Becoming an avionics technician is a great move for college students seeking a well-paid, hands-on STEM career without extensive education. Avionics technicians are skilled mechanics who install and repair the electronics equipment on planes. It’s their duty to protect our skies by keeping high-tech aircraft mechanical systems running smoothly. Avionics technicians use complex flight data to diagnose and then remedy electronic errors. From nose to tail, these detail-oriented technicians ensure that all electrical controls are properly working. In May 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics counted 18,860 avionics technicians nationwide. Most work for aerospace manufacturers, airlines, airports, or the federal government. New avionics technicians have a bright job outlook because employment will grow 5 percent by 2026. Therefore, let’s explore how to become an avionics technician.
Study Avionics at an Accredited Trade School
First, high school graduates or GED recipients must pursue post-secondary education. Most avionics technicians attend a trade school or junior college for an associate degree. Associates build a two-year, career-oriented curriculum of 60 to 70 semester credits. Community colleges grant an Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) with open admission. Majoring in aviation, aircraft maintenance, aviation technology, or similar disciplines is critical. Some institutions, such as Vaughn College, Spartan College, Guilford Technical College, Redstone College, and San Bernardino Valley College, specifically have avionics degrees. Ensure that any chosen school has regional or national accreditation recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Look for programs that integrate real-world aircraft experience with co-ops like Lockheed Martin, JetBlue, or Boeing too.
Apply for a Federal Aviation Administration License
Next, associate grads must fulfill the requirements for getting licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration. Licensure proves one’s qualifications for doing repairs or maintenance on complex airplanes, satellites, and spacecraft. Finishing a Part 147 FAA-approved technician program is only one component. New licensees must be at least age 18 and fluent in English. Proving U.S. citizenship or legal residence is mandated. Applicants must have 18 months of practical, supervised experience with airframes or power plants. Scoring satisfactorily on a three-part test is also necessary. Local FAA offices deliver this required written, oral, and practical exam in eight hours total. Avionics technicians are tested on 43 subjects from cabin atmosphere control systems to pneumatic power systems.
Consider Pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation
Of course, students are ready to become an avionics technician after the above two steps. Going the extra mile for a baccalaureate can be highly beneficial though. That’s because avionics technicians with bachelor’s degrees have upward mobility into higher jobs. Becoming a lead aircraft mechanic, shop supervisor, aerospace engineer, or aviation manager is possible. Bachelor’s programs follow a four-year schedule of 120 or more semester credits. Accredited associate degrees will transfer 60+ credits to minimize the degree completion time. Popular schools with avionics bachelor’s include Kansas State University Salina, Southern Illinois University, Embry-Riddle University, Liberty University, and Vaughn College. Already FAA-licensed avionics technicians can typically finish their bachelor’s online while working. Doing so would help mechanics add ASTM International certification and endorsements.
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Avionics technicians play a pivotal role in making sure planes safely transport hundreds of passengers without a glitch. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports that there are 43,000 flights taking off with 2.6 million souls onboard each day. Given that, technicians are increasingly needed to power up radar, radio, navigation, and other electronic systems for pilots. According to the BLS, avionics technicians are rewarded with average yearly pay of $65,330, or $31.41 per hour. Use this flight plan to plot a successful course and become an avionics technician.