Many people dream of careers in the dynamic aviation industry, and with good reason. Not only does a high-flying career promise adventure and excitement, but jobs in aviation come with other benefits as well, including everything from flexibility to job security. So how do you know which aviation field to study? Here's a closer look at ten to consider.
1. Aerospace engineering
"Aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they create and test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design," says the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
They are paid well to do so: the 2018 median pay for professionals in this field was $115,220. Aerospace engineers are employed in many sectors, including aerospace product and parts manufacturing; engineering services; the federal government; navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing; and research and development in the physical, engineering and life sciences.
One of the newest branches of engineering, the field of aerospace engineering has changed dramatically since it began in the 19th century, and is expected to continue to evolve in pace with technological advancements. As such, the job outlook for aerospace engineers is equal to that for all occupations. Specifically, aerospace engineers are working to design more environmentally friendly aircraft which produce less noise pollution with enhanced fuel efficiency. Space exploration is also an emerging area of interest for many aerospace engineering companies.
2. Air traffic control
"Air traffic controllers coordinate the movement of aircraft to maintain safe distances between them," says the BLS. Like aerospace engineers, they collect a hefty paycheck for their efforts: the average annual salary for air traffic controllers is $124,540. Air traffic controllers work in many locations, including control towers, approach control facilities and route centers with night, weekend, and rotating shifts common in the profession.
Air traffic control is known for being a high-stress field, and air traffic controllers "are a specific breed," according to Air & Space. However, if a fast-paced, high-responsibility job appeals to you, air traffic control may be uniquely satisfying. Air traffic controller Micah Maziar told Job Shadow, "Helping someone get home safely is the most rewarding thing I can think of. I've talked to pilots that are trying to get to an ailing family member before they pass on, and knowing that I helped them get to their loved ones' bedside makes me feel like I've contributed to society."
Not sure whether a career in air traffic control is right for you? Maziar recommends touring a facility and/or arranging to job shadow an air traffic controller for a day.
3. Aircraft maintenance
"Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft," says the BLS. They are responsible for a broad range of duties, including diagnosing mechanical and electrical problems; repairing wings, brakes, electrical systems, and other aircraft components; replacing defective parts by hand or with power tools; examining replacement aircraft parts for defects; reading maintenance manuals to identify repair procedures; testing aircraft parts with gauges and other diagnostic tools; inspecting completed work; and maintaining records.
The job outlook for these skilled professionals is on pace with the average for all jobs, and professionals in this field have a median pay of $63,060.
Many aircraft mechanics have an interest in airplanes but are not compelled to fly them. Aircraft technician Hector Salinas, who grew up in Mexico and now works in Hong Kong, told Airline Geeks of what led him to a career in aviation maintenance, "I was more interested in how airplanes worked and what was done to keep them flying. I feel I do much better on the ground than I would in the air."
4. Aviation management
Aviation is a famously dynamic field. Many factors, including new technology, ecological requirements, and fierce competition, have transformed the industry -- and promise to continue doing so. This is where aviation management comes in. Aviation managers are responsible for understanding the field and navigating these changes across everything from aircraft manufacturing to air traffic control. This requires both technical and management skills.
Airline pilot Les Jetson explains, "Aviation Management is a complex, varied field. It covers a huge base of topics within aviation. When you study aviation management you learn about the operation of airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers, and business related to the aerospace industry. [...] The courses teach you the operational field of aviation as a whole. You gain a deep understanding of the land-side operations, as well as air-side operations of running aviation business."
5. Aviation safety
"Aviation safety refers to the efforts that are taken to ensure airplanes are free from factors that may lead to injury or loss. Jet airplanes have always been safe -- they have to be, or the manufacturers wouldn't be in business long," Boeing asserts. In fact, air travel gets safer every year, and many different types of aviation safety professionals play a role in supporting increasing aviation safety.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), careers in aviation safety include aviation safety inspectors and aviation safety technicians. Other aviation professionals whose work positively influences aviation safety include aerospace engineers, medical officers, and operations research analysts.
6. Cabin crew
Do you love to travel? If so, a cabin crew career may be the perfect fit. Cabin crew get to fly all over the world -- and all as part of the job! Airlines pay for a hotel room and arrange transportation to and from it for each crew member where necessary when the crew have flown with work. According to flightattendantcareer.com, "Each trip can be like a mini vacation!"
