Recent studies show there are less aviation students enrolled, but more opportunities for them in a variety of jobs. Interest in pursuing a career in aviation has not waned. This is all good news if you are a prospective aviation student looking to enroll in a program today.

Flight schools are partnering with regional airlines and creating partnerships to attend to the needs of their students. A recent report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) shows, “More than 73% of respondents expect the major areas of job growth to be in ground operations, customer service and cabin crew.” In the field of aviation, human resource managers are looking for highly qualified individuals for staffing, planning, training opportunities, and other areas of focus as the aviation industry grows and develops over time. 

“There was a pilot for a major airline here the other day with his son and he said they’re losing about 1,000 pilots a year,” said Lance Fortney, Flight School Manager at Oklahoma State University. “The point is, they’re losing pilots faster than we can produce them. When I say we, I don’t just mean Oklahoma State University, I mean all pilot programs across the country.” This increase in demand for the piloting industry means the job market is promising for college graduates looking to enter the workforce immediately after graduating. Still interested in becoming an aviation student? Here are some more extensive details and opportunities to consider as you search for the perfect program...

1. Become an aerospace engineer

That old catchphrase 'it’s not rocket science' is not applicable to aerospace engineers. Highly sought after, skilled and analytically trained, aerospace engineers provide essential knowledge and expertise in the field of aviation. If you like mathematics, materials, problem-solving, and concept design, aerospace engineering could be the career for you. It is the process of designing, creating, building, and manufacturing anything that flies -- so not just aircraft, but helicopters, spaceships, and more. This specialty is divided into two branches: aeronautical (flying within Earth’s atmosphere) and astronautical (flying beyond our atmosphere, or space travel). 

Whichever branch appeals to you, becoming an aerospace engineer is a challenging and rewarding career path. According to the UK's National Career Service, applicants will want to consider a foundational education in one of the following subjects: electrical or electronic engineering; mechanical engineering; manufacturing or product engineering; software engineering; mathematics; physics or applied physics. As an aerospace engineer you’ll likely have a lot of crossover experience working in the tech industry and might be working on the forefront of some of the most cutting-edge projects. 

2. It’s a dynamic, changing industry

If you decide to become an aviation student, you’ll be entering into a field and industry that is dynamic and constantly changing. Kashyap Vyas writes in InterestingEngineer.com, “Aviation is a field that is going to witness many changes moving forward. In 2018, Airbus tested a solar aircraft that stayed in flight for 28 days. The prototype is not capable of carrying any passenger load, but this is a step in the right direction. As the industry booms, they are going to need engineers to take the helm of different tasks, in other words, more job opportunities.”

One fascinating example of the dynamic nature of the aviation field is recent trends towards developments in autonomous flight systems, which some claim might be the future of aviation. “To develop fully autonomous aircraft, engineers will need to perform closed-loop simulations between the sensors, control software and intelligent algorithms. Virtual realities and multiphysics simulation will be the only ways to test these autonomous flight systems to react to all possible situations in a reasonable timeframe,” writes Paolo Colombo for Ansys.com.

3. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI)

Imagine talking to robots, getting into your automated flying car and reading the newspaper on the way to work...Well, science fiction might become reality -- and, whether working as cabin crew, a pilot, an engineer, aviation manager, on any other part of the aviation industry, you could be part of history! 

There's no doubt AI is one of the fastest-growing and evolving tech fields today, so it’s no surprise that these advances are spilling over into the aviation field; in fact, some of the technology originates from or is driven by the aviation industry. “Artificial intelligence in aviation market is expected to reach 2209.03 million USD by 2025, from 110.4 million in 2017, growing at a CAGR of 45.4% during the forecast period of 2019 - 2025,” according to recent data from The Chicago Sentinel. These increases will be reflected in the aviation field and you won’t want to miss your opportunity to join an organization or company working on developments in this red-hot field.  

