How to Become an
Best Education Tracks, Key Skills, and Top Certifications
If your dream is to become an aircraft mechanic, you need to learn everything there is to know about the career path, starting from education. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to spend the best years of your youth studying to get the knowledge and certifications you need to pursue a career as an aircraft mechanic.
The training is intensive and requires your complete attention, but you should be ready to land your first job in two to four years. Keep reading to learn the cost, educational pathways, and skills required for a job as an aircraft mechanic.
What Is an Aircraft Mechanic?
An aircraft mechanic is a maintenance technician who is responsible for ensuring that aircraft are in perfect condition. They handle repairs, routine maintenance and put preventive measures in place for helicopters and airplanes. In the United States, these experts are known as aircraft maintenance technicians (AMTs).
As a certified AMT, you will work on aircraft brakes, engines, landing gear, and air-conditioning systems, among other things. If you naturally love hands-on jobs and are always curious about how things work, you might have what it takes to be an AMT.
What Type of School Should You Attend
to Become an Aircraft Mechanic?
There are different educational routes to take for prospective AMTs. Whatever you choose, make sure the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approves it. That is the only way you will get certified. This certification is necessary if you want to secure employment within the industry.
Best Aircraft Mechanic Education Tracks
As long as you are 18 years old and you’re willing to learn, you can start your education to become an aircraft maintenance technician. There are technical programs designed for those who enjoy formal education and programs for those who prefer an informal and practical approach.
Below are some of the educational paths you can take to become a certified AMT.
This is the most popular option for prospective AMTs, which lasts for one to two years. By the end of the program, you will have gained the hands-on experience required for the FAA licensing exam. You will need a high school diploma in mathematics and science subjects. An excellent example of a vocational school for AMT training is PIA.
The cost for vocational schools in the United States is typically more affordable than universities. You will also need to pay for the licensing exam separately after completing the program. After that, you can start looking for jobs.
Community colleges also provide technical programs similar to what technical schools offer. But bear in mind that a community college education is more formal than a vocational school, and there are more theories involved.
By the time you complete the two-year program, you will get an associate degree and take the FAA licensing exam. Tuition for community colleges vary from one state to the other, but the cost of attendance for a two year program is more affordable than a four year program.
With an associate degree, you can get a job as an aircraft mechanic. Two good community colleges for AMTs are Edmonds Community College in Lynnwood, Washington, and Georgia Northwestern Technical College, in Rome, Georgia.
Aircraft Mechanic University Degrees
You don’t need a university degree to become a mechanic, but there are options for those who want a bachelor’s degree. A Bachelor’s Degree in Aircraft Maintenance in the United States costs $20,000 and $80,000, depending on location.
Some great universities for aircraft mechanic programs are Wichita State University-Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology in Kansas and Florida’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Both offer a Bachelor of Science in Aviation Maintenance Science.
Aircraft Mechanic Courses
MOOCs like Udemy and Coursera offer a range of practical courses for aircraft maintenance mechanics. It is perfect for those who want to learn about specific parts of aircraft maintenance and design.
These courses are usually affordable and some good examples are Aircraft Maintenance and Safety Engineering, and Aircraft Maintenance Understanding the FARs by Udemy. FARs are federal aviation regulations. These courses cost between $11 and $15 per class.
How to Become an Aircraft Mechanic: A Step-by-Step Guide
The step-by-step guide to becoming an aircraft mechanic isn’t lengthy. Learning what to do and preparing will make things easier for you when you eventually get to the final stage. Keep reading to find out what you need to know.
Get your high school diploma or GED.
Before getting into a community college, vocational school, or university for AMTs, you need a high school diploma or a GED. Having straight As in mathematics and every science subject will give you an edge when you’re seeking admission.
Memorize Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations.
Title 14 is a set of rules created by the Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration. You don’t need to go to school or pay any money to learn these administrative rules. They are readily available online.
Apply for admission.
After you’ve mastered Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations, apply for admission to an aviation maintenance technician school. Most technical schools and community colleges demand placement practical tests from prospective students. University application processes might vary.
Prepare for the FAA licensing exam.
Whether you opt for a two-year associate program or a four-year bachelor’s degree, you will still be required to take the FAA licensing exam in the end. It’s the only way you can receive your professional license and get your first paying job.
Ace the test and try again if you don’t.
The test isn’t going to be easy, but you can fly through it by preparing. You will find several resources for test subjects on the Internet. If you don’t pass oral and practical exams the first time, you can try again. Without passing, you cannot move forward.
Key Aircraft Mechanic Skills
As with every other profession, there are some skills you will need to develop if you want to thrive in the aircraft mechanic technician space. You can take personal lessons to teach yourself these skills if you want to excel at your job.
Advanced Mechanical Skills
Aircraft mechanics are mechanical engineers, so this one is an essential skill you must have if you want to excel. Knowing how to combine mathematics principles with engineering physics and material science is a skill every aircraft manager should have. You can learn more about mechanical engineering on platforms like Bookboon, iMechanica, Instructables, and ASME.
You will be getting your hands dirty with airframe and powerplant work, and the exam also includes a physical test. So, your physical abilities will go a long way. Build your strength by working out regularly. A good combination of strength training, cardio, and good nutrition will help you boost your agility.
It is also vital that you don’t have a fear of heights. You may be required to be on the aircraft while on the move in case of emergencies.
