Programs in avionics repair are available at the certificate, associate's, and bachelor's levels, with more advanced training and opportunity at the higher degree levels. Certificate programs typically take 18-24 months to complete, while associate's and bachelor's degree programs take 2-4 years. Prerequisites usually include possession of a high school diploma or GED, fluency in English, and prior coursework in mathematics, mechanical drawing, computer science, electronics and physics is recommended.
Coursework in avionics installation, aircraft electricity, airframe structures, aircraft welding and aviation fundamentals are typical. There are a few program fields that students can specialize in such as avionics technology, avionics maintenance technology, aviation management, and avionics. All of these programs include lecture-based classes and hands-on training designed to prepare students for the FAA certification exam required for work in the field.
Certificate in Avionics Technology
A certificate program in avionics technology allows students to learn the basic skills and techniques essential to beginning a career as an avionics technician. Topics covered include aircraft electricity, shop safety, aircraft hardware, inspection fundamentals and troubleshooting procedures. Graduates may choose to pursue higher levels of education such as an associate's or bachelor's degree. Programs emphasize avionics theory through classroom instruction as well as practical application through skill-building lab hours. Required coursework typically includes:
- Aircraft electricity
- Communication and navigation systems
- Aircraft control systems
- Avionics installation
Associate of Applied Science in Avionics Maintenance Technology
Associate's degree programs in avionics technology focus on hands-on training, including in-field seminars and workshops that prepare avionics repair students to work in an aircraft hangar or active airfield. Students learn basic electronic theory, as well as skills and techniques for how to install, maintain, calibrate, fabricate and adjust avionic systems including navigation and communication systems, weather radar, flight controls and cockpit instrumentation. With the growing complexities of aircraft systems, most associate's degree programs require students to complete courses in mathematics and computer science in addition to other general education courses that complement the core avionics curriculum. Avionics maintenance courses typically include:
- Aviation physics
- Airframe structures
- Airframe inspection
- Aviation electronics
- Maintenance regulations
Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management and Avionics
In this type of avionics repair program, students are able to take an intensive look at the systems behind designing, constructing and repairing aircraft. Courses emphasize the maintenance and repair of all parts of an aircraft from the body of the plane to the interior pneumatic, hydraulic and electrical systems. Differing from certificate and associate's degree programs, a bachelor's program in avionics repair provides students with an interdisciplinary liberal arts background that may help graduates land managerial roles within the aviation industry in the future. Core coursework required for a degree in aviation management and avionics usually includes:
- Basic aircraft electricity
- Aircraft welding
- Aircraft finish and fabrication
- Powerplant operations and troubleshooting
- Communication systems
- Aviation fundamentals
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Because the FAA requires all maintenance work performed on aircraft to be conducted by certified mechanics, or under the supervision of a certified mechanic, most employers prefer to hire mechanics who have FAA certifications. After completing an approved program, avionics technicians are prepared to pass the written, oral and practical tests needed for FAA airframe, powerplant or combined A&P certification. Once certified, technicians might find employment in the air transportation industry with a variety of employers, including major airlines, government agencies and small local airports.
Demand for aircraft mechanics and service technicians is not expected to grow in the coming years, increasing only 1% from 2014-2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reports that as of May 2015, the mean hourly wage for avionics technicians was $28.94.
Continuing Education Information
FAA regulations require avionics repair technicians to maintain their certifications through continuing education and work experience in the field. Technicians must complete at least 1,000 work hours within the 24 months prior to certification renewal in addition to taking at least 16 hours of continuing education courses every two years. As technicians gain more experience and wish to advance to supervisory roles, an aircraft inspector's authorization is recommended. In order to be eligible to obtain an inspector's authorization, technicians must hold an A&P certification for at least three years and have a minimum of 24 months of hands-on experience. Some avionics technicians choose to continue their education in order to pursue other closely-related careers in areas such as aviation engineering, communication engineering, electronics design or product development.
Specialization and Training Options for Avionics Careers
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies approximately 170 avionics repair programs at technical schools and universities across the country. FAA-approved programs require a minimum of 1,900 class hours, which prepare students for specific certification exams. The FAA administers the exam for airframe certification, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) administers the test for Ground Radio Operating Licenses (GROL), and the National Center for Aircraft Technician Training (NCATT) administers the avionics certification exam.
Prospective avionics repair students can choose to pursue a certificate or undergraduate degree program, which may lead to a career as an avionic technician or mechanic. While this job field is expected to grow by a marginal 1% through 2024, students can pursue continuing education opportunities such as an aircraft inspector's authorization to advance their career.