Those who aspire to work on airplanes might choose from a 2-year maintenance technician program awarding an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree program spanning 4-5 years. Both programs combine lectures with hands-on training. Certification is required for all mechanics and technicians, and both programs could offer the required training. A minimum period of experience is required for certification, unless students have graduated from FAA-certified schools.
Bachelor of Science in Airplane Mechanics
Individuals who already have aviation-related jobs could advance their careers by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in airplane mechanics. Applicants may find it helpful to take mathematics, chemistry, physics and English courses before applying to an airplane mechanics program. While enrolled in airplane mechanics programs, students may learn about the aviation industry and the scientific aspects of aircraft, such as avionics and aerodynamics. Industry standards and aircraft design, including structural and electrical, are other areas on which programs could focus. Program coursework could include:
- Aircraft safety
- Blueprint reading
- Aircraft engine testing
- Aviation physics
- Aircraft propellers
Associate of Applied Science in Airplane Mechanics
Individuals could earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in airplane mechanics. Such programs could prepare students for careers as certified aviation maintenance technicians, and generally instruct students through a combination of lectures and labs. Associate's degree programs may instruct future aviation maintenance technicians on how to perform inspections and supervise technicians, as well as technical skills such as welding. Other coursework could include:
- Aircraft drawing
- Aircraft materials
- Engine inspection
- Aircraft systems and components
- Aircraft science
- Regulations in the aviation industry
Graduates of airplane mechanics programs could be prepared for a number of career opportunities in several industries, including aviation, manufacturing and government. Programs may offer internships that could potentially turn into full-time jobs. Possible careers include:
- Aviation maintenance technician
- Aircraft salesperson
- Technical representative
- Ground operations person
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that between 2014 and 2024 jobs for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians would increase by one percent (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, aircraft mechanics and service technicians earned an annual median salary of $58,370 in May 2015.
The FAA requires that all aircraft maintenance be performed either by certified aircraft mechanics or under the supervision of a certified mechanic, according to the BLS. To apply for an airframe or power plant certificate, applicants must have at least 18 months of experience. If an individual is applying for both certificates, he or she should possess at least 30 months of experience. Graduates of FAA-certified schools are exempt from the experience requirements. Along with obtaining the necessary experience or education, individuals are required to pass a series of exams before they can become certified. Additional training is required within each 24-month period to keep certificates up-to-date.
Earning an associate's or bachelor's degree in airplane mechanics will prepare students for a job in aviation, manufacturing, or government. In addition to a college education, students will likely commit additional time to earning an FAA certification in airframes or power plants.