emergency directions.

Air traffic controllers monitor the movement of aircraft and communicate with pilots. They clear flights for takeoff and landing, coordinate ground traffic and provide pilots with details about weather and runway conditions. They also alert airport staff of any aircraft emergencies.

Airline pilots are responsible for flying and landing aircraft carrying passengers. Prior to every flight, they need to inspect the condition of the plane to ensure that it is flight worthy. They must also keep track of fuel supply, weight and weather conditions. Communication with air traffic controllers is vital, as they travel along predetermined paths.

The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Ticket Agents Flight Attendants Air Traffic Controllers Airline Pilots
Degree Required High school diploma (or equivalent) High school diploma (or equivalent) Associate's degrees Bachelor's degree
Licensure/Certification Required None Certification required Certification required Licensure and Certification required
Job Outlook (2014-2024) -1%* (for all reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks)* 2%* -9%* 1%* (for all airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers)*
Median Salary (2015) $35,170 (for all reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks)* $44,860* $122,950* $117,290 (for all airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers)*

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

Aviation Industry Careers

You might pursue an administrative or service position in the industry. Ticket agents greet passengers, issue boarding passes, confirm reservations, make announcements and assist customers using automated ticket machines. Baggage handlers help with the transportation of passengers' luggage.

If you're interested in performing maintenance or repair work, a job as a mechanic or maintenance safety inspector could be right for you. Mechanics and service technicians replace broken parts and fix electrical components. Some technicians maintain and repair communications equipment in air traffic towers. Safety inspectors examine airplanes, check pilots' credentials, review airmen training programs and help create regulations for the industry. Additional duties for inspectors might include investigating crashes and other incidents.

You could also pursue work as a pilot, flight attendant or air traffic controller. Pilots follow flight plans, monitor the operation of an airplane and maintain contact with air traffic control. Flight attendants assist passengers with carry-on luggage, offer information about safety procedures and provide beverages and food during a flight. Air traffic controllers authorize planes for take off or landing, monitor regional airspace to prevent accidents and inform pilots of weather issues.

What Training or Education Is Required?

Aspiring ticket agents usually need to earn a high school diploma and complete a company training program. Some employers may prefer agents with previous sales or customer service experience. Training for baggage handlers is usually provided on the job.

Aircraft mechanics may receive training through certificate programs at trade schools or through service in the armed forces. While licensure isn't necessarily required, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) notes that career advancement is more likely for mechanics who are certified (www.faa.gov). Maintenance safety inspectors need some experience in aircraft repair, as well as an FAA mechanic certificate.

Job requirements for pilots include a commercial pilot's license, successful completion of a medical exam and certification to fly planes specific to their employer. Pilots may receive training through military service or aviation programs at 2- and 4-year schools.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a high school diploma, as well as FAA certification, is required to work as a flight attendant. Some air carriers prefer applicants who hold a college degree (www.bls.gov). Most commercial airlines provide mandatory training programs for flight attendants.

You'll need prior experience in air traffic control, three years of work experience or a 4-year degree in order to take the FAA's pre-employment test for air traffic controllers. You can also qualify for this test by completing a 2- or 4-year program through the FAA's Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. Applicants who pass the exam may be selected for employment; training takes place over a period of weeks or months depending on experience level.

What's the Job Outlook?

According to the BLS predictions for the decade 2014-2024, the number of employed workers within the air transportation industry was forecast to decrease or see little gains. A slight job growth of 1% and 2% was projected for airline pilots and flight attendants, respectively. Air traffic controllers and ticket agents were expected to experience declines in employment opportunities.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Water transportation workers are responsible for the safe and timely delivery of passengers and goods over large bodies of water and rivers. Similarly, railroad workers manage the operations associated with travel via railroad. In both types of transportation, you have crews who work with each other to achieve this common goal. You have engineers and captains who drive or pilot their respective transportation equipment, managers who oversee loading and delivery schedules and technicians who maintain equipment, as well as cargo loaders, ticket agents and more.

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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