Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Best Aviation Careers!

Which one will you choose?

Best Aviation CareersDo you catch yourself gazing skyward when you hear an airplane flying overhead? If you find yourself irresistibly drawn toward aviation, then why not consider making it your career?



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Ken Polovitz, a private pilot who has been involved with collegiate aviation for more than 20 years, is Assistant Dean of Student Services at the University of North Dakota—Aerospace. Polovitz declares, “In our 40-year history, it’s just unbelievable—we’ve never seen it like this, as far as job opportunities. There’s never been a better time to look at careers in aviation, whether you’re looking at professional flight, management opportunities or air traffic control. And it’ll only get better, as far as the salaries and benefits, because it’ll have to—there’s always a lag time, but I think we’re really embarking on some interesting times in this industry. Along with that comes a cautionary ‘however;’ you still have to take the steps, do well, work hard and, at this point, if you’re looking to make a lot of money fast in this industry, it’s not there—that’s the reality of today; but it will get better.”

Lisa Scott Kollar graduated from Embry-Riddle’s professional four-year pilot program, Aeronautical Science, and is now Executive Director of Career Services for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She agrees that the outlook is positive for aviation and aerospace careers, and shares these encouraging words: “Employers are looking for very bright, well-rounded individuals who can take a leadership role and also contribute as a team member. They want students who maintain good GPAs, who gain practical work experience through cooperative education and internships. Young people need to take ownership and responsibility for their career paths and demonstrate personal initiative by taking advantage of self-assessments and all available resources. In addition, students need to conduct their own research so they can get the best education and training and earn the certifications that they need to obtain their goals. And based on my experience, I would like to see more women interested in having a career in aviation and aerospace—there are wonderful opportunities available, and it’s exciting to go out and accomplish things that people don’t get to do on a regular basis!”

Plane & Pilot recently surveyed schools throughout the country with aviation-related programs, and has compiled a list of the “Top 10 Aviation Careers.” These careers soared to the top of our list because they represent lucrative salaries, good working schedules, stimulating challenges, potential growth opportunities, and an interesting variety of positions and geographical locations—all with a projected increase in the number of positions becoming available during the next decade. We’ve also considered the time and financial resources required for entry into these positions, which are as follows:

1. Pilot (airline, corporate, charter, fractional ownership, air taxi, flight instructor, military, test pilot)
Airline pilots begin their careers with the regionals and may move on to the majors; commercial pilots usually have a lower experience threshold before hiring—and commercial opportunities are growing; and flight instructors often build time to qualify for another pilot career. Military pilots may see fewer opportunities in the future if unmanned aerial vehicles become prevalent in military operations.
Salary range: $15,000–$200,000

2. Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic

Mechanics must be federally certified and are responsible for maintaining aircraft in airworthy and safe operating condition. They may work with jet or reciprocating engines and airframes constructed from sheet metal or composite materials.
Salary range: $25,000–$80,000

3. Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers may work in a high-pressure environment and specialize in ground, departure or en route control as they direct the flow of air traffic. A controller must be federally certified, know federal regulations and be able to quickly implement emergency procedures if necessary.
Salary range: $58,000–$139,000


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