Aviation Careers – Jobs, Salaries & Education Requirements


Updated January 18, 2024

thebestschools.org is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

The aviation industry, an integral part of society, needs qualified personnel for an array of aviation careers. The aviation industry provides careers requiring various skills, interests and backgrounds. Many of the entry-level aviation jobs include extensive customer service contact requiring strong communication and interpersonal skills.

Some aviation careers require certification from the Federal Aviation Administration, such as pilot and air traffic control specialist. Some aviation careers, including an aviation business manager, may require a college degree.

In this section click on a link to access a thorough review of an aviation career you're interested in. Learn about daily activities, the salary, the employment outlook, the education requirements and much more.

Once you've explored this page on Aviation Careers we encourage you to keep reading our website's extensive career guide with details on job options, education requirements and salaries.

Related articles:
50 Best Online Colleges & Universities 2019
The Best Online Colleges by State
The Best Online Degrees

Aerospace Engineers

Education and Certifications Aerospace Engineers Need

An entry-level aerospace engineer may need a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or a related field.

Candidates for an aerospace engineer career need analytical and critical thinking skills and the ability to handle complex problem-solving. Many aeronautical engineers work on defense projects for the U.S. government, which requires a security clearance.

Some schools partner with companies to give prospective aerospace engineers practical experience while earning their degree. Some universities also offer five-year programs for candidates to earn both a bachelor's and a master's degree in aeronautical engineering. Advanced education may qualify an aerospace engineer to teach or work in product research and development.

Aerospace engineers who gain experience and want to take on more responsibility must earn a license as a professional engineer, which generally requires a degree from an accredited engineering program and passing scores on the Fundamentals of Engineering and the Professional Engineering exams.

Aeronautical engineers can take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam after earning a bachelor's degree, at which point they serve as engineers-in-training or engineer interns to acquire enough experience to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.

Aerospace engineers in several states must take continuing education courses to maintain their licenses.

Find the best school for you: The 50 Best Engineering/Technology and Computer Sciences Programs in the World

What They Do

The next time you fly, take a minute to think about the people who make it possible. Chief among them: aerospace engineers, the men and women behind the development of ever newer, faster, better airplanes.

Aeronautical engineering focuses on aircraft, while astronautical engineering focuses on spacecraft. A successful aerospace engineer grasps the principles of physics and the intricacies of sophisticated computer software.

Aeronautical engineers are mainly involved with designing aircraft and their propulsion systems, as well as studying the aerodynamic performance of aircraft and construction materials. An aeronautical engineer career involves creating detailed diagrams and conducting simulated tests to ensure everything runs as efficiently as possible.

An aeronautical engineer career may involve supervising the workers who build prototypes to make certain they meet the manufacturer's or government's precise specifications.

Many industries rely on aeronautical engineering skills. Aeronautical engineers may also be involved with the science and technology of spacecraft, including how spacecraft perform inside the earth's atmosphere.

Aeronautical engineers typically specialize in a certain type of aircraft, such as private planes, helicopters, or commercial jets. Most specialize in one of the many electrical or mechanical systems that comprise aircraft, such as the propulsion system, engines, robotics, instrumentation and communication, or navigation boards.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Aerospace engineers can eventually take on the role of technical supervisors to lead a team of engineers and technicians. Some move into executive positions or work as engineering managers. Such advancement usually requires an aeronautical engineer to work as an apprentice under a more experienced aerospace engineer.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $113,030
2016, number of jobs 69,600
Employment growth forecast, 2016-2026 6%
Entry-level education requirements Bachelor's degree
2017, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage $140,420
2017, workers at the 25th percentile annual wage $88,240

Featured Online Programs

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

Education and Certifications Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians Need

Candidates for avionics technicians jobs should be detail-oriented and have good communication, critical-thinking, math, technical and interpersonal skills.

Certification is not required to work as an aerospace technician, but skills-based programs can help you earn certification through the Federal Aviation Commission, which can increase your hiring potential.

Certificate and diploma programs offered by vocational-technical schools provide training for work as an aerospace technician, but employers increasingly seek candidates with an associate in aerospace engineering technology degree. Aerospace technicians seeking to work on defense contracts must qualify for a security clearance, which sometimes requires U.S. citizenship.

What They Do

Without qualified aerospace engineering and operations technicians, none of us could feel safe getting on an airplane. Aerospace technicians are in charge of the equipment used to test new designs in aviation. An aerospace engineering and operations technician helps find solutions to fix problems.

An aerospace technician career includes using basic engineering principles and technical skills to support the work of engineers and others who develop, make and test aircraft, spacecraft and the systems operating them.

An aerospace technician career includes programming computers for flight simulation to test new aircraft designs; operating and calibrating computer systems so they meet various test requirements. An aerospace technician career also includes building and maintaining test facilities to meet engineers' specifications.

