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Aviation Jobs that Pay Well

Some people love planes and love to fly, and they may be interested in a career in aviation. They may also be interested in jobs that earn a solid income. This article explores careers that involve operating and working with aircraft, and that pay employees good salaries.

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Career Options for Aviation Jobs that Pay Well

Careers that involve aviation range in income, from travel agents to aerial photographers, who all reportedly make under $40,000 per year according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, there are a number of aviation jobs that have median annual salaries exceeding $46,000 per year, and can be considered by those interested aviation careers that pay well.

Job Title Median Salary* (2016) Job Growth* (2014-2024)
Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisors $47,360 -1% to 1%
Transportation Managers $89,190 2% to 4%
Aircraft Mechanics or Avionics Technicians $60,270 1%
Airline or Commercial Pilots $105,720 5%
Air Traffic Controllers $122,410 -9%
Aerospace Engineers $109,650 -2%
Flight Attendants $48,500 2%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Aeronautics, Aviation, and Aerospace Science
  • Air Traffic Control
  • Airline Flight Attendant
  • Aviation Management and Operations
  • Commercial Pilot and Flight Crew
  • Flight Instructor

Career Information for Aviation Jobs that Pay Well

Aircraft Cargo Handling Supervisors

Aircraft cargo handling supervisors play a vital role in ensuring that aircraft are loaded properly. Since the weight of the aircraft may affect how much fuel it needs, and the aircraft's load must be balanced, these supervisors guarantee that cargo does not negatively impact an aircraft's operation. They supervise crews who follow their directions while loading or unloading cargo. They may only need a high school diploma to enter this field, although postsecondary training or a bachelor's degree may help demonstrate relevant skills to work in this field. They earn a median salary of just over $47,000 per year, according to the BLS, making this a well-paid supervisory aviation career.

Transportation Managers

Transportation managers work for airlines to oversee their operations. Their work involves supervising other employees, which requires management skills, and most transportation managers earn an associate's or bachelor's degree to prepare for their career. They determine where an aircraft need to be sent, or track aircraft that's being moved. They may also be involved in developing policies for their company. The BLS reports that transportation managers earn median annual salaries of just under $90,000 per year, making this a lucrative aviation career.

Aircraft Mechanics or Avionics Technicians

Most aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians are certified, and although service technicians and mechanics can learn through on-the-job training, attending a postsecondary technician program is common. An associate's degree is usually required to be an avionics technician. These professionals are involved in testing and repairing the equipment used to operate aircraft. They may also perform inspections, and their objective is to ensure all systems are working properly for the safe operation of the aircraft. The annual median salary for these mechanics and technicians is just over $60,000 according to the BLS, providing a healthy income for those interested in this field.

Airline or Commercial Pilots

Airline and commercial pilots operate aircraft. They take people to different locations, or operate an aircraft that primarily transports cargo; they may also work with fire crews, law enforcement agencies or news stations. Airline and commercial pilots need their pilot's license; a bachelor's degree is also required. The BLS reported that in 2016, the median salary for airline and commercial pilots was $105,720 per year, making this one of the highest-paying job options in aviation.

Air Traffic Controllers

Air traffic controllers prepare for their career by earning an associate's degree, and they must pass a number of tests to quality to work in this field. They oversee planes in operation and determine which planes can safely land, and which ones can be instructed to initiate their flight. They also check radar and weather conditions and communicate with pilots, helping them alter their course as needed or make alternate arrangements in the event of an emergency. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that every plane completes its flight safely. According to the BLS, air traffic controllers earn median annual salaries of $122,410, which means they earn one of the highest incomes in this field.

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers use their bachelor's degrees to help create design plans for aircraft. They must have technical knowledge to ensure that the craft's design will perform as desired, and they need to work within budgets to provide a design that is affordable for their client. Their median income is just under $110,000 per year according to the BLS, which makes this a well-paying option for those interested in working on the design and production of aircraft.

Flight Attendants

Flight attendants may learn through on-the-job training, but they do need to be certified and postsecondary education may be an asset. They help passengers board planes and assist them as they disembark. They also provide safety information and services to the passengers on their flight. This may involve asking passengers to return to their seats if necessary, or providing medical care if a passenger is injured or ill. The BLS reports that their median salary is just over $48,000 per year, making flight attendants well paid aviation employees.

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