If you are aiming for a career as a pilot, flight attendant, or air traffic controller, choosing a degree program that qualifies you for an aviation career is a great way to get started. Aviation industry jobs offer compelling prospects for graduates to grow and develop technical capabilities, travel the world, and more!
Aviation industry jobs cover a wide range of roles related to air travel, including aircraft design and maintenance, airline operations, and airport management. With a bachelor’s degree in an aviation-related field, you can explore manufacturing, management, engineering, and more during your studies and discover your preferred aviation career specialization.
Read on to learn more about aviation industry jobs and how you can pursue a fulfilling career in aviation.
Why Work in the Aviation Industry?
The aviation industry is rapidly growing — it supports more than 87 million jobs globally and is projected to grow 23% between 2016-2026 in the US. In addition to increasing opportunities, an aviation career offers the chance to travel internationally and collaborate with colleagues from diverse backgrounds.
If you’re considering an aviation career, here are some key benefits.
Rewarding salaries — Jobs in aviation provide some of the highest salaries among global industries. Top earnings result from the high level of theoretical knowledge and skills required to be a good pilot, air traffic controller, airplane operations manager, and more. Some aviation field jobs also involve higher risk and variable work hours, which can lead to higher salaries.
Upskilling opportunities — Aviation careers are constantly evolving as technology changes and advances. Aviation companies promote upskilling workshops and training programs, and encourage aviation professionals to gain additional certifications that support their progression to more advanced roles.
Travel the world — Permanent or contract-based aviation industry jobs can require traveling across the world in a single week! As a pilot or flight attendant, you have the chance to travel even when you are off the clock and may be eligible for discounted travel or free tickets.
Meet new people — Regardless of your role, the aviation industry gives you the chance to meet different people from around the world. If you are interested in expanding your connections across borders and gaining knowledge of different cultures, an aviation career allows you to build a vast network of people within the aviation industry.
What Types of Careers are in the Aviation Industry?
Studying for an aviation-related degree covers a variety of fundamental and advanced theoretical and practical skills that you need to perform in entry-level aviation industry jobs. Some careers, like becoming a pilot or aerospace engineer, may also require a master’s degree and extensive training, while administrative jobs in aviation management may only require a bachelor’s degree.
Here are a few aviation careers you can consider:
Flight attendants ensure passengers are comfortable on commercial or business aircraft. They are the primary point of contact for passengers for all information regarding the flight, expected weather, travel times, and more. During emergencies, flight attendants follow all protocols and procedures to ensure passenger safety. They are also the first line of support to assist passengers with health/mobility needs during a flight.
The employment rate for flight attendants is projected to grow by 21% from 2021 to 2031. If you plan on becoming a flight attendant, a high school diploma, bachelor’s degree, or General Education Development certificate (GED) may be required, along with relevant work experience in areas such as hospitality or customer service.
Once a candidate passes the interview stage, an intensive training program is offered before getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to become a flight attendant.
Flight attendants can earn a median salary of $51,645, which can increase depending on individual skills and experience.
Pilots and co-pilots fly and navigate airplanes and helicopters. Usually, an aircraft is flown by two pilots — a primary pilot, also known as the captain, and a co-pilot. The co-pilot is in charge of assisting the primary pilot in flight operations and maintaining navigation, while the primary pilot is the highest-ranking official on an aircraft who operates the plane and monitors the safety of everyone on board the flight.
Pilots must be certified to fly aircraft with passengers, and for pilots to earn an income, there are two types of certifications required: commercial and airline transport. Commercial pilots can be hired and paid for some pilot operations, but are not full captains. Captains require an airline transport pilot certificate. To become a co-pilot, you will need 1,500 hours of flying time before working for any airline. To be promoted to the position of captain, an additional 1,000 hours must be completed as co-pilot first. The educational requirements for both posts are the same, and both roles require a thorough training process with their employer airline.
As of 2022, the average annual pay for an entry-level pilot is $47,120, though this also depends on the type of flights a pilot takes. An experienced certified commercial pilot or co-pilot can make an average salary of up to $99,640 annually, while a certified airline transport pilot or co-pilot can make up to $202,180 annually.
Air Traffic Controller
An air traffic controller coordinates the movements of an aircraft to maintain safe distances between airplanes. They work in control towers, approach control facilities, or route centers. A controller’s function is vital to the smooth movement of air traffic and requires strong scientific and mathematical skills, as well as deep concentration.