Aerospace techs conduct tests, record and analyze data and diagnose problems. Sometimes called avionics technicians, they adjust, repair or replace faulty components. Aerospace technicians discuss test procedures with aerospace engineers.

An aerospace tech career may include installing parts and systems to be tested, and monitoring production of aircraft systems to ensure they are of the highest quality.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $67,240
2016, number of jobs 11,710
Employment growth forecast, 2016-2026 7%
Entry-level education requirements Associate degree
2017, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage $39.29
2017, workers at the 25th percentile annual wage $53,910

Air Traffic Controllers

Education and Certifications Air Traffic Controllers Need

There are several ways to begin an air traffic controller career. The requirements state that an applicant must be a U.S. citizen, younger than 31 (only those without previous experience), complete training from one of the colleges recognized by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), attend and graduate from the Air Traffic-Collegiate Training Initiative and attain a qualifying score on the FAA pre-employment test.

If a worker has previous experience, such as Armed Forces training in air traffic control, he/she may not need to take the FAA education requirements. Other special exceptions may apply in terms of educational or training substitutions. Once qualified, air traffic controllers need to pass periodic drug tests and a rigorous physical exam as well as pass a performance examination twice a year.

What They Do

If working for aviation safety and security sounds like an exciting and challenging opportunity, then an air traffic controller career may be in your future. Air traffic controllers authorize, control and monitor the flow of aviation traffic according to federal and company safety policies and procedures.

Air traffic controller careers include organizing and coordinating the arrival and landing of airplanes. Air traffic controller careers involve relaying instructions to pilots, directing the movement of aircrafts using specialized radar and computer equipment to maximize safety and informing and authorizing pilots of flight path changes and/or emergencies.

An air traffic controller career involves relaying important information such as weather reports or visibility issues and monitoring ground traffic including baggage vehicles and workers.

Career Advancement Opportunities

As beginning air traffic controllers (called developmental controllers) learn and master new skills in the control room, they earn more pay and advance to higher levels. The training can take two to four years to complete. In addition, air traffic controllers can also become supervisors.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $124,540
2016, number of jobs 22,790
Employment growth forecast, 2016-2026 3%
Entry-level education requirements Associate degree
2017, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage $151,620
2017, workers at the 25th percentile annual wage $86,610

Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Education and Certifications Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians Need

An aviation career, such as an aircraft mechanic, avionics equipment mechanic, aircraft technician, or an avionics equipment technician, may begin with graduating from an FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technical School. Some of these schools offer associate degrees, while other offer a Bachelor of Avionics, Aviation Technology, or Aviation Maintenance Management. Many employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree.

Aircraft mechanics, avionics equipment mechanics, aircraft technicians, and avionics equipment technicians need certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Although separate certifications are available for airframe mechanics and engine mechanics, employers prefer hiring individuals with a combined Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) certificate.

In order to maintain their certification, aircraft mechanics must inspect or repair aircraft every 90 days and attend a refresher course every two years.

Find the best school for you: The 10 Best Online Bachelor's in Aeronautics & Aviation Programs

What They Do

How many little kids dream of growing up and working on airplanes? Their dream can become a reality as an aircraft mechanic, avionics equipment mechanic, aircraft technician, or an avionics equipment technician. These individuals keep airplanes and helicopters running properly and safely, performing regular scheduled maintenance and FAA-required inspections.

Anyone who has ever successfully ridden on a plane owes a thank you to the aircraft mechanic, whose job it is to examine the plane's frame and parts for defects, determine if any parts are becoming worn out, and determine any mechanical or electrical problems.

Aircraft mechanics repair everything from wings to breaks to electrical systems. Aviation mechanic careers include replacing small parts with hand tools and test gauges and diagnostic equipment.

Aircraft mechanics may either work on a variety of aircrafts or specialize in one part of a specific type of aircraft, such as the engine, hydraulics, or electrical system.

Like aircraft mechanics, avionics equipment technicians also look for potential issues with aircraft. Avionics equipment technician careers include testing an aircraft's technical instruments, using everything from small hand tools to circuit testers, oscilloscopes, and voltmeters.

An aircraft technician career involves interpreting flight data, searching for possible malfunctions or performance problems.

An avionic equipment technician career includes assembling components, installing instruments, and repairing any malfunctioning instruments.

Aircraft mechanics and avionics equipment technicians keep scrupulous records of all tests and maintenance performed.

Career Advancement Opportunities

With experience, aircraft mechanics may advance in their career to a lead mechanic, lead inspector, or shop supervisor position. Aviation mechanics often advance from general aviation jobs to airline jobs. Individuals with an aircraft inspector's authorization and a bachelor's degree have the best career advancement opportunities.

