Airplane Maintenance Technician: Job Outlook & Career Requirements

Research the educational and skill requirements needed to become an airplane maintenance technician, as well as the job description and employment and salary outlook. Read on to decide if this career is right for you.

Career Defined for an Airplane Maintenance Technician

Airplane maintenance technicians are mechanics who perform preventative maintenance on a range of aircraft types. They work on ladders and scaffolds, often in specially designed openings, and use hoists and lifts to remove engines. Airplane maintenance technicians utilize precision instruments to check for wear or defects in a plane's parts, as well as corroded, distorted or cracked places in a plane's fuselage, wings or tail. In addition, they repair parts, sheet metal and composite material. Finally, airplane maintenance technicians are required to write detailed reports for all the work they complete.

Education Degrees available in aviation maintenance management, aviation technology, and avionics
Licensing Completion of a Federal Aviation Administration-approved course, or 18 months of experience needed
Job Skills Manual dexterity, able to work in teams, troubleshooting, excellent coordination
Median Salary (2015) $58,370 for aircraft mechanics and service technicians
Job Growth (2014-2024) 1% for aircraft mechanics and service technicians

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

Airplane maintenance technicians are usually trained through programs certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Programs span 18-24 months, during which time students are trained in the use of equipment and tools employed on the job. Of these programs, about a third lead to a degree in aviation maintenance management, aviation technology or avionics. Graduates holding a bachelor's degree in the field may have more job opportunities than those holding associate's degrees or vocational certificates. Aircraft maintenance programs include classes in computer science, chemical engineering, math, electronics, mechanical drawing and physics.

Licensing Requirements

In order to be licensed by the FAA, as all airplane maintenance technicians are required to be, graduates must earn 18 months of work experience under supervision or complete an FAA-approved licensing course. Candidates must then successfully pass an 8-hour test.

Required Skills

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Professional Aircraft Maintenance Association (PAMA) reported that airplane maintenance technicians must hold the following skills:

  • Ability to troubleshoot problems and constantly update skills
  • Good coordination and no fear of heights
  • Manual dexterity
  • Ability to work well in teams

Employment and Salary Outlook

The BLS reported that as of May 2015, the median annual earnings for all aircraft mechanics and service technicians were $58,370. The BLS also published that employment growth for technicians was about 1% between 2014 and 2024. The slower rate of growth has been largely attributed to the outsourcing of labor on aircraft to other, more inexpensive regions of the world.

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