Testing is essential to ensure the safety of aerospace vessels like airplanes and spaceships. Even performing these tests requires the use of sophisticated equipment, and that’s where aerospace engineering and operations technicians come in. These professionals are responsible for building, installing, operating and maintaining the equipment and facilities used to test aircraft. Their work is important for accurately testing planes and spaceships to discover and fix problems that, if undetected, could result in mass tragedies like plane crashes.
Technicians work directly with aerospace engineers to understand the test procedures to be performed. They create test facilities and install equipment parts into the testing systems, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Calibrating wind tunnels, computer programs and other components of the systems used to perform these tests is another part of an aerospace engineering technician’s job duties. Aerospace engineering technicians also oversee the tests themselves to ensure safety. They document data collected from test parts. When equipment malfunctions, determining why the part failed is the job of an aerospace engineering technician. These professionals also work on the aircraft itself. They oversee the quality of systems that will be installed into planes, and they even handle installation of many instruments themselves.
Because the aerospace industry is increasingly relying on computer simulations, computers play a surprisingly large role in the work of an aerospace engineering and operations technician. Aerospace engineering technicians are often responsible for both programming and performing these simulations, so candidates must be familiar with computers. As technology like three-dimensional printing and additive manufacturing becomes more prevalent in the aerospace industry, technicians are increasingly responsible for using this technology, and some are going so far as to specialize in these skill sets, the BLS reported.
The most popular path into a career as an aerospace engineering and operations technician is an associate’s degree, according to the BLS. Community colleges typically offer relevant associate’s degree programs, but vocational schools and technical institutes may also offer certificate and diploma programs that can prepare students for work in the field.
When enrolled in an aerospace engineering technology program accredited by ABET (the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), students college algebra, trigonometry, and basic science courses. Students in associate’s degree programs will cover more theory-based coursework than their peers in vocational and technical schools, the BLS reported. They will also develop a more well-rounded education through taking liberal arts courses. This additional education and the degree that accompanies it can give graduates a competitive edge in the job market over candidates who have only a certificate or diploma.
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians earn a median salary of $63,780 per year, according to the BLS. Industries like aerospace product and parts manufacturing and computer and electronic product manufacturing pay technicians the most. Currently the BLS anticipates jobs for aerospace engineering and operations technicians to grow by just four percent, slower than the average grown expected for all occupations, but the job outlook for this career is still better than for related professions like drafter and engineering technician.
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians are the professionals whose work makes it possible for commercial and passenger planes and other aircraft to undergo accurate safety testing. Upon earning an associate’s degree, these professionals can put their math, mechanical, critical-thinking and computer skills to work making the aerospace industry safer, and earn a competitive salary in the process.