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How to Break Into the Aviation Industry

The aviation industry is full of opportunity.

According to a 2018 report from the Air Transport Action Group, 65.5 million jobs worldwide are supported by aviation, including airport, airline, civil aerospace and air navigation service provider jobs.

“It’s amazing how big the industry is in terms of the sheer number of opportunities and roles,” Florida Tech aviation management grad Jason Terreri says. “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.”

With an industry this large and full of opportunity, it can be overwhelming to chart your career course. Here are some tips on how to help your career take flight.

Start Thinking Early

Aviation tends to be more than just a career field for people – it’s a passion! But, sometimes that means aviation students aren’t really sure what they want to do in the field. To get a head start, research entry-level positions across different career paths in aviation, speak with your professors about what jobs are available and monitor aviation job boards. Some job websites to bookmark include:

Keeping tabs on aviation job boards can help you get a better idea not only of the jobs out there, but also the skills and knowledge you need to develop to be an attractive candidate.

Consider Your Strengths and Interests

If you don’t know where to start in your aviation career, consider where your strengths and interests lie. Terreri is often approached by people who know they’re drawn to aviation for some reason, but don’t know all the different roles and parts in the industry. His advice for people who are unsure of what they want to do is to look at the work related to those passions, match them to their strengths and go from there.

“Some people love airplanes, but they also like number-crunching – that’s the planning side of the house, doing forecasting and coming up with long-term plans of how would you develop an airport,” he said. “Other people are hands-on and thrive in chaos – that’s airport operations, where you’re dealing with running a machine, a machine that is sometimes unpredictable, like when a weather phenomenon pops up. Then, of course, there are those whose talents excel in marketing and business development, and so they would be a great fit going out and recruiting airlines to help build connections for the community.”

Develop Foundational Skills

Regardless of where your natural strengths lie, it’s important to develop a strong foundation of skills, according to Chris Fernando, another Florida Tech aviation management grad, including strong analytical skills and writing skills. Being able to conduct research, analyze and visualize data, and write technical reports will help you be eligible for a variety of both aviation and non-aviation jobs. “Then,” he says, “you have a lot more flexibility in what types of jobs you apply for.”

Florida Tech’s online aviation management degrees combine liberal arts courses, a strong business curriculum and aviation-specific coursework to provide graduates with a well-rounded foundation that prepares them for multiple career paths in the industry.

Be Flexible and Adaptable

Speaking of flexibility, Fernando advises students to be open-minded: “Adaptability and flexibility are really important, especially at the start of your career.”

For example, both Fernando and Terreri initially graduated from Florida Tech’s on-campus program with plans of becoming pilots. However, due to graduating around 9/11, companies weren’t hiring pilots at the time. So, they both had to pivot their careers in different directions.

Terreri now works in air services development, Fernando in research. Being flexible to different career opportunities and amassing a strong base of skills in their respective fields has ultimately led to their success in different aspects of the aviation industry.

Fernando advises: “I think a lot of people focus on how much money they should be making or what type of work they’re doing on a daily basis, but they miss the point of building good foundational skills. If you have a really good foundation, good soft skills and professionalism and solid technical skills, then the options for you after those first couple of years are going to be much broader.”

Networking and Branding

With social media being one of the many things employers examine, it’s important for professionals across industries to consider their personal brand throughout their career, but especially upon entering the workforce.

Creating your brand includes defining your career interests on a well-crafted resume and social media pages, engaging in conversations across digital platforms and at in-person events. This will help you establish yourself as an aviation professional. Doing all of this before you graduate is essential. Even if you are naturally introverted, Fernando argues that “branding and networking can be learned.”

A large component of your professional brand should be your LinkedIn profile. In building your profile, do some research on what the LinkedIn profiles of other professionals in the field look like so you can model yours after theirs. Look at their career trajectories, skills, interests, organizations they are a part of and topics they are engaging in. Twitter and other social media platforms are another extension of your brand. Check out Twitter profiles of aviation professionals and organization pages and see what hashtags are relevant and popular. Follow posts in the hashtags #aviation and #avgeek, use these hashtags yourself and engage in Twitter industry chats whenever possible.

Another part of building a brand and networking is joining professional organizations. Fernando recommends the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), which has a whole section of their website for students. Additionally, Fernando likes 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.”

Last, but not least, Florida Tech students should join the alumni association. Terreri notes 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.”

The Aviation Industry: Endless Destinations

With so many potential career paths, upcoming aviation management grads have a lot of options to discover.

“What’s fun about this industry is that it’s so broad – you can really find your niche,” Terreri says. “Explore this industry if you’re interested in it because you will be exposed to aspects that you may not have ever thought about. You will know the minute you find your passion in the aviation industry.”

To learn more about specific career options in the industry, check out our aviation management career guide!

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