Published: November 4, 2022

Career opportunities in aviation are more varied than you might think, and many of these roles are in high demand.

After a challenging few years following the onset of the pandemic, the aviation industry is expected to see an annual growth rate of over 5% from 2022 to 2027, according to Mordor Intelligence. Most of the aviation market’s revenue share comes from commercial aviation, but military and general aviation are also significant.

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) estimates that as of April 2022, there were approximately 751,000 workers employed by U.S. airlines. This is 2% higher than the number of airline workers employed before the pandemic and speaks well for the outlook of the industry.

Interested in joining the aviation industry but not sure where to start? Lynn University offers three online degree programs in aviation:

This guide outlines possible career paths for individuals who earn a bachelor’s degree in aviation. We have organized these aviation jobs into three categories: airport careers, in-flight careers and behind-the-scenes aviation careers:

Airport careers

In-flight careers

Behind-the-scenes aviation careers

Who is a good fit for an aviation career?

Joining the aviation field requires dedication. The following characteristics are commonly found in successful aviation students. They tend to be:

  • Detail-oriented
  • Strong problem-solvers
  • Multi-taskers
  • Organized and manage time well
  • Able to work under pressure
  • Situationally aware
  • Hard workers

In addition, aviation students should be truly passionate about the industry. Careers in aviation can be incredibly rewarding if you are willing to put in the time and effort to meet specific job requirements.

Airport careers

Various career paths are available for aviation professionals interested in working in airports. Many of these positions are rooted in aviation operations, management or security.

Freight and cargo manager

Freight and cargo managers oversee the transportation of cargo at an airport. Duties may include tracking the departure and arrival times of air cargo shipments, communicating shipment status with customers, ensuring that all loading and unloading safety procedures are followed and completing documentation for all outgoing and incoming shipments.

How to become a freight and cargo manager

To succeed in their role, freight and cargo managers need to have strong organizational skills and a thorough understanding of supply chain logistics.

A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field such as aviation operations or logistics is usually a requirement. Most employers will also look for past work experience in a logistics role. Some freight and cargo managers may earn industry certifications, such as the Association for Supply Chain Management’s Certified in Logistics, Transportation and Distribution (CLTD) designation. This certification can help you stand out when applying for jobs.

Airport manager

Airport managers oversee the operations of an airport, ensuring that all federal, state and local regulations are being followed. They also ensure that aircraft and passengers are moving through the airport efficiently and safely.

In this role, you will work for a governing authority, such as the port authority, state, country or city. You will coordinate efforts with airport stakeholders, such as airlines, charter operators, private aircraft owners and local businesses based on the airport property.

How to become an airport manager

While specific requirements vary from airport to airport, a degree in aviation management or aviation operations can provide you with a foundation for pursuing a career as an airport manager. Strong leadership skills are also essential for this aviation management job since you’ll be responsible for overseeing many different teams and making decisions that affect all airport personnel.

TSA manager

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) plays an essential role in airport security. The TSA is responsible for screening passengers and cargo and detecting possible security threats. As a TSA manager, you’ll supervise your airport’s TSA officers and oversee the operations of screening checkpoints.

How to become a TSA manager

A degree in aviation management or aviation operations can prepare you for becoming a TSA manager. Previous experience working in a managerial or security role is also valuable and may help your application stand out.

The process of getting hired by the TSA involves passing a background check and a drug test. Depending on the specific position you’re applying for, there may be additional clearances and evaluations you need to pass.

In-flight careers

Do you want a career that allows you to take to the skies on a daily basis? If so, you may want to explore the following in-flight career opportunities.

Professional pilot

The term professional pilot describes a person who makes their primary income by flying and navigating airplanes and other aircraft. Professional pilots include flight instructors, charter pilots, commercial airline pilots, cargo pilots and more.

How to become a professional pilot

There are varying levels of professional pilots. All pilots start by completing flight training and earning their private pilot license. They then move on to earn their commercial pilot license, which allows them to be hired as a pilot.

The amount of time it takes to earn your commercial pilot license depends on if your flight school follows Federal Aviation Regulation Part 61 or Part 141. Before you can qualify for a commercial pilot license, you need 250 logged flight hours under Part 61 or 190 logged flight hours under Part 141. You also need to complete Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Knowledge and flight tests.

Certified flight instructor

Certified flight instructors train student pilots on how to operate an aircraft. Many pilots use this career as an opportunity to build up required flight hours before becoming a commercial airline pilot, charter pilot or corporate pilot.

How to become a certified flight instructor

Flight instructors must first undergo flight training themselves and obtain a private pilot license, followed by a commercial pilot license. Then they need to earn their Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate.

To qualify for a commercial pilot license, you generally need to have 190 hours of logged flight time under Part 141 or 250 hours of logged flight time under Part 61. Earning your commercial pilot license allows you to fly for hire, which is a requirement for pursuing your CFI certificate.

A bachelor’s degree in professional piloting can give you the knowledge necessary for passing the FAA’s flight instructor Knowledge test.

Charter pilot

Charter pilots operate single- or twin-engine aircraft with passengers onboard. In most cases, charter pilots transport passengers short distances. For example, they may complete flights in a corporate jet from Miami, Florida to New York. Charter pilots typically fly wherever and whenever their clients request, instead of following a predetermined flight schedule.

How to become a charter pilot

Becoming a charter pilot requires earning your commercial pilot license, which generally calls for 250 hours of logged flight time under Part 61 or 190 hours of logged flight time under Part 141. If you are flying a twin-engine plane, you will also need to add a multi-engine rating to your license.

Commercial airline pilot

Commercial airline pilots are responsible for flying commercial passenger aircraft. They typically fly on a fixed schedule, flying back and forth between airports.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that demand for airline and commercial pilots will grow 6% between 2021 and 2031.