To become an air traffic controller, you must hold a bachelor’s or associate’s degree from the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative Program. You may also apply if you have three years of work experience, have completed four years of college, or both. Training is usually done on the job and a candidate is only considered qualified after they receive their certificate from an FAA-approved university.
Aircraft Maintenance Technician
An Aircraft Maintenance Technician or AMT oversees the routine maintenance, repairs, and inspections of all aircraft under their care. This job is a crucial part of aviation field jobs and their duties extend to logging notes, keeping records, managing tools and equipment, and more.
This aviation career spans many sectors, so depending on your interests, you could apply for AMT roles with private tour companies, military organizations, flight schools, freight carriers, and commercial airlines. An aircraft maintenance technician has many chances for professional advancement, and average salaries typically range between $57,602 and $71,000 annually.
To qualify, you must be at least 18 years of age, fluent in English, and have completed 18-30 months of practical experience through a military training course at an FAA-approved AMT school. Several universities and colleges offer diplomas with hands-on training, and these courses provide you with the knowledge and skills to complete FAA certification.
An aviation manager plays a critical role in the management of an airport, airline, or other aviation-related enterprises. They specialize in many professions that often involve customer service and flight logistics. Due to the various types of managerial roles in different organizations in the aviation industry, each manager’s responsibilities will differ. For example, in an airport, the manager’s job is to monitor and ensure compliance with regulatory frameworks and requirements.
Here is a list of possible responsibilities expected of an aviation manager:
Ensuring efficient and safe operation of an airport department
Keeping track of flight schedules and plans
Overseeing inspection schedules
Recruiting and terminating staff
Keeping up to date with the latest aviation standards, regulations, procedures, policies, and laws
Working closely with emergency responders
As an aviation manager, you are expected to manage the flow of the department you oversee. This gives you the chance to develop versatile skills such as leadership, communication, problem-solving, and adaptability. This role usually works on a shift basis, especially if it is in an airport. This means your work hours may change depending on the schedule of your department.
The base salary for this role is $21,000, with an average pay of $61,567 annually; it can go up to over $140,000 per year. Because of the diversity of this role, the pay range can differ depending on specific responsibilities and experience required.
If you are interested in innovation and design in the aviation industry, an aerospace engineering role can help you explore your creative potential. Your responsibilities can involve developing and testing designs for airplanes, drones, and military missiles. You may also work in areas such as propulsions, aerodynamics, celestial mechanics, and control systems.
An aerospace engineer’s tasks are dynamic and can make for an exciting career. Possibilities include:
Designing aircraft and space crafts
Testing and troubleshooting designs
Overseeing the manufacturing process
Researching a new developing technology
Collaborating on team projects
To become an aerospace engineer, a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or other STEM degree with a concentration in aviation studies may be required.
Many employers also look for graduates with high-level capabilities in Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) and mathematics, along with problem-solving skills, analytical skills, and the ability to collaborate with different teams.
How do I Get a Job in the Aviation Industry?
Depending on the aviation industry jobs that interest you, the academic qualifications, training, and skills requirements may differ. Some roles need a bachelor’s and master’s degree related to aviation studies, while others require degrees more aligned toward hospitality and management.
Shorelight universities offer many degrees in aerospace and aviation fields, such as:
Ranked #97 in national universities by U.S. News & World Report, Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering offers a top-ranked curriculum in aerospace engineering. Learn from expert faculty in a supportive environment, participate in internship and mentorship programs, and explore your future career in aviation at Auburn.
University of Kansas
The University of Kansas is a top-tier public research university ranked #56 in Top Public Schools by U.S. News & World Report. Engineering students have the opportunity to learn from industry experts and gain hands-on experience by working on real-world projects with leading companies in the aviation industry.
University of South Carolina
The University of South Carolina is ranked #115 among national universities by U.S. News & World Report. Recognized for its state-of-the-art campus facilities and immersive student experiences, the College of Engineering and Computing partnership with industry leaders at the IBM Innovation Center offers the ideal learning environment for students to expand their knowledge and skills to pursue an aviation career.
If you need support with choosing a university and college that suits your career development goals, a Shorelight advisor is always ready to assist with exclusive services such as comparing US aviation colleges and providing application assistance to begin your degree. Along academic support, your advisor can provide assistance with language skills, technical training, and resources to help you work toward a job in the aviation industry. Reach out to an advisor to board the flight to your future career!
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