Aircraft Maintenance Technicians
Schools and Education
|Recommended Degree Level||Certificate or Higher|
|Number of Jobs, 2012||119,160|
|Annual Job Growth Rate||3.5%|
|Job Openings per Year (est.)||4,520|
What's Needed: Most training for someone entering the aircraft maintenance field as a technician takes place at a school approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). These schools typically offer certificates and two or four-year degrees in avionics, aviation technology or aviation maintenance management. Increasingly, employers favor those with a bachelor's degree. Most programs take from 18 to 24 months to complete. Graduates from approved FAA programs can take the vital FAA certification exams.
What you study: Studies usually include:
- Pneumatic, hydraulic and landing gear systems
- Aircraft inspection of wood, sheet metal and non-metallic structures
- Ignition, lubrication and powerplant fuel systems
- Warning and utility systems
- Electrical instruments
- Engine installation and inspection
- Aircraft electricity, fluid lines and fittings
- Aircraft materials and control corrosion
Gives an short introduction to the work of aircraft engine mechanics. Created for the US Dept of Labor.
Here is a selection of top US schools for aircraft maintenance studies as measured by the number of recent graduates:
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida: The school also has a main location in Prescott, AZ and over 150 other training centers and teaching locations throughout the world. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University also provides online education.
Embry-Riddle offers associate and bachelor's degrees in aviation maintenance science. The associate degree program prepares students to take the FAA Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic's certification exam. The bachelor's degree program provides concentrations in maintenance management, aerospace electronics and flight.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University was included in the U.S. News & World Report 2011 Best Colleges list. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University provides FAA approved programs.
Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania: The school has three campuses and three learning centers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. The institute provides an associate degree and a diploma in aviation maintenance technician. Graduates from both programs are eligible to take the Airframe and Powerplant Mechanic's certification exam.
Tarrant County College Fort Worth, Texas: Offers the following degree programs: AAS Airframe Maintenance/Electronics; AAS Aviation Maintenance Technology; certificate in Aircraft Electronics Line Maintenance; certificate in Aviation Maintenance Technology Airframe; and a certificate in Aviation Maintenance Technology Powerplant.
Tarrant County College has $3 million in training equipment and 5 FAA designated mechanics examiners. The college has a 90 percent student placement in the job force. The aircraft maintenance program is FAA approved.
Portland Community College, Portland, Oregon: Provides the following programs: Associate of Applied Science Degree Aviation Maintenance Technology; two-year certificate in Aviation Maintenance Technology; one-year certificate in Aviation Maintenance technology: Airframe; and a one-year certificate in Aviation Maintenance Technology: Powerplant.
The programs prepare students to take national exams with the Federal Aviation Administration. The classes average 50 percent lab and 50 percent lecture. The school reports its programs cost less than one-third the cost of many aviation maintenance programs at other technology schools. The programs are certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
In 2011 The Aviation Maintenance Technology program had a 92 percent placement rate for the Pittsburgh program. The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Tips for Selecting a School
- Accreditation: In this field it's very important to graduate from an FAA accredited program. The FAA has approved about 170 schools to train aviation maintenance technicians.
- Equipment: Does the program provide state-of-the-art software, tools and equipment? For example Tarrant County College has invested in $3 million in training equipment for its students.
- Curriculum: Look for aviation schools providing FAA certification prep courses in airframe mechanics and powerplant mechanics. Also, look for schools providing a strong focus on computer technology as increasingly this technology is embedded in aircraft systems.
- Job placement: Does the school provide job placement services? What percent of graduates obtain jobs in aircraft maintenance? For example, Tarrant County College reports a 90 percent placement in the job force.
- Breadth of offerings: Programs vary from certificates to Associate in Aviation Technology degrees to Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance Technology degrees. A school that offers the option to advance from one type of award to the next can simplify progressing in your education to potentially more valuable degree levels. A school like Embry-Riddle is an example of one with this range of aircraft maintenance offerings.
- Certification pass rates: What percentage of graduates pass the FAA tests the first time? For example, Chaffey College has reported a 100 percent first time pass rate on FAA tests in Airframe and Powerplant, as tracked by the FAA.
- Reputation:Ask prospective employers if they hire graduates from the schools you're considering. For instance Embry-Riddle notes that the airlines hire more of its graduates than from any other school. You might ask for a recommendation, for example, from an airline maintenance manager for a school.
A Day in the Life
As an aircraft mechanic you might be helping to ensure the safety and efficiency of many different types of "flying machines" -- such as jets, propeller-driven airplains, and helicopters. Or you might focus your expertise on one or more subsystems -- like the engine, hydraulic, or electrical.
You may work on airplanes in a hangar or on a ramp. On a daily basis you might be involved in completing engine changes, trouble-shooting, replacing systems, inspecting aircraft, testing aircraft and partially dismantling aircraft as well as filling out log books.
Your tools for this trade can range from hand tools to power tools to very sophisticated test equipment. You'll often be working under a deadline to ready aircraft for scheduled flights.
Aircraft maintenance technicians typically work as part of a team. You'll typically work 40 hours a week. You'll spend very little if anytime at a desk. At times, the job can be physically demanding; sometimes you may be climbing ladders or crawling under equipment. At times noise levels can be very high -- you'll obviously be wearing hearing protection.
Certifications and Licensing
The Federal Aviation Administration requires aircraft maintenance be performed by FAA-certified mechanics or under the supervision of a certified mechanic.
You can substitute the completion of a FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician School program for the 30 month experience requirement. Prospective aircraft maintenance technicians must pass written, oral and practical exams.
Full-time versus part-time: Aircraft maintenance mechanics usually work full-time on rotating 8-hour shifts. They commonly work overtime and on weekends. Aircraft maintenance mechanics with the most seniority typically get the day shifts.
Work location: They typically work in hangars, repair stations and airfields. Many aircraft maintenance technicians work near major airports.
Shown below are a few websites we consider the best resources for researching aircraft maintenance careers:
- US Department of Labor Occupational Handbook is an excellent reference for a broad range of aircraft maintenance technician information.
- Federal Aviation Administration provides important information about licenses and certificates and training and testing.
- Professional Aviation Maintenance Association provides useful information about job opportunities and informative articles about building a career.