Pros and Cons of Becoming an Aerospace Technician
A career as an aerospace technician allows you to work on complex equipment used in spacecraft and aircraft. Take a look at the following pros and cons of being an aerospace technician to decide if this career is right for you.
|Pros of an Aerospace Technician Career|
|An associate degree can be enough for many positions|
|Good paying jobs ($63,780 annual median salary)*|
|Working with aerospace engineers to create things used in aeronautics and astronautics*|
|Opportunity to prepare space vehicles for launch**|
|Cons of an Aerospace Technician Career|
|Slower-than-average job growth (4% between 2014-2024)*|
|Sometimes have to move locations to find new jobs**|
|Exposure to toxic and dangerous materials*|
|May have to work weekends or nights, or longer than standard hours to complete a project**|
|Security clearances may be required to work on defense projects*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Sciencebuddies.org
Essential Career Info
Job Description and Duties
As an aerospace technician, you would be responsible for building, testing and maintaining various aircraft and space vehicles. Missiles, rockets, airplanes and helicopters are among the machines you could work on. Aerospace technicians often use computers to program and run simulations to test new designs. They must typically record data from test assemblies and parts. Sales, research, development and production could also be among their responsibilities. Aerospace technicians shoulder a great deal of responsibility because if the equipment they work on doesn't function properly during flight, fatalities can occur.
Salary Info and Job Prospects
As of May 2014, the BLS reported that aerospace technicians earned an annual median salary of $63,780. The top 10% made more than $93,000 and the lowest 10% made less than $38,000. Architectural, engineering and related services employed the most aerospace technicians of any industry in 2014. Although job opportunities were projected to experience 4% growth from 2014-2024, the BLS states that jobs should be available for aerospace technicians due to redesigns of aircrafts to increase fuel efficiency.
What are the Requirements?
A certificate, diploma or associate degree program is typically preferred as preparation for aspiring aerospace technicians, though an associate degree may be preferred. Coursework in such programs generally covers topics such as aerospace tests and measurements, materials and processes, structural fabrication, fluids systems, trigonometry, algebra and basic science. Some positions may not require any postsecondary education for employment, although work experience would typically be required in such cases.
The ability to think critically in order to examine aerospace craft, recognize problems and find the right solution to a problem is a quality that may help you succeed in this line of work. Strong math and technical skills are also beneficial. Aerospace technicians usually have to keep detailed records of measurements they are confident are accurate, so being detail-oriented is a useful skill. Good communication skills are also valuable because, as a technician, you will be working in a team and following instructions.
What Employers Are Looking For
As of April 2012, some of the job postings from actual employers for aerospace technicians mention that the position is on a temporary-to-hire basis. In most cases, employers are looking for those with experience or a degree, but some of them may require a combination of both. The following are some of the examples of these job listings:
- A business in Washington is looking for an aerospace technician with an associate's degree, plus five years experience, or ten years of experience and no degree. Maintaining and troubleshooting engineering and production fixtures are among the job duties listed.
- A company based in Kentucky needs an aerospace technician with five years experience performing visual inspections. The applicant should also be proficient with calipers and height/depth gauges as well as using hand tools.
- A manufacturing company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is seeking an aerospace technician who is familiar with aerospace quality requirements and mainframe MRP systems. Applicants should also be proficient with Microsoft Word and Excel.
- An aircraft engineering and installation services business in Orlando, Florida, is searching for an aerospace electronics technician to assemble, test and troubleshoot aircraft computer systems. Prospective employees should have an associate's degree, at the minimum, and five years of experience.
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Other Careers to Consider
If working in the aerospace industry sounds appealing, but perhaps designing the spacecraft, aircraft, missiles and satellites that technicians work on sounds more interesting to you, a career as an aerospace engineer may be more of what you're looking for. These workers may create new technologies in spacecraft, aviation and military defense systems. A bachelor's degree is typically required, at the minimum, for entry-level employment, but the pay is significantly higher than a technician's. The BLS reported an annual median salary of $102,000 as of May 2011. However, job growth is slower than average for all occupations (5% between 2010 and 2020). Although aerospace engineers generally work full time hours, those who are in charge of projects must often work extended hours.
Mechanical Engineering Technicians
If you'd rather be the one putting designs together, a career as a mechanical engineering technician is another option. Their job duties are similar to aerospace technician's, but they assist mechanical engineers in designing, developing, testing and manufacturing consumer products, industrial machinery and other types of equipment. They are also responsible for recording their testing methods and results, and offer recommendations, as needed. Like aerospace technicians, mechanical engineering technicians may find entry-level employment with an associate's degree. Their annual median salary is less than an aerospace technician's though - according to the BLS, they made annual median wage of $51,000 in May 2011. Job growth is also fairly slow at a rate of 4%, but those interested in alternative energies and remanufacturing will find more opportunities than in other related industries.