The Air Affair

How to Start a Career in Aviation

by Ross Oliver
Last updated July 16, 2013

This is a companion to my How to Become an Airplane Pilot article. I originally wrote the latter focused on recreational aviation rather than aviation as a career. Regardless, I receive a lot of email from students and young adults seeking information about how to make a career in aviation.

What kind of jobs are available?

Aircraft pilot is of course the most glamorous and sought after job, but there are lots of other career paths in aviation.  Here are just a few:

Aircraft Mechanic
Air Traffic Control
Aircraft Manufacturing
Flight Instructor
Airport Management

Aircraft avionics in particular is an area of rapid growth, offering jobs in manufacturing, installation, maintenance, and training.

I am still in high school, what subjects should I study?

Aviation is a technical discipline, so I would recommend as much math and science as you can get.  Also business and economics.

Do I have to join the military?

Military aviation has traditionally been a popular route to an aviation career.  And of course there are certain types of aircraft only the military flies.  If you want to fly an F-22 Raptor or B-52 bomber, the military route is your only option. But it is not strictly necessary.

Should I get a college degree?

ABSOLUTELY YES!  Pardon me while I climb on my soapbox.  My advice to any young person is that regardless of your career choice, get a college degree. It is becoming a virtual requirement in today's job market.

What college or university should I choose?

There are hundreds of academic institutions offering aviation programs.  I don't have any good advice on how to choose!  The AOPA has a rather long winded article here:

What about careers in countries other than USA?

Again, I do not really have any good information to offer.  I hope to update this section in the future.

Where can I find more information?

Karen Kahn is an airline pilot with 30 years of experience.  She has a web site and has written a book about careers in avaition.  She also offers career counseling.  Her web site is

Best of luck in your future career!