Programs in aerospace maintenance are offered at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's degree levels. Online programs are commonly available. Applicants to undergraduate degree programs will need a high school diploma or GED, while students pursuing a master's degree need a bachelor's degree. Even at the undergraduate level, programs may include research components and should present opportunities for gaining hands-on experience. FAA certification is required of aircraft technicians. Candidates must be experienced and pass a multiple-part examination to qualify.
Associate of Science in Aviation Maintenance
Within this degree program, students are taught how to work with a variety of aircraft for commercial and military use. Training is provided in aerospace welding and coating, electronics and fabrication. Students build strong interpersonal skills through completing group labs and projects. Extensive research and work in the aviation maintenance fields are a strong part of this degree program.
In addition to general education coursework, students complete coursework in aircraft systems and maintenance, as well as instrumentation and avionics. Sample courses include:
- Aircraft familiarization
- Turbine engines
- Aviation maintenance technology
- Supervision and performance improvement
- Maintenance mathematics
Bachelor's Degree in Aviation Maintenance
A bachelor's degree program prepares students for the repair and maintenance of today's aircrafts. The curriculum teaches students about aircraft maintenance as it pertains to the areas of airframes and powerplants. Hands-on experience is gained in all types of atmospheric and space flight vehicles through laboratories and real-world projects. Enrollees into this program should have an interest in the aerospace and aviation fields.
Aviation science, practices and construction practices make up the coursework emphasized in this degree program. Common course topics cover:
- Aviation science
- Airframe inspection
- Avionics maintenance theory
- Vintage aircraft structures
- Aviation basic electricity
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Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering
Master's degree programs provide advanced training in the aircraft maintenance and design fields. Students learn about aircraft systems engineering, computational fluid dynamics and biomechanics. Special importance is placed upon solving technological problems, analyzing case studies and working with computer programs needed to aid in aircraft maintenance. The skills and tools gained upon successful completion of this program enable graduates to find work as aerospace technicians.
Master's degree programs delve into advanced theoretical knowledge and research in aerodynamics, propulsion, composite structure and fluid dynamics. Students can typically tailor their education towards their own personal area of interest, such as aerospace machining. Subjects found in the program include:
- Engineering analysis
- Computer-aided design
- Gas dynamics
- Metals manufacturing processes
Popular Career Options
Graduates are qualified for positions in equipment management and air transportation support. Some popular career titles are:
- Aerospace machine specialist
- Avionics equipment mechanic
- Aircraft service technician
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires those that work on aircrafts to be licensed. The FAA offers certification for both airframe and powerplant mechanics. To be eligible for the certification exam, students must have graduated from an FAA-certified school and possess the required experience. The certification exam consists of oral, written and practical portions.
Career and Salary Information
In 2015, aircraft service technicians - those who work on the aircraft itself - made an average salary of $60,160, while avionics technicians, who work on the electronic equipment associated with the aircraft, averaged $60,200, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS predicted employment for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians would show little to no change during the 2014-2024 decade. The BLS also reported that aerospace engineers could expect a 2% decrease in employment for the same decade. Most of the work available is in defense-related or civilian aircraft. In May 2015, the BLS estimated a mean annual wage of $110,570 for aerospace engineers.
Earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in aviation maintenance or aerospace engineering will qualify students for potential careers as an aircraft and avionics equipment mechanic and technician or an aerospace engineer. While graduates could make a mean salary up to $110,570, students should take caution that these career fields are expected to grow nominally or decline over the next decade.