With a high school diploma and certificate and an associate's degree and specialized training respectively, you may qualify to become licensed in as an aircraft mechanic or avionics technician. A bachelor's degree may qualify you for a management position.
Training in aircraft mechanics and avionics prepares individuals to pursue jobs as mechanics and technicians in these fields. Aircraft mechanics and service technicians, along with avionics technicians, most often are trained through aviation technician schools that are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), although some come from the military. These programs provide classroom knowledge as well as hands-on experience.
|Career Titles||Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technician||Avionics Technician|
|Education Requirements||High school diploma and certificate from an aviation maintenance technician school||Associate's degree, followed by training at an aviation maintenance technician school|
|Licensure||Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) licenses are common||Airframe, Aircraft Electronics Technician and other certifications are common|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||1%||0%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$58,370||$58,540|
Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Individuals with approved training can work as aircraft mechanics and service technicians or as avionics technicians. They must maintain detailed records of what operations are performed. The two main career options in avionics repair and maintenance are as follows:
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians
Aircraft mechanics and service technicians repair the mechanical and structural parts of an aircraft, including the wings, brakes and electrical systems. Some are specialists and work on just one type of aircraft. They also may conduct inspections of aircraft. Those who do not hold certifications can work as repairmen, performing only certain tasks at a specific place of employment.
An avionics technician works on the various components of an aircraft that are used for navigation, flight and propulsion control, instrumental landings, weather monitoring and communications. Their work can include installing instrument panels and software. They need to know how to interpret computer readings to diagnose a problem.
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Licensure and Certification
To work maintaining and/or repairing an aircraft, one typically must have FAA certification or licensure. Non-certified technicians may perform the work only if a certified technician supervises them. The first step in becoming a certified airframe mechanic is to meet experience requirements or complete a FAA certified training program. The FAA has a listing of all FAA-approved training programs on its website. After completing a program, candidates must pass written, oral and practical tests. Certification is kept current by completing specified number of work hours or a refresher course.
Formal Education Options
Community colleges, colleges and universities offer certificate and associate's degree programs in electronics technology or avionics. Graduates are eligible for Aviation Electronics Technician certification administered by National Center for Aerospace and Transportation Technologies (NCATT). This is different from FAA certification and does not allow a technician with just this credential to work on aircraft.
Bachelor's degree programs are available that prepare experienced avionics technicians for technical services management careers in the aviation industry. Some schools may apply previous accredited avionics training towards degree requirements. Coursework may include aviation ethics, regulatory and security issues, management principles and aviation finance.
Job Outlook and Salary Information
The BLS expected employment to remain about the same for avionics technicians and increase 1% for aircraft mechanics and service technicians in the 2014-2024 decade. The BLS also stated that the median yearly salary was $58,370 for avionics technicians in May 2015; aircraft mechanics and service technicians earned about the same, with a median of $58,540 during that year.
A high school diploma and an aviation maintenance technician certificate can qualify you to become an aircraft maintenance and service technician; you'll need an associate's degree and appropriate training to become an avionics technician. FAA certification or licensure is typically required and advisable, in order to increase your employment potential, while a bachelor's degree is essential for advancement to a managerial position. Since employment opportunities in both areas are expected to increase little or not at all in the foreseeable future, you might expect stiff competition for available positions.