Avionics technicians belong to a workforce made up of more than 16,000 professionals working in a variety of sectors ranging from air transportation to education. Avionics technicians are mainly responsible for the maintenance and repair of major components of aircraft such as radio communication, weather radar systems, navigation systems, and anti-collision equipment. These individuals also maintain and repair all computers used in flight and they are also skilled at developing and analyzing solutions to electronic problems. An average day in the life of an avionics technician might include working on aircraft systems in a hangar or other outdoor area, lifting heavy objects, or instructing subordinates.
Because avionics technicians have advanced and specialized mechanical and technical skills, the path from student to professional avionics technician can be quite challenging. This does not mean it is not worth the effort. The avionics technician field is stable, growing, and financially rewarding. According to JIST Works, avionics technicians earn an average salary of around $49,010 per year and top earners earn around $63,090 per year. And according to CollegeDegreeReport.com, this industry is expected to experience a 13.4% increase in job growth by 2016, while many other industries will experience little to no growth over the next several years.
To begin your journey from student to professional avionics technician, you should start by enrolling in a FAA certified trade school, an associate degree program or a bachelor's degree program. It is important to note that while an associate or bachelor's degree are not required for entry into this field, many employer's look favorably on individuals with a degree in avionics or aviation technology. Currently, 25% of all avionics technicians hold an associate degree, while 29.2% have some college experience, but no degree.
There are 170 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certified trade schools located across the U.S. To find a school in your area, visit the FAA website by following the link at bottom of this article. The FAA website lists all accredited schools and programs along with the contact information. Once you have reviewed several programs’ offerings, you should select the program that best suits your interests. For example, if you prefer to focus on management, you should enroll in a maintenance management program. If you are not interested in managing, choose a certificate or degree in avionics or aviation technology.
Once you have chosen a program of study, you can expect to take courses ranging from introduction to air transportation and flight operations to aviation law. Aviation maintenance management students will take many of the same courses as avionics or aviation technology students in addition to a number of business courses. These may include introduction to operations management, business statistics, end-user computing, legal environment of business, and organizational behavior. During your program, it is important that you maintain a high GPA in order to take the oral and written exam to obtain certification as a FAA mechanic. All avionics technicians must obtain a FAA mechanics’ certificate in order to practice in this profession.
To obtain FAA certification, visit the official FAA website to download an application. If your application for certification is accepted, you will be required to successfully pass the written and oral exams. In addition, you will have to submit to drug and background tests. Once you have your certification in hand, it’s time to begin your job search. Depending on your focus area, you should search for positions in: air transportation, transportation equipment manufacturing, repair and maintenance, federal, state and local government or education. You can check airline websites, big and small, for job postings as well as sites such as USAJobs.gov (the official job site of the U.S. Federal Government), Indeed.com, or Monster.com.
Most avionics technicians work around 40 hours per week, while around 15.2% of the workforce works part-time. Technicians spend a sizable portion of time working in large open spaces, lifting heavy objects up to 70 pounds and kneeling, standing and lying in awkward positions when repairing equipment. So, in addition to technical and mechanical skills, you must be physically fit to keep up with the physical demands of this career.