Careers in Army Aviation: Education Options and Job Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an army aviation professional. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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The field of army aviation affords a number of opportunities to work with aerial vehicles, each with their own educational requirements, from training programs to graduate degrees. These positions include aviation officers, helicopter repairers, and unmanned aerial vehicle operators, and duties for each range from operations to maintenance.

Essential Information

Careers in army aviation put emphasis on aerial vehicles, whether it's maintaining them or flying them around. In order to work in this field for the army, students must have at least their high school diploma. More advanced careers may require students to have a college education. There are a lot of career options in this field, such as an aviation officer or an OH-58D helicopter repairer. A bachelor's or master's is required to be an aviation officer, and courses covered typically include flight physics, emergency procedures and map drawing/reading. As a helicopter repairer, individuals must go through basic training and then advanced courses that provide them with hands-on training. Students can also become an unmanned aerial vehicle operator, which focuses on deploying aerial devices in dangerous environments.

Career Aircraft Mechanic and Service Technician
Education Requirements High school diploma or equivalent
Other Requirements Complete Part 147 FFA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 1%
Mean Salary (2015)* $60,160 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Aviation Officer Education Options

An Army aviation officer must hold a bachelor's or graduate degree. The aviation officer can be a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, have completed the Army ROTC program while in college or complete the Army's Officer Candidate School (OCS) after basic training. The aviation officer who follows any of these paths will be commissioned as a second lieutenant, then go on to flight training.

Training

The first phase of aviation school takes place in a classroom; the officer learns about the Army's helicopters and how they work. Topics include map drawing and reading, flight physics and emergency procedures. In phase two, the aviators learn combat skills through hands-on flight training. They become experts in all the Army's helicopters, but specialize in flying only one type.

Job Requirements

The Army's aviation branch is responsible for troop transport, delivery of supplies and execution of combat operations. Upon entering service as a lieutenant, an Army aviator is responsible for organizing every aspect of aviation activity from air traffic control to maintenance. In addition to being a skilled aviator, the aviation officer must demonstrate good leadership ability.

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OH-58D Helicopter Repairer Education Options

After basic training, an OH-58D helicopter repairer must complete a 14-week advanced individual training course. In that course, the helicopter repairer learns, through a combination of classroom and hands-on instruction, various aspects of aircraft mechanics and repair. They study the repair of fiberglass, steel and aluminum airframes and coverings, as well as the mechanics of hydraulic, electrical and fuel systems. OH-58D helicopter repairers must know how to take engines apart and reassemble them.

Job Requirements

This job entails repairing the OH-58D helicopter, also known as the Kiowa Warrior. Helicopter repairers should have excellent math and mechanical skills. They should be skilled in using power and hand tools.

Job requirements may include preparing the helicopter for inspection, filling out paperwork relating to maintenance and assisting with inspections. The repairer may remove and install transmissions, rotors, gearboxes and other aircraft subsystem assemblies. Using tools to troubleshoot problems could be required at times.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Operator Education Options

An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operator trains for the job for 23 weeks and three days after completing basic training. During these months, the UAV operator learns about intelligence gathering missions, how to prepare and read maps, methods for analyzing photographs taken by the vehicle and how to compose an intelligence report. Some of the training is in the classroom, while some is in the field.

Job Requirements

An unmanned aerial vehicle may be deployed in situations in which it would be too dangerous to send a manned aircraft. UAVs can fly through contaminated areas and take on longer flights than a manned aircraft could. The UAV operator serves as a remote pilot for these missions. The operator performs vehicle inspections and places and recovers the airframe from the runway. The operator may help plan and analyze missions.

Career Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects for aircraft mechanics and service technicians are expected to have little to no change (1%) from 2014-2024. The BLS also notes that the mean annual salary for these professionals as of May 2015 is $60,160.

A career in army aviation requires completion of a training program or a degree, as well as math, mechanical and aviation skills. Jobs in this field include an aviation officer, which is an option for those with leadership abilities, a helicopter repairer, which requires mechanical and tool skills, or a UAV operator, which requires both classroom and field training. The field of army aviation is anticipated to have little to no growth over the 2014 to 2024 decade.

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