Avionics Repair University and School Program Information
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies avionics programs at technical schools and universities nationwide. A minimum of 1,900 class hours prepares students for the exams that lead to certification in various avionics fields. Read on for more education and career information for avionics technicians.
Specialization and Training Options for Avionics Careers
Avionics technicians repair and maintain electronics systems on board aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certifies approximately 170 avionics repair programs at technical schools and universities across the country. FAA-approved programs require a minimum of 1,900 class hours, which prepare students for specific certification exams. The FAA administers the exam for airframe certification, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) administers the test for Ground Radio Operating Licenses (GROL), and the National Center for Aircraft Technician Training (NCATT) administers the avionics certification exam.
Certificate in Avionics Technology
A certificate program in avionics technology prepares students to repair and maintain electronics systems on board aircraft. Students learn and practice the basic skills and techniques essential to beginning a career as an avionics technician. Topics covered include aircraft electricity, shop safety, aircraft hardware, inspection fundamentals and troubleshooting procedures. Certificate programs can last anywhere from 18 months to 2 years. Graduates may choose to pursue higher levels of education such as an associate or bachelor's degree.
Certificate programs emphasize avionics theory through classroom instruction as well as practical application through skill-building lab hours. Required coursework typically includes:
- Aircraft electricity
- Communication and navigation systems
- Aircraft control systems
- Avionics installation
Associate of Applied Science in Avionics Maintenance Technology
Typically requiring two full years of study, associate degree programs in avionics technology focus on hands-on training, including in-field seminars and workshops that prepare avionics repair students to work in an aircraft hangar or active airfield. Students learn basic electronic theory, as well as skills and techniques for how to install, maintain, calibrate, fabricate and adjust avionic systems including navigation and communication systems, weather radar, flight controls and cockpit instrumentation. Many graduates of an associate degree program will go on to pursue a bachelor's degree in avionics or a related field.
With the growing complexities of aircraft systems, most associate degree programs require students to complete courses in mathematics and computer science in addition to other general education courses that complement the core avionics curriculum. Avionics maintenance courses typically include:
- Aviation physics
- Airframe structures
- Airframe inspection
- Aviation electronics
- Maintenance regulations
Bachelor of Science in Aviation Management and Avionics
In this type of 4-year avionics repair program, students are able to take an intensive look at the systems behind designing, constructing and repairing aircraft. Courses include how to maintain and repair all aspects of an aircraft from the body of the plane to the interior pneumatic, hydraulic and electrical systems.
Differing from certificate and associate degree programs, a bachelor's program in avionics repair provides students with an interdisciplinary liberal arts background that may help graduates land managerial roles within the aviation industry in the future. Core coursework required for a degree in aviation management and avionics usually includes:
- Basic aircraft electricity
- Aircraft welding
- Aircraft finish and fabrication
- Powerplant operations and troubleshooting
- Communication systems
- Aviation fundamentals
Avionics repair programs at all three levels require students to have a high school diploma or an educational equivalent and be fluent in English. Courses in mathematics, mechanical drawing, computer science, electronics and physics are helpful prior to enrolling in a program because many similar concepts are involved in the operation and repair of aircraft.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Because the FAA requires all maintenance work performed on aircraft to be conducted by certified mechanics, or under the supervision of a certified mechanic, most employers prefer to hire mechanics who have FAA certifications. After completing an approved program, avionics technicians are prepared to pass the written, oral and practical tests needed for FAA airframe, powerplant or combined A&P certification. Once certified, technicians can find employment in the air transportation industry with a variety of employers, including major airlines, government agencies and small local airports. Demand for avionics mechanics is expected to grow at a slower-than-average rate in the coming years, increasing 6% from 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reports that as of May 2012, the median hourly wage for avionics technicians was $26.61.
Continuing Education Information
FAA regulations require avionics repair technicians to maintain their certification through continuing education and work experience in the field. Technicians must complete at least 1,000 work hours within the 24 months prior to certification renewal in addition to taking at least 16 hours of continuing education courses every two years. As technicians gain more experience and wish to advance to supervisory roles, an aircraft inspector's authorization is recommended. In order to be eligible to obtain an inspector's authorization, technicians must hold an A&P certification for at least three years and have a minimum of 24 months of hands-on experience. Some avionics technicians choose to continue their education in order to pursue other closely-related career fields, such as aviation engineering, communication engineering, electronics design or product development.
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