Top 4 Entry-Level Aviation and Airport Operation Jobs
There’s no denying the aviation sector is one of the coolest out there. Aircraft — whether commercial, private, or military — are meticulous feats of engineering that have shrunk the world and have changed society. Millions of people and tons of cargo board aircraft each day, and so many different types of skills are responsible for piloting, maintaining and managing them.
Naturally, a job in aviation will often take place at an airport, airfield, or aircraft hangar, depending on the type of job. There are plenty of benefits of a career in aviation. You're helping people and much needed cargo travel from destination to destination.
Finding work in airport operations isn’t as difficult as it may seem. We spoke with Senior Account Executive Kevin Fujimoto to learn what entry-level roles are in demand. He has over 20 years of experience in staffing and has helped many job seekers find opportunities in the industry.
“Aviation and airports operations continues to be an industry that is always hiring. With looming retirements, and not enough people getting trained on flying planes and wrenching on them, the pay is good — and there is always room for advancement,” says Fujimoto.
As commercial and cargo flights continue to experience growing demand, these are four entry-level jobs you should keep on your radar.
What are the top Aviation and Airport Operations jobs?
Ramp agents are personnel on the tarmac of the airport that support aircraft operations. They assist with transporting and loading luggage into the airplane. They also assist the pilot from the ground by navigating the aircraft away from the terminal and onto the runway. Ramp agents may perform maintenance tasks like cleaning the cabin or washing windows. They’ll work on a team and interact with pilots, crew members, and airport personnel to coordinate the airplanes leaving the terminal.
Material HandlersMaterial handlers have a similar role to ramp agents. They work on the tarmac, the “floor” of the airport. They’re responsible for loading and unloading cargo onto the planes. Where they differ from ramp agents is the type of cargo. Ramp agents usually load and unload passengers’ luggage and belongings. Material handlers may move cargo for commercial planes and logistics companies. They are also familiar with handling different types of materials and products, which could require special training.
Like most big things — cars, machinery, that new couch from Ikea — aircraft are built in sections. Different companies produce different components, like the wings, fuselage or seats. These are then assembled and connected to one airframe to form the finished aircraft. Assemblers work in the early stages of production to help create this equipment. They need to understand blueprints, follow instructions and be familiar with common hand tools.
Line Service Technicians
Guiding departing and arriving airplanes is a group effort. Line service technicians are responsible for escorting planes to and from the gate. These technicians also check fluids like gas and water. They may also handle baggage and help clean the plane.
What to know before applying to Aviation and Airport Operations jobs
While the aviation sector is an interesting industry, it isn't for everyone. If you’re working on the tarmac as a ramp agent or line service technician, you’ll be around noisy aircraft all day and will work even in cold or rainy weather if flights are still permitted. And many airports operate around the clock, so you might have to prepare for some very late or very early shifts. Keep in mind that the work of being a ramp agent or material handler can be very physically demanding.
“The airports ops and aviation industry never sleeps — so the airport always has something going on. Whether it is cargo or people, airplanes are always coming and going,” says Fujimoto.
How much do entry-level Aviation and Airport Operations jobs pay?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the range of median annual pay is $34,000 to $43,000 for the roles above.
While pay range is competitive with other entry-level positions, some airport operations jobs offer additional benefits.
“The benefits range from flight benefits where people that work for the airlines get to fly for free to all of their destinations, so that is very cool,” says Fujimoto.
How to advance to a more skilled Aviation and Airport Operations job
There are many ways to advance to more skilled roles in all four of these jobs. With ramp agents and material handlers, there’s the opportunity to move up to becoming a manager. In this role, you’re responsible for leading and directing teams of handlers on the tarmac. Assemblers can also move into management if they like. Or they can focus on assembling and working on more specialized aircraft, like private jets or military equipment.
If you’re interested in starting a skilled trades career in aviation and airport operations, Fujimoto recommends attaining an Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) certificate.
“The easiest way is to start with a two-year vocational school to get your A&P license. That is the golden ticket to the start of your career,” says Fujimoto.
The demand for aviation and airport operations workers is growing. Those interested in starting a career in these industries have several ways to get their foot in the door. Job seekers interested in a long-term career in aviation can explore the skilled trade opportunities this industry offers.
“I’d again emphasize the importance of attaining an A&P certificate if you’re interested in the skilled trades. Also start volunteering at a general aviation shop, or a smaller regional airport where you can start to work on airplanes and get trained while going to school. It is very refreshing to see some of the folks that I talked to in school years ago, that are now directors or even vice president of maintenance at a lot of great companies,” says Fujimoto.
When you’re ready to find work in aviation and airport operations, , visit our job board to start your research.