Aeronautical and Aerospace Technicians


Education and Training Requirements

High School

A strong science and mathematics background is essential for entry into this field. High school courses that will be useful in preparing a student for college-level study include algebra, trigonometry, physics, and chemistry. In addition to math and science, courses in social studies, economics, history, blueprint reading, computer-aided design, drafting, and industrial and machine shop practice will provide a valuable background for a career in aerospace technology. Computer science experience is also important. English, speech, and courses in the preparation of test reports and technical writing are extremely helpful to develop communication ability.

Postsecondary Training

There are a variety of training possibilities for potential aerospace technicians: two-, three-, or four-year programs at colleges or universities; junior or community colleges; technical institutes; vocational-technical schools; on-the-job training; or work-study programs in the military. Graduates from a two- or three-year program usually earn an associate's degree in engineering or science. Graduates from a four-year program earn a bachelor's degree in engineering or science; in addition, several colleges offer four-year degree programs in aeronautical technology. There are also many technical training schools, particularly in areas where the aerospace industry is most active, that offer training in aeronautical technology. Aircraft mechanics, for instance, usually attend one of the country's roughly 200 training schools. However, many employers require graduates of such programs to complete a period of on-the-job training before they are granted full technician status. When selecting a school to attend, check the listings of such agencies as the ABET and the regional accrediting associations for engineering colleges. Most employers prefer graduates of an accredited school.

In general, post–high school programs strengthen a student's background in science and mathematics, including pretechnical training. Beyond that, an interdisciplinary curriculum is more helpful than one that specializes in a narrow field. Other courses, which are basic to the work of the aeronautical scientist and engineer, should be part of a balanced program. These include basic physics, nuclear theory, chemistry, mechanics, and computers, including data-processing equipment and procedures.

Other Education or Training

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics offers instructor-led, Web-based, and home study training; correspondence courses; conference sessions; and webinars. Topics include aerospace electronics and power systems; fluid dynamics; guidance, navigation, and control; liquid propulsion; satellite design; and space operations and support. The American Society for Engineering Education offers continuing education opportunities for engineers via its annual conference and other events. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Only a few aerospace technician positions require licensing or certification; however, certifications provided by professional organizations do enhance the status of qualified engineering technicians. Certification is usually required of those working with nuclear-powered engines or testing radioactive sources, for those working on aircraft in some test programs, and in some safety-related positions. Technicians and technologists working in areas related to national defense, and especially those employed by government agencies, are usually required to carry security clearances. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration certifies aviation mechanics.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

A solid background in mathematics and science will be helpful for aspiring aeronautical and aerospace technicians.

Aeronautical and aerospace technicians must have basic engineering skills. They should enjoy and be proficient in mathematics and the physical sciences, able to visualize size, form, and function. The Aerospace Industries Association of America advises that today’s aerospace production worker must be strong in the basics of manufacturing, have a knowledge of statistics and have the ability to work with computers.

Aerospace technicians must be able to perform under deadline pressure, meet strict requirements and rigid specifications, and deal with potentially hazardous situations. They must be willing and flexible enough to acquire new knowledge and techniques to adjust to the rapidly changing technology. In addition, technicians need persistence and tenacity, especially when engaged in experimental and research tasks. They must be responsible, reliable, able to follow instructions, and willing to accept greater responsibility.