4 jobs in aviation to help your career take flight

Aviation jobs

If you have an interest in airplanes or flying, consider these jobs in aviation.

Whether you want to spend the majority of your time traveling from one place to another, or you're fascinated by the mechanics of airplanes and want to learn about the inner workings of an aircraft, there could be a future for you in aviation. Shortages of pilots and mechanics are creating several openings in these areas, but there are many other opportunities to explore that may cater uniquely to your interests and talents.

Here are four aviation jobs to consider:

Airline and commercial pilot
If you've always wanted to see the world from a cockpit, consider getting your pilot's license. You can work for commercial or private airlines. Many pilots belong to unions that protect them from layoffs, demotions, pay reductions and other issues. Plus, there’s a critical shortage of airline pilots, so these types of workers are in high demand.

Airline pilots usually need a bachelor’s degree and also must have the FAA-issued Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate*. They typically begin their careers as commercial pilots or flight instructors. Commercial pilots need a high school diploma or equivalent and a commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The median wage for airline and commercial pilots is $111,930.

Flight attendant
Professionals who don't want to fly a plane – but still want to fly – can become flight attendants. In this role, you'll answer travelers' questions, serve food and beverages, remind guests about safety rules and direct travelers on and off the plane.

This is one of the rare aviation jobs that don't require a degree – just a high school diploma or equivalent. The most important training takes place with the airline. This typically lasts from three to six weeks. Upon completion of the training program, flight attendants receive the FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency. The median annual wage for flight attendants is $50,500.

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanic or technician
Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians handle scheduled maintenance and repairs for aircraft. They evaluate flight data, diagnose problems, repair and replace components as needed, and inspect completed work. These professionals typically attend an Aviation Maintenance Technician School. There are several different certificates and licenses available that may determine the exact position that a mechanic or technician holds.

Boeing estimates nearly 120,000 new technicians will be needed in North America over the next two decades. The median annual wage for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians is $61,260.

Commercial air traffic controller
Air traffic controllers coordinate air traffic by issuing landing and takeoff instructions, responding to emergencies and providing pilots with essential information. From runway closures to weather updates, air traffic controllers need to understand everything going on in their sphere of control. While the most important concern for these professionals is obviously safety, they must also strive to maintain efficient and timely dispatches when all is running smoothly.

Air traffic controllers typically complete the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative. This program is available as part of a two- or four-year degree program. Most newly hired air traffic controllers are trained at the FAA Academy, located in Oklahoma City. The length of training varies with the applicant’s background. The median wage for air traffic controllers is $124,540. This is an incredibly lucrative job, but highly competitive for the same reason.

*Education, training and salary information from Bureau of Labor Statistics

Consider a career in aerospace engineering