4. Changes in aircraft fabrication 

Since the Wright brothers’ launch of the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered aircraft, the Wright Flyer, on December 17 1903, in North Carolina, so aircraft fabrication has changed. Recent trends are showing commercial airplanes are becoming smaller, allowing them to fly further. “The airlines are very excited about this, of course, because it means they can fly routes that might not have been viable in the past.

"If a flight between, say, Pittsburgh and Bergen, Norway would have a demand for about a hundred people a day, it makes no sense to use a 400-seat widebody 777. Up until recently, people traveling between those cities would get routed through Chicago and London instead,” writes Gabriel Leigh for Forbes.com. Some consumers might think smaller plans means being more cramped, but what really matters is the layout and the design on the inside. Moreover, this makes economic sense for airlines, avoids frustrating flight transfers for passengers, and is, generally speaking, less environmentally damaging (since an aircraft is traveling the minimum distance between A and B and take-off and landing account for a disproportionately high amount of a flight's emissions). So, a win-win-win! 

Additional changes in aircraft fabrication reflect the trends towards AI and automation. The cockpit is beginning to fully integrate AI into its system for a variety of reasons. André Cléroux, Thales' ​Avionic Functions Product Line Director, says, “Artificial intelligence in the cockpit is the key enabler for the digital transition of aviation. That is because of its role in assuring safety in increasingly complex aircraft flying crowded skies, from the way the plane maneuvers to its preventive maintenance. AI in the cockpit is also the key to assuring better routing and precision air traffic management. Linked with tomorrow’s permanent connectivity of the aircraft, Artificial intelligence in the cockpit will be a critical hub in equally-automated Air Traffic Control.” So AI might be the way to really launch your career in aviation! Learning to code is a good place to start.

It’s a common misconception that ‘autopilot’ means there’s a robot in the driver’s seat. “Autopilot isn't as "auto" as you might think. There's no robot that sits in the pilot seat and mashes buttons while the real pilot takes a nap. It's just a flight-control system that allows a pilot to fly an airplane without continuous hands-on control,” says Business Insider.com.

What’s important for you to take note of as a future aviation student, is that you’ll want to become familiar with different systems and multiple ways of thinking about doing tasks. In this case, you would learn to manually fly an aircraft, hone, and develop those skills over time, while simultaneously developing an integrated flying practice that includes use of the autopilot feature. Learning to navigate these changing developments in aircraft fabrication and technology will set you up for success.

5. Climate change is on the agenda

Finally, if you are interested in the future of aviation, you will also want to pay attention to climate change, a phenomenon aviation is a significant contributor to. The good news is investors are looking for new ways and new green technologies to reduce flying's overall impact on the environment. So there are opportunities in the industry for those interested in not only aviation but environmentalism.

For example, the call for greener technology is driving the developments of the electric and hybrid engines that could eventually make their way into aircraft. Paolo Colombo reports for Ansys.com, “Aerospace thought leaders are highlighting the need to preserve the environment and follow regulations, while boosting the performance of aircraft engines. In other words, aircraft engines need to output more power while consuming less fuel, producing less noise and releasing less emissions. To achieve this goal, the aerospace industry is enhancing the efficiency of combustion engines, while also exploring electric and hybrid propulsion systems.”

Norwegian Air is one such company. It claims that over the last ten years it has cut its emissions by 30% per passenger kilometer, and it recently became the first airline to sign the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) pledge, committing to be climate neutral by 2050. Also, electric aviation companies are popping up and you can join their teams and develop and contribute to the future of high tech electric aircraft.

“I have often been asked what I think about at the moment of take-off. Of course, no pilot sits and feels his pulse as he flies. He has to be part of the machine. If he thinks of anything but the task in hand, then trouble is probably around the corner,” said Amelia Earhart. Whether you want to become the next visionary aviator emulating Amelia Earhart, or find solutions to aviation’s toughest new technology hurdles, there are many routes to help your aviation career take off!