Becoming an Aeronautic Technician: Salary & Job Description

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An aeronautic technician's median annual salary is around $56,000, but is it worth the lengthy training requirements? Read real job descriptions and see the truth about career prospects to decide if becoming an aeronautic technician is right for you.
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An Aeronautic Technician: Pros and Cons

Aeronautic technicians, better known as aircraft or aviation technicians, repair, maintain and inspect aircraft, usually helicopters and airplanes. While becoming an aeronautic technician can be a good option, it's still necessary to understand the pros and cons so you can make an informed career decision.

Pros of an Aircraft Technician Career
Good earning potential ($56,000 median wage)*
No degree requirements necessary*
Opportunities for advancement to supervisor, inspector or airline-specific jobs*
Specialization options, such as subsystems or types of aircraft*
Large variety of work available on different aircraft*

Cons of an Aircraft Technician Career
Low job-growth field (Two percent growth projected between 2012-2022)*
Night and weekend shifts common*
Higher than average rates of injury and illness*
High-stress job due to strict deadlines and safety standards*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Aircraft technicians keep aircraft in the air by regularly inspecting, maintaining and repairing various forms of aircraft. They may specialize in a certain type of aircraft or on a part of an aircraft, such as the engine or the hydraulics. They may work in a wide variety of shops, from small repair shops where they do a little of everything, to larger operations where they may do the same tasks from day to day.

Depending on their specialization, they may work outside on an airfield or in a climate-controlled repair shop. Aircraft mechanics tend to work on rotating shifts, which often include nights and weekends. Those with seniority usually get day shifts.

Career Prospects and Salary

As aircraft maintenance work is outsourced to other countries, job opportunities for aircraft technicians are highly competitive. According to the BLS, job opportunities are only expected to increase two percent between 2012 and 2022. However, many aircraft technicians are expected to retire over the next ten years, and jobs may become available to younger or entry-level technicians.

The median salary for aircraft technicians, as of May 2013, was about $56,000. In general, median salaries for these positions ranged from $34,000 to $86,000, with the highest paid technicians in the couriers and expresses delivery services industry making around $84,000 a year.

Education and Training Requirements

While most employers require only a high school diploma, technicians will need to go through an FAA-approved program to become certified in aviation maintenance. Some of these programs award 2- or 4-year degrees in a related subject, such as aviation technology or aviation maintenance management. Additionally, courses in mathematics, engineering, physics or composite materials may be useful as aircraft become more complex.

The FAA requires that maintenance be done either by certified technicians or under the supervision of someone who is certified. One of the most common certifications preferred by airlines is a combined airframe and powerplant (A&P) credential, which allows you to work on any part of the aircraft with the exception of flight instruments.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Many job listings may be for either general aircraft technicians, or they may ask for specific specialties or certifications. Some job listings also specify if a position belongs to a union or not. Below are some examples of job postings from April 2012:

  • A large employer in Maryland is looking for a general mechanic with four years experience, including turbo jet experience. Heavy jet experience is preferred.
  • A repair station in Arizona needs someone to work on hydraulic systems. This is a day-shift position.
  • A defense company is looking for an A&P certified technician to be stationed in Afghanistan. They would like someone with ten years experience.
  • An engineering company is seeking a technician to work on army helicopters in California. They prefer someone with military aircraft training.
  • An aerospace company in Arizona is looking for an aircraft technician with experience in sheet metal and structural repair. They want three years experience and prefer you to have your own tools.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Because the job field is so competitive, you may find it to your advantage to complete a training or degree program. There are many aviation-specific trade schools located throughout the country that offer programs. The BLS recommends getting a bachelor's degree, such as the Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance and Technology, which can also help you earn your A&P certification.

While the A&P certification is not required to be an aircraft technician, the BLS says job prospects may be better for applicants who hold credentials. After three years of holding your A&P certification, you may be eligible to obtain an inspector's authorization, which will help your chances for promotion. Additionally, if you focus on a certain area, such as avionics, hydraulics or military aircraft, you may find you qualify for more specialized positions.

Other Fields to Consider

If you like the idea of maintaining complex systems, such as aircraft, but don't want to focus on airplanes and helicopters, you might consider becoming an aerospace engineering and operations technician. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians operate and maintain equipment used to test new spacecraft and aircraft. Additionally, they may run computer simulations and help produce aircraft or systems. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians earned a median salary of $62,000 in May 2011, which was slightly more than aircraft technicians.

If you dislike the low job prospects for aeronautic technicians, you might consider becoming an automotive service technician instead. Job opportunities for automotive service technicians are expected to grow 17% between 2010 and 2020, and they tend to work in repair shops as opposed to outside. The median wage for automotive service technicians was $39,000 in May 2011. Generally, these positions require no formal training.

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