How to Become an Aerospace Inspector: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn about how to become an aerospace inspector. Read about the duties of such inspectors, the education requirements, and pros and cons of a career as an aerospace inspector.

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Do I Want to Be an Aerospace Inspector?

Aerospace inspectors examine and evaluate the work and safety of aerospace bodies such as airplanes, satellites, missiles, and even spacecraft. Like other types of inspectors, aerospace inspectors are responsible for understanding through blueprints and models the specifications of the machinery they will examine, inspecting such equipment for quality of assembly and function, writing reports on their findings, and making recommendations of potential changes. Many aerospace inspectors work on airplanes and may be employed by the federal aviation administration (FAA).

In their work, some inspectors may be exposed to harmful skin irritants or chemicals as well as loud noises; in order to prevent injury, precautions such as face masks and ear plugs are often employed. Most quality control inspectors, such as aerospace inspectors, work on a full-time basis, usually during the day, although some weekend or evening hours may be required.

Job Requirements

Aerospace inspectors need a high school diploma at minimum, but further training or an associate's degree may be preferred by some employers. Apprenticeships and certifications are other ways for workers to distinguish themselves.

Step 1: Earn a High School Diploma

The minimum requirement for aerospace inspection jobs is typically a high school diploma. For students interested in aerospace technology, excelling in math and science courses in high school may help prepare them for further specialized training.

Step 2: Enroll in an ABET-Accredited Associate Degree Program

While there are no official educational requirements for working as an aerospace inspector, employers may desire individuals with postsecondary training or an associate's degree. Aerospace and aviation technology programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET, Inc.) are offered at many community colleges, technical and vocational schools, and even through universities. It may mean receiving an applied technology degree with a concentration in aerospace or aviation technology. The program will likely consist of general education requirements, in addition to courses in safety, assembly, computer technology and print reading.

Step 3: Consider an Apprenticeship

Aerospace apprenticeships predominately consist of on-the-job training, but may include classroom instruction as well. Meant to provide practical experience and better job opportunities, apprenticeships allow students to work with real aerospace technology employers for several years while supplementing their knowledge. They may provide an official certificate and industry-wide recognition upon completion.

Step 4: Get a Job as an Aerospace Inspector

Employers hiring aerospace inspectors look for candidates with several years of experience, according to a search of CareerBuilder.com job postings in August 2011. Experience can come from apprenticeships or working as assistants to aerospace engineers and technicians. The job postings stated that aerospace inspectors should be competent at math and blueprint reading and have a good communication skills and knowledge of aerospace processes. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), aerospace engineering and operations technicians earned a mean annual wage of $59,990, as of May 2010 (www.bls.gov).

Step 5: Obtain Certification

Becoming certified in certain aerospace inspection specialties may provide industry recognition and lead to advancement and increased job opportunities. Certifications are available in various nondestructive testing (NDT) methods, which may be required by employers (www.ndt-ed.org). Aerospace inspectors might also seek SpaceTEC certification, which offers three concentration options: composites, aerospace manufacturing and aerospace vehicle processing.

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