Other advanced position aircraft or avionics mechanics and technicians may become an inspector for the FAA or open their own maintenance shop.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $61,260
2016, number of jobs 131,500
Employment growth forecast, 2016-2026 5%
Entry-level education requirements Postsecondary non-degree award
2017, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage $75,880
2017, workers at the 25th percentile annual wage $36,030

Airline and Commercial Pilots

Education and Certifications Airline and Commercial Pilots Need

Today, most airline pilots and commercial airline pilots attain an associate or bachelor's degree from a certified civilian flight school or train with a certified instructor to begin a commercial airline pilot career. Many employers require pilots to have a degree.

Commercial pilots and airline pilots carrying passengers or cargo need a commercial pilot's license, an instrument rating, be 18 or older and have 250 hours of flight experience. In addition, many companies require employees to undergo physical, psychological and aptitude tests to make sure they can handle the enormous amount of stress they face during an airline pilot career.

Company training for pilots often includes 6-8 weeks of ground school with an exam, 25 hours of flight time and yearly training to keep their certification up-to-date. As of 2013, new requirements ensure airline captains and first officers have a transport pilot license which includes 1500 hours of flight time, both written and flight exams, advanced ratings and passing physical examinations.

Find the best school for you: The 10 Best Online Bachelor's in Aeronautics & Aviation Programs

What They Do

Flying the friendly skies is not what it used to be for airline pilots and commercial pilots; advanced security measures, threats of terrorism, long hours and budget constraints have made it a challenge for airline pilots and commercial pilots to do their jobs effectively. In light of these issues, pilots have one of the most challenging, rewarding and exciting jobs in the world.

Airline and commercial pilots fly multi-engine airplanes or helicopters that carry people, packages and other cargo. Commercial pilots also fly aircrafts to conduct rescue and firefighting missions as well as charter unique flights such as aerial photography.

Airline pilot careers may include reviewing safety measures and procedures including checking preflight hydraulics, engine parts and other flight systems, monitoring fuel, schedules and weather.

Airline pilot careers involve listening for proper takeoff and landing instructions from air traffic controllers, checking aircraft weight distribution from loaded cargo and monitoring warning devices, cockpit instrumentation, engines and fuel levels during flight. Airline pilots also work with other crew members to maintain smooth takeoffs and landings.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Most often, civilian pilots begin their careers as flight instructors and advance in their career through accumulating flight hours during training sessions. After completing many training hours, the instructors can become commercial airline pilots.

Commercial airline pilots often advance in their career through attaining higher end positions and pay grades via flying corporate planes. However, union contract rules have specific requirements regarding any position movement. First officers in nonairline jobs can further their careers through advancing to a captain job or director in aviation job.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $111,930
2016, number of jobs 34,490
Employment growth forecast, 2016-2026 4%
Entry-level education requirements Associate degree
2017, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage $106,990
2017, workers at the 25th percentile annual wage $58,910

Flight Attendants

Education and Certifications Flight Attendants Need

People interested in a flight attendant career need a high school diploma or equivalent, be at least 18 years of age or older and be eligible to work in the U.S. Some employers prefer applicants who have a college degree in an area such as tourism or public relations and have some customer experience.

People seeking a flight attendant career need to meet specific physical and medical requirements.

Flight attendant training usually lasts three to six weeks and covers topics such as emergency procedures and flight regulations. In addition, qualified flight attendants need certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), they also need to complete training on practice flights.

What They Do

It takes a strong personality, an ability to handle difficult (sometimes dangerous) situations quickly and calmly and a love of flying to pursue a flight attendant career. Flight attendants offer personal services to ensure that airline passengers are secure, safe and comfortable.

Flight attendant careers typically include verifying all safety equipment including oxygen bottles and fire extinguishers are working, discussing preflight briefing and issues, and ensuring an airplane has the required food and drink supplies on board. Flight attendant careers also involve showing passengers how to use emergency equipment and making sure they fasten their seatbelts.

A flight attendant career involves offering refreshments and meals, taking care of passengers during flight, assisting those with special needs and directing and assisting passengers in cases of emergency.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Flight attendant career advancement depends on how long an attendant has worked in the industry. After several years of flight experience, senior flight attendants can advance in their career to a management job overseeing instruction and scheduling.

Essential Career Information

2017 Median Pay $50,500
2016, number of jobs 119,000
Employment growth forecast, 2016-2026 10%
Entry-level education requirements High school diploma or equivalent
2017, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage $63,090
2017, workers at the 25th percentile annual wage $41,040

* Salary, number of jobs and employment growth provided by

Popular with our students.

Highly informative resources to keep your education journey on track.

Take the next step toward your future with online learning.

Discover schools with the programs and courses you’re interested in, and start learning today.

woman in an office