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Aviation Management Career Guide

Careers in aviation continue to soar with industry growth.

A 2018 press release from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) found that significant growth in the aviation industry is expected in the coming years.

65.5 million jobs are supported by aviation and $2.7 trillion in global economic activity is generated, according to a 2018 report by the Air Transport Action Group (ATAG).

And, that’s just the beginning. Florida Tech aviation management grad Jason Terreri says the opportunities are diverse:

“It’s amazing how big the industry is in terms of the sheer number of opportunities and roles,” Terreri says. “Most people never think about aviation as an industry that has so many parts, but it is. Once you get into the field, you learn quickly that there’s always something new and exciting to discover. You may start in the area of planning and end up doing Airline Affairs. One door seems to always open another, and that’s the best part.”

Aviation Management Career Paths

From aviation safety to airport marketing, aviation management includes the business, operations and management aspects of aviation, such as support, communications, leadership and efficiency. Here are a few of the many career options available in aviation management:

Airport Manager

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

Does organizing and directing airport operations sound interesting to you? Airport operations managers ensure that the department operates efficiently through planning, monitoring, supervising and problem-solving. Other duties include:

  • Ensuring activities comply with federal, state and local regulations
  • Managing maintenance programs for airport facilities and fleet equipment
  • Overseeing security and safety functions
  • Spearheading technology and process improvements

Strong communication skills are typically a must for this position, along with knowledge of airport and aviation regulations.

Airport Planner

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 (FAA), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Airport Director

Airport directors oversee the daily operation and long-term development of an airport. This can include:

  • Managing terminal operations, security and maintenance,
  • Planning and implementing procedures for budgeting, purchasing, personnel and customer service
  • Negotiating contracts with airlines and employee unions
  • Communicating with agencies such as the FAA, TSA and Homeland Security

Airport directors need a broad base of knowledge relating to industry trends and forecasts and must keep pace with an evolving regulatory environment. At larger airports, some directors may have specialized roles, such as director of airport services or director of concessions.

Getting Started in Aviation Management

The careers highlighted above represent just a handful of 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.

Here are a few steps to consider as you pursue a career in aviation management.

Cultivate Key Skills for Success

Aviation management requires a solid understanding of business as well as an in-depth knowledge of aviation. Building a strong foundation, according to Florida Tech aviation management grad Chris Fernando, is essential. This foundation should include strong analytical and writing skills, as well as the ability to conduct research and analyze data. “You have a lot more flexibility in what types of jobs you apply for,” if you are well-rounded, says Fernando.

Being able to communicate effectively to people outside the industry and from different cultures is also important in aviation, according to Terreri.

“It can be a challenge getting the message across to people outside of the airport industry so that they see both the opportunities you’re bringing forward and the reality that sometimes in an airport, you have to do things a little bit differently than you would in other businesses or industries…You have to be able to articulate why you have to do things a certain way.”

As the aviation industry is so diverse, having “flexibility and adaptability” are also important, according to Fernando, “especially at the start of your career.” A willingness to wear different hats and explore new options can allow your career to take a variety of directions.

Earn an Education in Aviation Management

Earning a degree in aviation management can help you cultivate the knowledge needed to position yourself for this industry. Florida Tech’s aviation management degrees online combine a broad-based business curriculum with aviation specific courses. From accounting, management, marketing and economics to aviation planning, operations, and airport management, the curriculum is designed to ensure students are prepared for a variety of careers in the aviation industry upon graduation.

BA in Aviation Management graduate Nicole Curiel’s favorite course was Airport Design.

“I never realized how many regulated calculations and precise measurements are in place to ensure safety on the surface and the approach/departure ends of the runway. I love mathematics, so seeing this structure made me realize the mathematical art that is Airport Design. The portfolio that we made during the term also served as a keepsake that can be referenced over time, considering the regulation and principles don’t change.”

Curiel appreciated the in-depth nature of the coursework as well as the high academic standards she found at Florida Tech.

“Graduating from Florida Tech reflects persistent and consistent hard work, dedication and credibility due to the higher academic standards. This degree will also reflect better knowledge and understanding because of the in-depth education that I received from Florida Tech, all of which any employer can appreciate.”

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 degree in aviation management.

After earning your degree, you may want to consider earning a certificate or certification to gain more specialized knowledge in a particular area. For example, the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) offers the Certified Member (C.M.) exam, which signifies expertise in airport management. Florida Tech’s bachelor’s degree in aviation management prepares you with the knowledge to sit for this exam when combined with the association’s recommended exam prep.

Many professional organizations and associations offer additional certifications and continuing education courses, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).

Gain Professional Experience with Internships & Networking

To gain more professional experience in aviation management, you may want to consider an internship. Internships are often available for students and recent graduates as a way to get your feet wet in the industry. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) offers an internship program. Other national and international government agencies typically offer internships as well, such as the International Civil Authority Organization (ICAO). Industry organizations also may have internship opportunities. The IATA and the NBAA both have opportunities for students and recent grads.

In addition to government agencies and industry associations, checking with your local airport or aviation authority can provide opportunities to gain experience. Finally, airlines can offer opportunities for students in corporate, operations and other areas of the business, such as United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

Joining professional organizations and networking groups can also help you familiarize yourself with the industry. Fernando recommends the NBAA, which has a website section for students, as well as the Transportation Research Board: “They have several scholarship opportunities, grad opportunities to conduct research and they publish reports and papers that are very relevant to the coursework Florida Tech covers.”

Students should also join the Florida Tech Alumni Association to tap into the vast network of aviation alumni around the world. Terreri encourages this, saying that, “Students at Florida Tech have access to an alumni network that touches every facet of this industry. Whether it’s a chief pilot at a major airline or an airport director or a leader at the FAA, we touch it all.”

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