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Five of the highest paid aviation jobs

Whether you’re interested in becoming a pilot, avionics mechanic, air traffic controller or flight attendant, there’s a variety of potential job paths in the aviation industry. We take a look at some of the highest paying aviation jobs.

Airline pilot

Pilot in uniform examining turbine engine of an airplane.
Pilot in uniform examining turbine engine of an airplane.

Average annual salary: $102,000

Airline pilots are some of the highest paid professionals in the aviation industry, earning an average salary of $102,000 per year. However, this generous wage reflects the extreme demands of the role. Being a pilot requires specialized training and the ability to stay calm under pressure and deal with emergencies. As well as flying, pilots also need to understand high-tech cockpit technology and must have exceptional communication skills.

According to the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA), it can cost upwards of $56,000 and require several years’ study to train for your airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate. Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) regulations require prospective pilots to complete a number of operational tasks, show that they are capable of meeting industry standards, and demonstrate the ability to fly proficiently. They must also pass a written exam to demonstrate their knowledge of navigation, safety, and regulations, and have clocked 1,500 hours in-flight.

Aerospace project engineer

Two aerospace engineers with an airplane in the background.
Two aerospace engineers with an airplane in the background.

Average annual salary: $91,000

This incredibly specialized job requires a Bachelor’s degree and often a Master’s in aerospace sciences, avionics or aeronautical engineering. Once qualified and experienced, top aerospace project engineers can earn almost $130,000 per year. The role involves working with other engineers to design, test, refine and maintain aircraft and avionics equipment to client specifications.

So what skills do you need to become an aerospace project engineer? Applicants must be able to think of innovative solutions to problems; have good math, management, and communication skills; and be able to use computer assisted design (CAD) software. There’s also an element of sticking to client budgets and briefs, as well as keeping up-to-date with new aviation technologies.

Air traffic controller

Air traffic tower with an airplane flying off into the distance.
Air traffic tower with an airplane flying off into the distance.

Average annual salary: $84,000

There’s fierce competition for air traffic controller jobs, which offer an average pay of around $84,000 a year. While there aren’t any formal requirements for the role, applicants are usually required to have a degree and must pass a difficult selection process. This includes completing a training program that can last up to three years.

To succeed as an air traffic controller, you’ll need to demonstrate sharp concentration and attention to detail as it’s your responsibility to monitor traffic and keep the airways safe. Duties include tracking aircraft distances and directions, liaising with pilots and monitoring ground movements, take-offs and landings. Air traffic controllers also need to be able to use technical radar and radio communication equipment.

Air marshal

Average annual salary: $70,000

Air marshals, also known as sky marshals, are operatives who provide on-flight security services. In the USA, the Transportation Security Administration trains air marshals and requires applicants to have a degree, medical and full background screening, and to pass a rigorous 16-week training program.

The duties of an air marshal involve acting as a plain-clothed security officer to provide on-flight security and deal with any terrorism incidents. Marshals may also work in airports and must have good observational skills to detect suspicious activity. This is a high-pressure job that requires extreme levels of attention to detail.

Aircraft mechanic

Aircraft mechanic repairs a large airplane engine in a hangar.
Aircraft mechanic repairs a large airplane engine in a hangar.

Average annual salary: $57,000

Aircraft mechanics (also known as airframe and powerplant mechanics) perform repairs, inspections, and maintenance on all kinds of aircraft. Mechanics must be able to diagnose and fix everything from electrical problems to mechanical failures across all parts of the plane, including the brakes, landing gear, and engine. This requires supreme troubleshooting skills and a detail-oriented mind.

In the US, aircraft mechanics must train at a FAA-certified school for at least two years, although it’s also common to study some form of avionics at university. Mechanics can work across many types of aircraft or specialize; and must stay constantly up-to-date with industry regulations and standards.

Other top aviation jobs

If you’re still considering other career paths, here are some more popular options in the aviation field along with their average annual salaries:

  • Flight instructor: $67,000
  • Flight dispatcher: $49,000
  • Avionics technician: $49,000
  • Flight attendant: $39,000
  • Ground attendant: $38,000

Looking for opportunities in the aviation field? Air Charter Service is passionate about supporting the next generation of aviation leaders and scientists and offers student grants and scholarships of up to $5,000 per student to kick-start your career. This could help to offset the cost of tuition fees and research so you can find employment in your chosen field. Find out more about eligibility and how to apply for an ACS aviation grant or scholarship here.

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