4 Keys to Starting a Career in Aviation

Closeup of airplane engine in a hangar

What’s that, up in the air? Is it a bird? A plane? Your career prospects? Maybe.

Aviation is a great industry to get started in, with demand for qualified workers likely to stay at its current rate for the foreseeable future, even while baby boomers retire. You can take advantage of the aviation industry’s growth opportunities as long as you don’t let the term “qualified workers” slow you down.

The good news is, you don’t have to be a super hero to have a super career in aviation. There are a lot of ways to get your foot in the door, and plenty of ways to get ahead once you’re on the inside.

To get a sense of how this exciting field works, we talked to Aerotek aviation staffing experts Julie Lewis and Josh Rainey about what they’ve been seeing in aviation hiring. Here are some trends that emerged:

Take wing

Not every town is an aviation hotbed, and opportunities can shift from area to area over time. For this reason, Aerotek Professional Recruiter Josh Rainey recommends, “Sometimes, if you want to have a long and productive career in aviation, if you want to advance into higher level positions within aviation, you have to be mobile. You have to be flexible, and able to relocate depending on the demands of the job.”

Of course, not everybody is willing to relocate. The key is finding the best opportunity for your comfort level. Aerotek Senior Professional Account Recruiting Manager Julie Lewis explains, “If someone has a goal of working for airlines, they should be comfortable working in cities where there are airline stations. If not, there are still opportunities, but in that case they should look at what kind of FAA Part 145 repair stations, MRO’s [Maintenance, Repair, & Overhaul] or other types of aviation opportunities would be in the areas where they do want to live.”

Know before you go

Aviation salaries vary a lot by geographic area. And of course cost of living changes a lot depending on where you live. A dollar in San Francisco gets you less than half of the buying power it gets you in Birmingham, Alabama, so when you see an average salary that looks nice, make sure you know the market you’re looking at.

Lewis says, “When I’m recruiting candidates, I encourage people to use cost of living adjustment calculators, and really go in and look at what kinds of housing they would be able to afford. Also, to factor in things like state taxes that can change a lot from place to place. You want to know as much as you can before jumping into a decision.”

Certification is the name of the game

Many aviation jobs require certifications. Good thing, too. You probably wouldn’t want to ride in an airplane that was put together by people with uncertified skills. Certifications also serve an important function for people in the aviation business: they open doors.

Rainey explains the benefits of certifications: “You have more opportunities, there are more jobs you qualify for, and because more of those jobs are going to be paying higher, that’s how you earn more money over the course of your career.”

For information about what licenses and certifications are the best fit for your goals, contact an Aerotek specialist, or look through the various certifications available through the FAA.

You gotta start somewhere

There are also entry-level jobs in aviation that may not require industry-specific certifications. It’s often easier to grow within a career than break in from the outside, and aviation is no different. The key is to emphasize similar experience.

Julie Lewis suggests, “I would say if you’re trying to get into aviation, getting a foot in the door is key. For entry-level positions with skills like welding or sheet metal mechanic, in positions where the A&P [Airframe and Powerplant] license isn’t required, they’ll be looking for someone that maybe has mechanical experience, for instance with automobiles or motorcycles.”

Could you use a little help getting your foot in the door?

Talk with an Aerotek recruiter to see how they can work with you. And if you’re looking for a job, visit our job board to find your next great opportunity. Create a free career account today to customize your search.