"Flight attendants provide routine services and respond to emergencies to ensure the safety and comfort of airline passengers while aboard planes," according to the BLS. Cabin crew have many different roles and responsibilities, including participating in preflight briefings with pilots; conducting preflight inspections of emergency equipment; demonstrating the use of safety and emergency equipment; ensuring passengers have met safety requirements; serving and selling food and drink; attending to passengers' needs; reassuring passengers during the flight; administering and coordinating emergency medical care as necessary; and providing directions to passengers, including evacuation orders.
In addition to getting paid to travel, other benefits of being a flight attendant include flexible scheduling, seeing the world and interacting with people from all over the globe. Flight attendant Nino Isaac, from Lebanon, shared these words of advice for aspiring cabin crew with Travel and Destinations, "My advice is to take advantage of the benefits this great job can offer. With layovers in hundreds of cities around the world, we have the chance to experience sights, tastes and smells in every corner of the globe. Go to a new city well prepared, read and learn about the new place, and try to come back with experiences that you don't have back home."
7. Civil and military aviation
Civil aviation encompasses all non-military aviation, including both private and commercial flying. The field comprises two major categories: scheduled air transport, which includes all passenger and cargo flights operating on a scheduled basis; and general aviation, which includes all over private and commercial flights.
An International Labor Organization report highlights the critical importance of civil aviation. "Civil aviation has become a major industry in our time. Without air travel, mass international tourism would not exist, nor could global supply chains function. Some 40 percent of high-tech sales depend on good quality air transport, and there is no alternative mode of transport for perishable commodities such as fresh food or cut flowers," it proposes.
If you're interested in an international career, civil aviation may be of particular interest to you due to its inherently global nature.
If civil aviation is one side of the coin, military aviation is the other. This involves the use of military aircraft and other flying machines to conduct aerial warfare.
8. Pilot training
"Airline and commercial pilots fly and navigate airplanes, helicopters, and other aircraft," according to the BLS. Benefits of this line of work include travel, flexible work schedules, and an average median salary of $115,670. Aerotime News Hub recently proposed 10 reasons to consider becoming a pilot, including the thrill of your first solo flight; learning how to make the best decisions; opportunities for career advancement; its addictive and challenging nature; and, of course, the "stunning views".
And then there's the fact that flying is uniquely exhilarating. "Kicking off on the runway at 350 kph, lifting off in an aircraft that weighs 350 to 400 tons, flying for over 10 hours -- carrying over 300 passengers, or over 100 tons of cargo -- and then gently landing at your destination -- there's a distinct thrill in the knowledge that I made all of this happen," senior pilot Captain Han Hee-Seong told CNN.
Another career path aspiring pilots may want to consider is becoming a helicopter pilot. You could be employed by the government or a commercial employer, in sight-seeing, executive transport, offshore support, crop dusting, pipeline and utility support, emergency medical services, or test pilot flying. International helicopter flying jobs are also abundant. "If you have a strong desire to fly for a living but being an airline pilot doesn't appeal to your sense of adventure, becoming a commercial helicopter pilot may be a good career choice. Flying helicopters for a living is more about the joy of flying than about the money, but you should be able to earn an adequate wage as your experience grows," Chron asserts.
9. Flight instruction
Flight instructors teach aspiring pilots how to fly using a combination of classroom instruction, simulators, and live flight instruction. In addition to allowing you to share your knowledge of and passion for flying with others, there's also job security here. After all, as long as there are pilots, there will be flight instructors.
10. Aviation transport
Also called aviation logistics, air transport is a vital part of the global economy. The World Bank says, "Air transport is an important enabler to achieving economic growth and development. Air transport facilitates integration into the global economy and provides vital connectivity on a national, regional, and international scale. It helps generate trade, promote tourism, and create employment opportunities."
The industry is booming, according to IATA, and there is added appeal for those seeking international careers. "By working with one another, learning from each other's cultures and trading openly, we not only create a stronger economic outlook, but we also continue the conditions for peaceful interaction across the globe. Aviation is the key driver for this positive connectivity," the report concludes.
One last thing to keep in mind about aviation careers? While aviation was once primarily the domain of men, industry experts are calling for more women to consider career opportunities in aviation -- starting with but not limited to piloting. Victoria Dunbar, professor of aviation at the Florida Institute of Technology, told Forbes, "There is no particular skill set that a pilot needs that's based on their gender. Aircraft are designed to be flown with light hand controls, so it's not an issue of strength. I believe that men and women are equally capable of being good, safe pilots."
So there is no better time than now to get your studies and career airborne with a qualification in aviation!