How to Become an Aviation Manager: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become an aviation manager. Research the education requirements, training information and experience required for starting a career as an aviation manager. View article »

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  • 0:04 Should I Become an…
  • 0:42 Career Requirements
  • 1:30 Steps to Becoming an…

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Video Transcript

Should I Become an Aviation Manager?

An aviation manager is an airport employee who oversees compliance with local, state, and federal rules and regulations, ensuring that an airport or its departments run efficiently and safely while overseeing the hiring and management of airport or department staff.

Workers in top management jobs like these can expect to work long hours, because the aviation manager is responsible for the success or failure of the entire organization. Evening, weekend and holiday shifts are a possibility, since airports may serve incoming or outgoing flights during those times.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field(s) Airport management, aviation administration, aviation management, public administration, business administration, finance or related field
Certification Accredited Airport Executive or Certified Member credential,
Experience 4+ years
Key skills Knowledge of Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) and Transportation Security Agency (TSA) requirements pertaining to safety and security, good communication skills, finance and budgeting skills, management skills, supervisory skills; word processing, spreadsheet
Salary (2015) $107,346 per year (Median salary for program managers in aviation)

Sources: Aviation manager job listings, American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE),

Aviation managers should have a bachelor's degree in airport management, aviation administration, aviation management, public administration, business administration, finance, or a related field. They should also have at least four years of experience and hold the Accredited Airport Executive or Certified Member credential.

Key skills include knowledge of Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) and Transportation Security Agency (TSA) requirements, good communication skills, finance and budgeting skills, management skills, supervisory skills, and experience using word processing and spreadsheet software.

As of 2015, the median annual salary for program managers in aviation was $107,346.

Steps to Becoming an Aviation Manager

Step 1: Obtain a Degree

Many employers, both international and smaller municipal airports, require that aviation management job applicants hold a bachelor's degree in aviation management or a related field. A student has the opportunity to learn about safety management, aviation law and policy, air transportation management, applied operations in transportation, and airspace management. These core courses are usually taken in the junior and senior years. The first two years of study generally include classes in business, mathematics, and aviation-related science.

Success Tip:

  • Complete an internship. Internships are a way to gain practical experience and supplement one's study in aviation management. Universities and colleges offering aviation management bachelor's degree programs may partner with local airports to offer internship programs. An internship is typically completed towards the end of a degree program, giving students an opportunity to break into the industry.

Step 2: Obtain Certification

The American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) offers two certifications for its members. Since most employers prefer candidates for advanced positions to possess one of these credentials, aspiring aviation managers may consider obtaining the lower-level credential as they become qualified and advance to more responsible aviation management positions. AAAE's Certified Member (CM) credential can be obtained by passing AAAE's examination, which consists of 180 multiple-choice questions.

AAAE affiliates who have earned a bachelor's degree or have at least eight years of civil airport management experience are eligible to become certified as an Accredited Airport Executive (AAE). This credential is preferred by employers for aviation managers who manage large departments or hold airport manager positions. Once the candidate has acquired the necessary experience, he or she can apply for the AAE credential, which is awarded after successfully completing a multiple choice exam, submitting a writing requirement, and completing an interview.

Another certification option is the National Business Aviation Association's Certified Aviation Manager (CAM) designation. Obtaining the CAM credential requires a mix of relevant work experience and formal education (at minimum, trade school study in aviation), as well as passing an exam.

Success Tip:

  • Maintain certification. AAEs must complete 55 continuing education credits over a 3-year period in order to maintain certification. Credit is given for attending AAAE seminars, completing approved college courses, and participating in other AAAE-approved events. CAMs must also recertify every three years by completing continuing education and paying a fee.

Step 3: Acquire a Managerial Position

Professionals looking to advance in the field of aviation may be able to do so with their certifications. Once that process has been completed, candidates can become Accredited Airport Executives after three years of experience as public airport managers.

Hopeful aviation managers should complete a bachelor's degree in aviation management or a related field, complete internships, and obtain the required certifications to advance to a managerial position.

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