Careers in Aviation

Careers in the Aviation and Aerospace Industry


Aerospace is the human effort in science, engineering and business resulting in the ability to fly in the atmosphere of Earth (aeronautics) and surrounding space (astronautics). Aerospace organizations research, design, manufacture, operate, or maintain aircraft and/or spacecraft. Aerospace business activity is very diverse, supporting a multitude of commercial, industrial and military applications

The Aerospace Industry is one of the most powerful industries in the United States. It encompasses a group of manufacturers who produce airplanes, helicopters, military aircraft, missiles, rockets, spacecraft and satellites. These manufacturers employ a vast number of supplier firms that make a variety of products ranging from avionics and hydraulic systems to rubber gaskets and adhesives.

Careers in the aerospace industry focus on five basic markets: military aircraft, missiles, space, commercial airliners, and general aviation. Jobs in the aviation sector for example include avionics, airframe design &paneplant engineering, maintenance and of course piloting the aircraft. All occupations in the aviation/aerospace industry require some type of general academic preparation combined with specific training obtained either on-the-job or through a formal education program, depending on the job.

In 2012, the U.S. aerospace industry contributed $118.5 billion in export sales to the U.S. economy.  The industry’s positive trade balance of $70.5 billion is the largest trade surplus of any manufacturing industry and came from exporting 64.3 percent of all aerospace production.


There are also numerous aviation-related careers offered by state and federal agencies such as the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration. These jobs may not offer the airline industry benefits of free travel, but they provide excellent government benefits, which are usually unsurpassed by private corporations.

The truth is, the aviation & aerospace industries provide hundreds if not thousands of different job tracks one could follow. Whether you prefer a ground-based position or something in the air, working with the public or in an office,

A few examples of general aviation (airline) career examples follow:


Ticket Agent

Ticket agents are primarily responsible for arranging seat reservations for airline travelers. They print boarding passes, register luggage, receive payments and prepare luggage for baggage handlers to load onto the airplane. Agents are problem solvers for passengers and other airline employees. They help passengers with customer service issues concerning baggage, flight rescheduling and airline information.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), reservation and transportation ticket agents and travel clerks earn a median income of $33,990 per year. Over the course of the 2012-2022 decade, a 14% decrease in jobs for these agents and clerks is expected due to more passengers purchasing tickets online (


Ticket agents and other reservation assistants need a high school diploma. Essential skills for ticket agents include being able to work with customers, make reservations and use computers. Some community colleges offer certificate training programs for prospective airline ticket agents. Many airlines offer on-the-job training for ticket agents. Agents learn reservation systems and effective customer support.


Commercial Airline Pilot

Commercial airline pilots are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly commercial airplanes. They typically work with at least one other licensed pilot, depending on the aircraft and the length of the flight. The pilot in charge is designated as the captain. Pilots operate the aircraft, communicate with air traffic controllers and ensure the safety of the passengers and crew throughout the flight.

The BLS reports that commercial pilots earn a median annual income of $74,470 as of May 2013. Many pilots are expected to retire or leave the workforce during the 2012-2022 decade, leading to projected employment


growth of 9% for commercial pilots, which is about average. Counted together, airline and commercial pilots are expected to see a 1% decrease in job openings, however.


All commercial pilots must complete an oral, written and practical FAA licensing exam. Pilots also must pass a physical exam and meet the minimum number of required flying hours. Aircraft pilots must also be able to work away from home for long periods. Many commercial airline pilots have irregular schedules and must stay overnight to accommodate flight schedules.The major requirements for commercial pilots are flying experience, education and FAA licensure. Many pilots are trained in the military or at a flying school. Completing an FAA-accredited flight training program may allow prospective commercial pilots to gain experience while learning flying skills not taught in the classroom. Employers often prefer to hire pilots who have completed a college degree. Courses may include aerospace engineering, aviation meteorology, physics and mathematics.


Aircraft Mechanic

Aircraft mechanics make sure that the aircraft is ready to fly by inspecting the aircrafts engine, instruments and aircraft body and fixing issues while the plane is on the ground. Many mechanics focus on a specific part of theCBolden aircraft, such as on the turbine engines and related systems. Aircraft mechanics are FAA licensed and may complete an education program from an aviation maintenance school.

As of May 2013, aircraft mechanics and service technicians brought in a median income of $55,980 annually, according to the BLS. Employment is expected to increase by two percent between 2012 and 2022, with growth being tempered somewhat due to airlines outsourcing more maintenance work to other countries.


Like pilots, airline mechanics need to be FAA licensed to work with passenger-carrying planes. Licensure involves completion of several months of technical training. Aviation maintenance programs at technical schools typically are 2-year degree programs focused on a specific area of airplane maintenance, such as power plants and airframes.

Prospective mechanics take a 3-part FAA licensing exam. The three areas contain a written, oral and practical exam based on the specific aircraft system studied.


Flight Attendant

Flight attendants brief passengers on safety protocols, help carry out those protocols in an emergency and may administer first aid. Flight attendants may also serve food and beverages, and assist passengers with needs during a flight. Potential flight attendants generally need a high school diploma and customer service experience.

Flight attendants earn a median annual income of $40,520, according to the BLS. Employment is expected to decline by 7% over the 2012-2022 decade, due in large part to increased fuel prices and union contracts preventing many airlines from hiring many new flight attendants.


Flight attendants require good customer service skills. On-the-job training programs cover situational awareness, distraction management, conflict resolution and other hospitality topics. Additionally, training may involve hands-on classes in proper safety procedures in a mock airplane.

Like commercial pilots, flight attendants often work long hours and are away from home frequently. Attendants who are bilingual and have college experience may have better opportunities.


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