How Competitive Is the Field of Avionics?

How Competitive Is the Field of Avionics?

Avionics is a highly specialized skill within the transportation field. This important job greatly enhances passenger safety rates, for small and large aircraft. Aircraft mechanics perform rigorous inspections, using standards and schedules mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Some avionics technicians also perform preventive maintenance, to avoid mechanical failures and minimize unscheduled down time for aircraft. All licensed aircraft must also have regular repairs and routine maintenance on a schedule that the FAA determines, based on size and type of service.

The FAA's certifications for aircraft mechanics fall into three main categories, avionics, airframe, and powerplant. Avionics technicians cannot work on engines, brakes, or mechanical systems, unless they have been cross-trained and certified as airframe or powerplant mechanics. Most are qualified to work on specific parts of an airplane related to navigation, communications, radar, and flight control systems. In some cases, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) must also license avionics technicians, before being certified. These jobs require in-depth knowledge of electronic systems, as well.

A high school diploma is the minimum educational qualification for pursuing entry-level jobs and apprenticeships. The FAA still allows avionics technicians to pursue certification through on-the-job training, under a certified mechanic. This option takes 18-24 months of training and passing the licensure exam. To enter this field, many aircraft maintenance technicians take classes leading to an associate or a bachelor's degree. Currently, there are nearly 200 schools where students can gain the education and skills needed for jobs in avionics. In the United States, all the schools that award these degrees must have a curriculum that meets Federal Aviation Administration approval.

These schools are required to offer 1,900 classroom hours, at minimum. Hands-on experience with appropriate systems and equipment must be part of the program. Chemistry, mathematics, physics, mechanical drawing, and computer science classes are also part of the course of study. Due to the nature of modern aircraft construction, most schools in the U.S. emphasize electronics courses. Command of the English language is necessary because all avionic mechanics must prepare written reports on all aircraft inspections, maintenance, and repairs. Avionics technicians must have the tools needed to perform their jobs.

Job opportunities will increase in the near future for people who have completed the bachelor's degree program and passed the licensure examination. FAA repair facilities, smaller regional airports, and aviation contractors offer the best entry points for jobs. Competition for jobs at airlines and major airports is intense because these positions offer better pay and benefits. Keeping an avionics technician license requires several hours of additional training every two years.

With approximately 16, 000 positions currently, jobs for avionics will increase by eight percent annually, during the next 10 years. This is average for the aviation industry. It employs approximately 150,000 mechanics in all categories. Most new job opportunities will result from baby boomer retirement. An FAA airframe and powerplant (A&P) aviation mechanics license improves career options for avionics technicians. After holding the A&P certificate for three years and attaining two years of hands-on experience, avionics technicians can become authorized aircraft inspectors. Additional education can lead to certification as aviation, electrical, or communication engineers, aviation careers with expanded job options and higher salaries.