How to become a commercial airline pilot

Commercial airline pilots need to obtain an airline transport pilot (ATP) license—the highest piloting license offered by the FAA. You generally need 1,500 hours of logged flight time before earning this license. However, completing Lynn University’s professional pilot bachelor’s program and flight training at Lynn’s Flight Academy allows you to earn instead a restricted airline transport pilot (rATP) license, which only requires 1,250 hours of logged flight time. Aspiring commercial airline pilots usually build these flight hours by working as a flight instructor or charter pilot.

A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field is not always needed to become a commercial airline pilot, but many larger airlines require it.

Cargo pilot

A cargo pilot flies aircraft transporting goods or freight. In addition to piloting, cargo pilots may also be responsible for signing off on shipments after arriving at their destination. It is common for cargo pilots to fly at night when fewer passenger flights are operating.

How to become a cargo pilot

Cargo pilots are required to have an airline transport pilot license, which means they need at least 1,500 hours of logged flight time—or 1,250 hours of logged flight time if they qualify for a restricted airline transport license.

While 1,250 or 1,500 hours of flight time is the minimum requirement, some airlines may require additional hours of flight time before you can be hired as a cargo pilot. A bachelor’s degree in an aviation-related field may also be a prerequisite for some employers.

Behind-the-scenes aviation careers

There are several careers in aviation management and operations that do not require working on an aircraft or even at an airport. If you want to join the growing aviation industry but do not want to be in the cockpit or on the ground at an airport, the following behind-the-scenes careers in aviation may be right for you.

Air traffic controller

Air traffic controllers monitor and direct the movement of aircraft, ensuring that there are safe distances between aircraft at all times. They also issue landing and takeoff instructions to pilots. While safety is always the top priority for air traffic controllers, they also try to help aircraft pilots take the most efficient routes to avoid delays.

Air traffic controllers may work at control towers, which are located next to airports, or at en-route centers located across the country.

How to become an air traffic controller

According to the BLS, air traffic controllers need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. In some instances, applicants also need to have three years of generalized work experience.

Additionally, air traffic controller candidates must meet the following requirements:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Pass a medical evaluation
  • Pass the FAA pre-employment test
  • Pass the Air Traffic Controller Specialists Skills Assessment Battery (ATSA)
  • Complete a training course at the FAA Academy before turning 31 years old

A bachelor’s degree in aviation operations or aviation management can provide you with the educational background you need to pursue a career as an air traffic controller.

Air traffic controllers work for the U.S. Federal Government and coordinate aircraft movement from the ground to the National Airspace System.

Flight operator

Also known as flight dispatchers, flight operators are responsible for planning flight paths, taking into account factors such as weather, traffic flow and fuel requirements. They typically have a direct line of communication with pilots and will inform them of any changes in conditions during flight.

This job may include other responsibilities, such as crew and aircraft scheduling, aircraft maintenance planning and coordination with ground operations from airline subcontractors to Fixed Base Operations (FBOs) at commercial and general aviation airports.

While flight operators can periodically ride with pilots to observe flight conditions, they primarily work in airline dispatch offices.

A flight, or aircraft, dispatcher typically works for an airline, charter or air ambulance company.

How to become a flight operator

A high school diploma is generally the minimum education required to become a flight operator, though an undergraduate degree in aviation operations or a similar field can be an advantage. Prospective flight operators must also pass the FAA’s aircraft dispatcher license test.

Some airlines view this job as an entry-level role that can later grow into higher operational jobs.

Crew scheduler

A crew scheduler or schedule coordinator oversees flight crew coverage. There are legal requirements regarding how many crew members must be aboard each flight, so crew schedulers must plan ahead for crew sick time and days off to ensure they have enough crew members to cover all upcoming flights.

How to become a crew scheduler

A high school diploma is generally the minimum education requirement for becoming a crew scheduler. However, a degree in aviation operations can provide you with foundational knowledge of flight planning and crew scheduling, and it can give you a competitive advantage when applying for jobs. To be successful in this career path, you need excellent organizational skills and an understanding of federal guidelines.

Airline marketing professional

If you want to combine your business expertise with your passion for aviation, you may be well suited for a career in an airline’s marketing department. As an airline marketing professional, you’ll be responsible for creating promotional materials for your airline. Most airline marketing professionals work for airline corporate offices.

How to become an airline marketing professional

Employers tend to have preferences for candidates with a college degree in a related field, such as aviation operations or marketing. They may also require candidates to have some past experience working in a marketing role.

Aircraft safety inspector

Aircraft safety inspectors investigate and enforce safety regulations for all types of aircraft. They ensure that all required maintenance is performed and that aircraft are functioning properly. According to the FAA, aircraft safety inspectors may work in four different specialty areas: avionics, manufacturing, maintenance and operations.

How to become an aircraft safety inspector

A degree in aviation security can provide you with a foundational understanding of aircraft safety. Before getting hired as an aircraft safety inspector, you will need to gain experience in the field and pass a certification exam administered by the FAA. Aircraft safety inspectors may have experience as pilots, aircraft technicians or in other aviation roles.

Pursue a career in aviation with Lynn University

There is a wide range of career opportunities in the aviation industry. From piloting to airport management, Lynn University’s online aviation degrees can prepare you for a career in this exciting and rewarding field.

We offer online bachelor’s degree programs in aviation management, aviation operations and professional pilot. For more information on how Lynn University can help guide you on your path to an aviation career, get in touch today.

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Lynn University

Take your education to the next level with Lynn University's high-quality, flexible and affordable online bachelor's degree programs. Whether you're interested in business, education, communication, aviation, criminal justice or the arts and sciences, you'll find something here for you. Explore programs led by established faculty members who are passionate about your success.