How Can I Find a Career in Aviation?

A career in aviation means you could work as a service technician, air traffic controller, flight attendant or pilot. Read on to learn more about training programs and job duties in the field of aviation. Schools offering Aviation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Aviation Careers?

Within the field of aviation, there are a number of career options, depending on your interests and educational background. Some of these options include a job as an aviation mechanic, an air traffic controller, a flight attendant, or a pilot.

As an aviation mechanic, you would work on various broken or outdated parts of airplanes. You would have to make sure the part is properly fixed, functioning correctly, and keep a log of its maintenance history. Air traffic controllers generally work by directing airplanes while they are flying, landing, and taking off. You will use special equipment to keep track of plane locations and communicate directly with pilots.

As a flight attendant, you would work aboard airplanes while they are in-transit, providing safety instructions and care to passengers. You generally will make sure passengers are as comfortable as possible on the plane by providing them with beverages and food, while still making sure they are abiding by the rules and regulations of the airline. Finally, pilots are responsible for flying airplanes. You may work for a major airline transporting people across countries and around the world, or as a commercial pilot transporting various goods. The table below provides some additional information:

Aviation MechanicAir Traffic ControllerFlight AttendantPilot
Education Required Specific aviation mechanic training Bachelor's degree in aviation field or prior experience High school diploma and specific training program Associate's or bachelor's degree and training
Licensure Requirements FAA licensure FAA licensure None required FAA licensure
Job Growth (2014-2024)*1% 9% decline 2% 5%
Median Salary (2015)*$58,540 $122,950 $44,860 $102,520

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Aviation Mechanics and Service

Mechanics and service technicians keep airplanes functioning properly. Your job duties as a technician may include:

  • Performing routine maintenance
  • Repairing broken equipment
  • Replacing worn or broken parts
  • Completing inspections
  • Keeping records of work completed

Some technicians work on specific parts of the airplane. Airframe mechanics work on all parts of an airplane except instruments, propellers and power plants. A power plant mechanic focuses on the engine and may also work on propellers. An airframe and power plant mechanic works on all parts of the plane except the instruments.

To become an aviation mechanic, you must meet Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements; you'll need to be at least 18 years old and speak fluent English (www.faa.gov). You'll also need at least 18 months of plane maintenance experience or a certificate from an FAA-approved maintenance school. Successful completion of a 3-part exam is required as well.

Air Traffic Controller

As an air traffic controller, you're responsible for directing airplanes in the air and on the ground. You'll work as part of the National Airspace System; you'll use specialized tracking equipment to monitor flights. You'll also communicate with airplane pilots.

There are three paths which may lead to work as a FAA air traffic controller. If you've worked as an air traffic controller in the past, you'll need to prove that you've obtained 52 consecutive weeks of experience on the job. If you have no experience in this occupation, you must be a U.S. citizen who is under the age of 31. You'll also need to pass a medical exam, submit to a security investigation and have three years of aviation work experience or a bachelor's degree in an aviation-related area.

You may also choose to attend an Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) Program. An AT-CTI program is completed through an FAA-approved college or university. These programs typically take 2-4 years to complete and include courses in air traffic control.

Flight Attendant

Your job as a flight attendant is to provide for the security and safety of passengers aboard airplanes. Your duties may include:

  • Instructing passengers on safety procedures
  • Providing food, beverages and other items to passengers
  • Coordinating activities with airplane staff
  • Greeting passengers
  • Stocking emergency equipment
  • Directing passengers during evacuations
  • Reporting problems with passengers

You'll usually need a high school diploma or equivalent to work as a flight attendant. Many employers provide training through their own flight attendant training school; a training program may last from 3 to 6 weeks. During this program, you might learn about company procedures, safety standards, emergency procedures, first aid and customer service. After you complete training, you must apply for your FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency, which is required for all flight attendants aboard most passenger airplanes.

Pilot

As an airplane pilot, your main duty is to fly the airplane. Commercial and private pilots may prepare the crew before flights, ensure the safety of the crew and passengers during a flight and safely get the plane to its destination. Some private pilots carry out duties like crop dusting, criminal tracking, traffic monitoring and emergency operations. During flights, you'll maintain contact with air traffic control and adjust your plane's altitude and speed when necessary.

According to the BLS, many pilots receive training through service in the U.S. Armed Forces (www.bls.gov). Aspiring pilots may also enroll in an FAA-certified flight training program through some colleges; these training programs typically last from 2-4 years and may lead to an associate's or bachelor's degree. To qualify for FAA certification, you'll need at least 250 hours of flight experience; you'll also be expected to complete a written exam as well as an in-flight exam. Pilots interested in flying for a commercial airline may need to meet additional requirements.

To summarize, there are a number of options you may when to consider when selecting your career in aviation. Depending on how long you want to spend in school and in training, as well as what kind of lifestyle you want to have, there may be one job that is most appealing to you.

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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