Aircraft Structure Education Program Information
Though not common, there are a few schools within the U.S. offering programs in aircraft structural technology. These programs, which typically lead to a diploma or associate's degree, focus on structural theory as well as technical skills and prepare students for aircraft manufacturing and repair careers. Programs may be presented in conjunction with a regional air force base.
Diploma or Associate's Degree Programs in Aircraft Structural Technology
Diploma or associate's degree programs in aircraft structural technology include general education requirements in addition to occupational courses, typically with little difference in content between the two types of programs. Students learn practical skills, such as metallurgy, along with gaining theoretical knowledge in areas such as aerodynamics. Programs usually require two years to complete. Applicants need to have high school diplomas or equivalent for admission. Graduates of this type of program are prepared for careers as aircraft structural technicians or specialists.
The curriculum covers fundamental concepts related to aircraft structure as well as skills and techniques used in manufacturing and repairing aircraft. Some programs include a cooperative learning opportunity on a nearby air force base. Course topics include:
- Fundamentals of blueprint reading
- Understanding aircraft structures
- Theories of aerodynamics
- Layout and fabrication
- Aerospace quality control
- Introduction to aircraft metallurgy
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for aircraft structure assemblers was expected to grow five percent between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). Workers in this field earned a median annual salary of $45,950 as of May 2012. Aircraft mechanics and service technicians were expected to see roughly the same growth rate, approximately six percent. As of May 2012, mechanics and service technicians had a median annual salary of $55,210.
While those involved in assembly don't need certification, aircraft mechanics must either gain certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or work under a mechanic with FAA certification. Many airlines are inclined to hire mechanics with the combined airframe and powerplant certificate. A mechanic must work for 18 months to earn each certificate, or 30 months for the combined.
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