If you dream of surfing the blue skies above for a living, aviation hiring opportunities are trending up. Whether you prefer to view the skyline from the pilot’s seat or to observe the horizon from the ground, there is a multitude of careers in aviation to choose from. As an ever-growing industry, one can find innumerable opportunities across various sub-domains of the sector and avail a wide range of benefits and perks.
According to Boeing’s Pilot and Technician Outlook, the need for professional pilots is growing. Demand is also increasing for quality candidates in other areas such as airframe and powerplant mechanics (A&Ps), avionics technicians, and engineering. Other types of careers in aviation include (but not limited to) airport planning, airfield operations, aircraft contractors, and more.
Why the Aviation Industry?
The aviation industry provides a variety of career options. Some jobs in this field offer benefits like worldwide travel, the chance to meet interesting and diverse people in foreign countries, and the knowledge that you are responsible for the safety and wellbeing of countless passengers in the air. Other job opportunities are more localized and have different advantages, such as ensuring the communication of essential information, guaranteeing aircraft security before takeoff, or designing more aerodynamic airplane parts for the future.
Top Non-Technical Skills for Careers in Aviation
Aeronautical school can cover the technical information and knowledge needed for aviation positions. However, some fundamental skills could help you be more effective in your aviation career. These “soft skills” or personality characteristics are not usually the focus of flight school, yet practicing them can help you develop and improve your professional demeanor as you establish your career path.
- Clear Communication
- Organized and Analytical Thinking
- Solution-Oriented / Decisive
- Attention to Detail / Precise
- Punctuality / Time Management
- Teamwork and Synergy
- Interpersonal Skills / Friendly Positive Attitude
- Emotional Intelligence / Empathy
High-Flying Opportunities and Careers in Aviation
Aerial First Responder
First responders in the air need to have similar skills to those on the ground: mental and physical strength and stamina, the ability to remain calm under pressure, and they must know how to handle stressful situations with a reassuring presence. Positions in this alternative type of piloting career include being an air medical pilot (fixed-wing or helicopter) or aerial firefighter.
Having a military or agricultural background is common for many aerial firefighters, as some of the experiences are similar and critical skills have already been developed. Those skills include familiarity with little-to-no automation or autopilot, high-intensity environments, low-level flying skills, effective teamwork, communication, etc.
A few of the same skills are needed for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) pilots, but some different skills are also necessary. These first responders need to know how altitude affects patients and their families. They also must be prepared to work at odd hours if they are on-call; this is important information to keep in mind as you consider your lifestyle and whether this aspect of the job would work for you.
If you liked to play with drones as a kid (or if that is still a fun hobby!), you could develop your drone skills and talents into an aviation career. Drones are used in so many industries now that per Part 107 guidelines, drone pilots are required to obtain an FAA-issued remote pilot certificate with a small UAS rating. This certificate requires you to pass a test on a fair amount of aeronautical knowledge and get a TSA security background check.
You must also register your drone. However, once you have mastered the rules and procedures regarding drone operation, there are a variety of employment fields for experienced drone pilots in the following industries: real estate, journalism, energy, education, telecommunications, filmmaking, and more.
Certified Flight Instructor
Not every pilot who goes through flight school and graduates with certificates, ratings, and degrees ends up flying commercial airlines for a living – even if that was their original goal. After earning a commercial certificate, the next step toward the “major leagues” is accruing the necessary flight hours towards an Airline Transport License (ATP). These hours are also known as The FAA 1500 Hour Rule.
While exceptions exist, most pilots must log this much flight time to gain their ATP. One way to log these hours, and get paid while doing it, is to be employed as a certified flight instructor. Some pilots find that being a mentor to student pilots is so personally rewarding that this becomes their life’s work.
Aviation Safety Inspector
Aviation Safety Inspectors (ASIs) work for the FAA and must have detailed knowledge of the aviation industry. They develop, oversee and maintain civil aviation safety policies and procedures. Aviation Safety Inspectors have extensive responsibilities, including aircraft, airmen (pilots, mechanics, etc.), facilities, and equipment. ASIs need strong technical skills and comprehension of avionics.
Most Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMTs) earn both Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) ratings on their aviation mechanic certificates, so they are qualified to work on the entire aircraft. Because informational technology is becoming more advanced, many aviation systems that were previously digital are now automated. Aviation mechanics specializing in diagnosing and fixing computer, mechanical, and electrical systems are called Avionics Technicians. This specific occupation is projected to grow by 10% – 15% between 2020-2030.
The aviation industry needs qualified aeronautical professionals to manage facilities, including airports, flight schools, and aircraft manufacturing centers. A good way to prepare for aviation management positions is to get a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration or Aviation Business Administration. Sample job titles include Transportation Manager, Logistics Director, Fleet Manager, and Warehouse Supervisor. An MBA can also help further establish careers in managerial accounting or economics, business law, corporate finance, or international markets.
The Bottom Line
The aviation industry needs people that are qualified, dedicated, and highly committed to being successful in their careers. Skilled professional workers both in the air and on the ground are essential, from first responder pilots who transport hurt passengers to the instructors who teach them to fly, and from the technicians who fix and maintain aircraft to the safety inspectors who ensure their security.
Mr. Matthew A. Johnston has over 23 years of experience serving various roles in education and is currently serving as the President of California Aeronautical University. He maintains memberships and is a supporting participant with several aviation promoting and advocacy associations including University Aviation Association (UAA), Regional Airline Association (RAA), AOPA, NBAA, and EAA with the Young Eagles program. He is proud of his collaboration with airlines, aviation businesses and individual aviation professionals who are working with him to develop California Aeronautical University as a leader in educating aviation professionals.