Becoming an Aviation Mechanic
Whether you want to get your hands dirty in the engine of an aircraft or want to know what lights up the flight deck, there’s a job in aviation for you.
With the right training and a few exams under your belt, you can enjoy a career in aviation without ever leaving the ground. Aviation mechanics can service different types of aircraft, ranging from commercial planes and private helicopters to satellites and spaceships.
Types of Aircraft Mechanics
Generally referred to as Aviation Maintenance Technicians (AMT), aircraft mechanics can find work not just on traditional airplanes but other aircraft as well. There are, however, different types of training and certifications required to branch out from one specialty. For example, working on the body of an aircraft requires different schooling than working on the electronics of an aircraft. Let’s take a look at some of the specialties in aircraft mechanics.
This training excludes work on engines, propellers, and avionics (electronic systems used in planes, satellites, and space crafts). An airframe mechanic is instead responsible for the structural integrity of the aircraft, including all its moving parts
For those who wish to explore the inner workings of aircraft engines, powerplant mechanics is the right field of study. This includes career path also includes work on ignition and exhaust systems, as well as work on propellers.
Airframe and Powerplant Mechanics (A&P)
These mechanics can do both structural and engine work. Having certifications for both can open up more career opportunities, and give you a better understanding of how aircraft work.
An avionics technician (AT) understands the electronic systems that help aircraft function, such as the instrument panels, the radio, and the auto-pilot. While not required by all potential employers, having an aviation maintenance technician certification can make you more employable as an avionics tech.
Requirements to be an FAA Certified Mechanic
- Must be at least 18 years of age
- In the US, must be able to speak, read, write, and comprehend English
- Must have at least 18 months of experience with airframes or engines or 30 months of experience working on both.
- Pass the written exam
- Pass an oral exam
- Pass a practical exam
The oral exam and practical exam must be administered by a Designated Mechanic Examiner (DME) to be valid. To be eligible for the written exam, your mechanics experience needs to be validated by the FAA. If you’re nervous about passing, you can find practice tests online to help you prepare.
Also, if you don’t pass the first time you can retake your exams. You will, however, need to wait at least 30 days for the retake, and all three exams need to be completed within two years or you’ll have to start the process over again.
Some aviation maintenance school requirements may also include the following:
- High school diploma or equivalent
- Experience working with a certified mechanic at an FAA repair station (18 – 30 months)
- Military work on aircraft that meets specific FAA flight school requirements for admission
What About a Four-Year Degree?
You can also pursue a Bachelor’s Degree related to aviation, such as Aviation Maintenance Science. This degree, and some like it, can prepare you for a job in the aviation or aerospace industry. Depending on what type of aviation degree you obtain, you can have an emphasis in maintenance management, safety science, or avionics cyber technology and security.
Keep in mind that a degree in aviation is supplemental to the FAA-approved Airframe and powerplant certification, or Avionics Technician certification. You can find a list of colleges and universities in the United States with aviation-related degrees by clicking HERE. From Alabama to West Virginia, there are numerous options to bolster your education and prepare you for Aviation Maintenance training.
The courses covered in an aviation and aerospace degree range from general education to specific concentrations such as aircraft familiarization, mathematics for aviation, and fundamentals of electricity. You’ll find much of the same in Aviation Maintenance training courses, whether you study in the United States or elsewhere. For example, in Europe, there is the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Based in Cologne, Germany, EASA could be considered the European equivalent of the FAA. It was founded in 2002 by European Parliament and has jurisdiction in the European Union.
The EASA is responsible for aviation rules and inspections, as well as safety certificates and data collection to ensure the standards of flying are upheld by all within the industry. Much like in the United States, the EASA modules of study include mathematics, physics, maintenance practices, the study of aerodynamics, and aviation legislation.
You can find a list of Aviation Maintenance schools in the United States by clicking HERE. This website has compiled only FAA-approved institutions. If you decide to attend a college or university after already earning an AMT certification, ask about having the credits applied to the aviation degree you’re pursuing. Keep in mind that certifying in one nation does not always translate to having a certification in another.
Job Outlook for Aircraft Mechanics
Depending on whether you work as an aircraft or avionics technician, you have a pretty good job outlook in the United States as an aircraft mechanic of some kind.
- 2020 Median Pay for Aircraft Mechanics – $66,440
- 2020 Median Pay for Avionics Technicians – $67,840
- Number of Jobs in 2019 – 160,000, with 5% projected growth until 2029
The top five states with the most aircraft mechanics technician jobs (as of 2020) are:
The states with the highest number of avionics technician jobs (as of 2020) are:
The varying costs of living in each state can affect the salary range, with some of the highest annual wages reaching $89,000+ for AMTs (Rhode Island), and $93,000 for ATs (California).
Whether you’re motivated by the ever-changing challenges of the job, the wage, or both, it could be worth it to get an education in aviation mechanics and pursue a career in the industry.