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Career Definition for an Aerospace Technologist
Aerospace technologists (also called aerospace technicians) work with engineers and scientists in aircraft design, construction and testing. Aerospace technicians typically fall into the two separate categories of mechanical technicians and avionics technicians. Mechanical aircraft technicians examine planes for defects, diagnose issues with the mechanics relating to aircraft, replace parts, make repairs using a wide variety of power and hand tools, and keep detailed records of work. Avionics technicians primarily work on the electronic equipment used in planes; job duties include the testing of instruments, the interpretation of data communicated by the aircraft, the installation of electrical equipment and record keeping of all work done.
|Education||Associate's, bachelor's, and/or master's degrees in aeronautical engineering, aeronautics, or aerospace technology; doctor of philosophy in aerospace engineering also available.|
|Job Skills||Knowledge of electrical and mechanical systems, problem solving, manual dexterity|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$66,180 per year (aerospace engineering and operations technicians)|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||4% (slower than average) (aerospace engineering and operations technicians)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Many colleges and universities offer degrees in the field, including the Associate of Applied Science in Aerospace Technology, Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering or Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics. Graduate program possibilities include the Master of Science in Aerospace Technology, Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering or Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering. Students in these programs can expect to take classes in advanced math, computer science, engineering, physics, technical writing and aviation. In order to qualify for the required certification at the program's end, individuals seeking a trade-based program want to make sure that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approves the school.
All aerospace technologists, including aircraft mechanics and avionic technicians, must be certified by the FAA in order to work on planes and other aircraft. Although there are some circumstances in which an uncertified mechanic may work on an aircraft under the direct supervision of a certified technologist, the majority of employers in the industry prefer to hire individuals who hold a combined Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that aerospace technicians must have the following skills:
- Advanced knowledge of technologies related to the electrical and mechanical systems of aircraft
- Ability to communicate and explain highly technical terminology
- Physical strength for those working with larger pieces of equipment
- Manual dexterity
- Problem solving skills and detail orientation
Employment and Salary Outlook
The BLS reported that the employment of aerospace engineering and operations technicians is expected to grow at a slower-than-average rate of 4% from 2014-2024. The slow growth was attributed to increased use of automation and software that reduces the need for traditional testing. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for aerospace engineering and operations technicians was $66,180, while aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $58,370, and avionics technicians earned a median of $58,540 in the same year.