Five Exciting – And Potentially Lucrative – Aviation Careers

Aviation offers a diverse variety of careers in exciting and challenging environments.

Aviation Jobs Air Traffic Controllers

Aviation Jobs Air Traffic Controllers

The aviation industry offers a diverse variety of career opportunities, including many paths that may not seem immediately obvious. Below are some lesser-known aviation careers that not only offer exciting and challenging work environments, but may also prove to be particularly lucrative for those just starting out in the industry.

Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Pilot - Heading this list is the category that may prove to be the fastest-growing aviation segment in coming years. Once the sole provenance of the government and military, commercial interest in UAS is growing for a wide range of potential missions, from pipeline inspection and weather monitoring, to news reporting and wedding photography. Starting salaries may begin as high as $50,000 in some fields, with at least one UAS training school advertising the potential for experienced pilots to earn more than $200,000. There is a catch, however; full-scale commercial operations cannot begin until the FAA approves a regulatory framework to integrate UAS into national airspace, which may not happen for a few more years.

Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) Mechanic - Perhaps your aviation interests lie not with ascending into the clouds, but instead with the machinery that makes such flights possible. A&Ps (also known as aircraft maintenance technicians, a title that better describes modern requirements) are in strong demand as the current workforce approaches retirement age. Additionally, technological leaps in aircraft systems and electronics mean an ever-increasing need for persons familiar with electrical wiring, computers, and app-based programming. Starting annual salaries in the $15,000 to $25,000 range may not sound attractive, but experienced A&Ps may earn more than $85,000, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, and the field offers tremendous opportunities for rapid advancement throughout the industry.

Air Traffic Controller - Those seeking an exciting, fast-paced work environment — and the ability to retire well before their 60th birthday — may consider a career in ATC. The FAA needs as many as 10,000 controllers in the next 10 years, including more than 6,000 before 2020. No aviation experience is required, though applicants must have a Bachelor's degree and/or three years of work experience. Trainees will not make very much to start — less than $20,000 annually — but that climbs to more than $37,000 per year once placed in a control facility, with the median ATC salary above $122,000. Be prepared to move around the country too, as controllers are frequently reassigned to other facilities as coverage is needed.

Aerospace Engineers - Are you mathematically inclined, computer literate and have a flair for visualizing complex structures? The fields of aviation and aerospace engineering offer the opportunity to not only help design the next generation of aircraft and space vehicles, but also the potential of seeing your design actually take to the sky — or space. According to BLS data, the median annual wage for aerospace engineers was $103,720 in May 2012.

International Pilot - U.S. carriers aren't the only ones in need of new pilots; airlines around the globe are also seeking qualified candidates, and persons willing to relocate overseas may find working for an international carrier like Qantas, Cathay Pacific, or Emirates quite appealing. First officers at Emirates start out at approximately $6,900 USD per month, plus flight pay, all while flying some of the newest and most advanced aircraft types available; salaries for senior captains may exceed $200,000.

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