A century after the first commercial flight, the aviation industry continues to offer a variety of exciting and rewarding career options for qualified professionals.
“Aviation is a romantic industry with very practical purposes,” the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents about 250 airlines, noted in its 2014 annual review.
Worldwide, airlines carry more than 3 billion passengers a year and deliver about one-third of traded goods by value. Aviation-sector employment also is seen as strong. Airlines employ about 2.5 million workers and expect “to accelerate the pace of hiring over the next year,” the association reported in June 2015.
Overall, about 9 million people are employed in the global aviation sector. In the United States alone, there are almost 20,000 airports.
Whether you’re interested in working for a major airline carrier, an international airport, a government agency or a general aviation service provider, an associate's or bachelor’s degree in aviation management can provide the foundational and specialized knowledge needed to succeed in a range of careers.
An airport manager ensures the safe and efficient operation of the airport on a daily basis. Typical duties can include:
- Directing administrative and managerial functions, from budgeting and cost control to hiring and training
- Ensuring airport personnel move passengers, luggage and freight through the airport efficiently
- Overseeing compliance with airport policies and procedures
- Developing and implementing effective staffing schedules
- Supervising the testing and maintenance of ticketing and security systems and other technology
- Collaborating with local, regional and federal aviation officials to ensure airport operations comply with relevant rules and regulations
Airport managers work at public and private airports and heliports. They need strong leadership and communication skills, and should be results-oriented and adept problem-solvers.
Airport Operations Manager
Organizing and directing airport operations, ensuring activities comply with federal, state and local regulations, and managing maintenance programs for airport facilities and fleet equipment can be counted among the responsibilities of the airport operations manager.
Professionals in this position ensure that the department operates efficiently through planning, monitoring, supervising and problem-solving. Strong communication skills are typically a must, as are knowledge of airport and aviation regulations, and experience in the field.
Airport planners are experts in airport design and operation, applying their knowledge and training in preparing airport master plans. Their work may incorporate multiyear forecasts, facility requirements, implementation programs, airfield capacity and passenger data – anything that could influence airport layout.
Long-term planning requires consideration of a range of factors, from the projected need for additional arrival and departure gates to determining runway capacity for future air traffic growth.
Airport planners also ensure that facility plans and designs comply with regulations mandated by relevant government agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Airport directors oversee the daily operation and long-term development of an airport. For example, the executive director of an international airport may be responsible for managing terminal operations, security and maintenance, as well as for planning and implementing procedures for budgeting, purchasing, personnel and customer service.
Airport directors need a broad base of knowledge relating to industry trends and forecasts, and must keep pace with an evolving regulatory environment. Their duties can include contract negotiations with airlines and employee unions, community outreach, and consultation with agencies such as the FAA, TSA, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as local taxing authorities.
At larger airports, some airport directors may have specialized roles, such as director of airport services or director of concessions.
Diverse Career Opportunities
The careers highlighted above represent just a handful of the professional opportunities within the field of aviation management. Other positions for qualified candidates may include director of marketing, airline manager and manager of general aviation.
An associate's degree in aviation management can begin your career path in airport and airline operations. For more management and senior-level positions in this exciting field, employers may seek candidates with advanced educational qualifications, such as a bachelor’s in aviation management.