Knowledge of All Aircraft
Even if you want to specialize as a helicopter mechanic, you must know all there is to learn about every aircraft as a certified AMT. This includes blimps, gliders, hot air balloons, and paramotors. Learn how each one works and find out what makes one different from the other.
You can get regular up-to-date information from places like FAA FAR AIM, GlobalAir, and AOPA Student Resources.
Aircraft Mechanic Salary and Job Outlook
The salary range for aircraft mechanics is between $35,000 and $110,000. This is a wide spectrum, and it brings the average salary of AMTs in the United States to $75,050, according to Salary.com.
By 2029, about 143,500 more jobs will be created in the aircraft mechanic space, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This shows that there is an opportunity for those who want to build a lifelong career. You can even opt to be a self-employed AMT who isn’t attached to a particular organization.
Entry-Level Aircraft Mechanic Job Requirements
For an entry-level AMT position, you must have a high school diploma and 18 months of practical experience. After getting the required experience in an FAA-certified program, you still have to take the test. Those who pass the written, practical and oral tests can receive their license. They can earn an average of $36,915 annually, according to ZipRecruiter.
What Does an Aircraft Mechanic Do?
An aircraft mechanic may either work on the body or the engine of the aircraft. So, the job description will depend on your specifications. However, all aircraft mechanics are responsible for ensuring that the aircraft is compliant with US aviation safety regulations.
The job tasks are as follows.
Run Diagnostic Tests
An aircraft has complex mechanical and electrical parts. As an AMT, you will be responsible for running mechanical diagnostics to ensure that everything is sound before take-off. You don’t need to wait until there is a problem to run diagnostics. Tools are available to aid with testing and you need to understand how to interpret and use the results.
Using Complex Manuals and Blueprints
Part of your training will involve reading and interpreting complex aircraft blueprints and manuals. These blueprints aren’t easy to understand by the untrained eye. So, you need to work hard to learn how to identify things like the dimensions, tolerances, and aircraft specifications.
Updating Maintenance and Repair Logs
This is why all AMTs are expected to be fluent in writing and speaking the English Language. It’s not enough to simply handle repairs and maintenance. You also need to update official logs after each repair.
There is no room for forgetfulness or errors when it comes to these logs. Mistakes could cause serious accidents.
Aircraft Mechanic Certifications
For aircraft mechanics, certifications aren’t just meant to boost professional reputation and salaries. They are a mandatory requirement within the industry. No one will employ you in the United States if you don’t possess the FAA AMT certification.
This is an FAA rating system that tests you based on your ability to work on an airframe (the body of an aircraft) and a power plant (the aircraft engine). It involves a rigorous series of tests. Graduates from approved schools or those who have completed 18 months of practical experience programs may apply for the test.
Keep in mind that the administrators of the exam don’t offer lectures or other forms of instructions. It is assumed that you already know what you need to know. It is divided into oral tests, and both written and practical exams. The cost of the test in the USA ranges from between $150 to $2,500, depending on the state.
How to Prepare for Your Aircraft Mechanic Job Interview
You can prepare for the interview with all the knowledge you’ve accumulated during your education. Speaking with confidence and conviction will also show your prospective employees that you are ready to put what you’ve learned into practice.
Aircraft Mechanic Job Interview Practice Questions
If the hydraulic system of an aircraft is faulty, how do you trace the problem?
In the event of structural damage, what strategies do you recommend for reaching a solution?
During your training, what was your best subject?
Are you good at verbal communications, or do you prefer written communications?
How Long Does It Take to Become an Aircraft Mechanic?
You can become an aircraft mechanic in as little as 18 months, or it can take up to four years. If you join a practical training program right after high school, you will be ready to take the licensing exam and get your FAA certificate.
If you opt for an associate degree, you can take the FAA licensing exam in two years. Those who opt for a bachelor’s degree can take the exams right after graduation, within three to four years. Bachelor’s degree holders are not required to spend 18 months gathering experience before they can take the exam.
Should You Become an Aircraft Mechanic in 2021?
Yes, you should. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that AMT jobs will increase by five percent between 2019 and 2029. This is above the national average for employment in the United States. So, there are job opportunities in the industry.
Unlike many other career paths that take years and significant financing to achieve, you can get an AMT job after just 18 months. Also, the salary you earn will grow in time, irrespective of your education. You will be paid based on your level of experience and expertise, whether you had an associate or bachelor’s degree before taking the initial exams.
Aircraft Mechanic FAQ
Are aircraft mechanics aeronautical engineers?
No, they are not. Aircraft mechanics deal with the practical operation and maintenance of an aircraft, while aeronautical engineers deal with designing planes. These experts do more theories than practicals compared to aircraft mechanics. They also earn more money.
Will my job as an aircraft mechanic be high risk?
Yes, it will. Aircraft mechanics do a lot of heavy lifting and are regularly exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals. However, there are precautions and safety measures put in place to prevent occupational hazards. Following them will minimize the possibility of injury.
Will I work in an office or in-field?
The bulk of your work will be in-field at repair stations, hangers, and airfields in airports. You might have an office with a computer for maintenance log, but most of your tasks will require physical presence and hands-on participation.
Can I work as an AMT in America if I am certified abroad?
No, you cannot. You must meet the FAA exam eligibility requirements, pay, and pass all the tests set by the FAA before you will be licensed. It doesn’t matter if you have a license or years of experience from another country.