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What Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians Do About this section

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians work to make sure that testing goes smoothly.

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians operate and maintain equipment used in developing, testing, producing, and sustaining new aircraft and spacecraft. Increasingly, these workers are being required to program and run computer simulations tools and processes in their work, as well as advanced automation and robotics. Their work is critical in preventing the failure of key parts of new aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles. They also help in the quality assurance, testing, and operation of advanced technology equipment used in producing aircraft and the systems that go into the aircraft.

Duties

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians typically do the following:

  • Meet with aerospace engineers to discuss details and implications of test procedures
  • Build and maintain test facilities for aircraft systems
  • Make and install parts and systems to be tested in test equipment
  • Operate and calibrate computer systems so that they comply with test and manufacturing requirements
  • Ensure that test procedures are performed smoothly and safely
  • Record data from test parts and assemblies
  • Install instruments in aircraft and spacecraft
  • Monitor and ensure quality in producing systems that go into the aircraft

New aircraft designs undergo years of testing before they are put into service, because the failure of key parts during flight can be fatal. As part of the job, technicians often calibrate test equipment, such as wind tunnels, and determine the causes of equipment malfunctions. They also may program and run computer simulations that test the new designs.

Some aerospace engineering and operations technicians are beginning to specialize in three-dimensional printing, or additive manufacturing, as this technology becomes more common in the work they do.

Work Environment About this section

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians install instruments in aircraft and spacecraft.

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians held about 11,900 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of aerospace engineering and operations technicians were as follows:

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 36%
Engineering services 18
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 11
Scientific research and development services 11

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians work in manufacturing or industrial plants, laboratories, and offices. Those who work in manufacturing or industrial plants are frequently directly involved in assembling aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft. Many are exposed to hazards from equipment or from toxic materials, but incidents are rare as long as proper procedures are followed.

Work Schedules

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians are employed throughout the private sector, with large and small manufacturing organizations, as well as with engineering services firms. Schedules worked tend to parallel those of the other engineering and operations staff members, and most work full time.

How to Become an Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician About this section

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians work to prevent the failure of key parts of new aircraft, spacecraft, or missiles.

Many employers prefer to hire aerospace engineering and operations technicians who have earned an associate’s degree in engineering technology or who have completed vocational-technical education in computer programming or robotics, and machining. Prospective technicians also may earn certificates or diplomas offered by vocational or technical schools. Some aerospace engineering and operations technicians must have security clearances to work on projects related to national defense. U.S. citizenship may be required for certain types and levels of clearances.

Education

High school students interested in becoming aerospace engineering and operations technicians should take classes in math, science, and, if available, drafting and computer skills. Courses that help students develop skills collaboratively with machines also are valuable, because these technicians build what aerospace engineers design. In addition, technicians should have a basic understanding of computers and software in order to model or simulate products.

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians typically need to earn an associate’s degree or a certificate from a community college or vocational–technical school. Community colleges offer programs similar to those in technical institutes but include more theory-based and liberal arts coursework and programs. Community colleges typically award an associate’s degree, but some offer a certificate. Vocational–technical schools include postsecondary institutions that emphasize training needed by local employers. Students who complete these programs typically receive a diploma or certificate, but some vocational–technical schools offer an associate’s degree as well.

Some vocational schools and community colleges offer cooperative programs with work experience built into the curriculum.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians receive instructions from aerospace engineers. Therefore, they must be able to understand and follow those instructions, as well as communicate any problems to their supervisors.

Critical-thinking skills. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians must be able to help aerospace engineers troubleshoot particular design issues. They must be able to help evaluate system capabilities, identify problems, formulate the right question, and then find the right answer.

Detail oriented. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians make and keep precise measurements needed by aerospace engineers. In addition, they keep accurate records of these measurements.

Interpersonal skills. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians must be able to take instructions and offer advice. The ability to work well with supervising engineers, other technicians, and mechanics is essential because technicians interact with people from other divisions, businesses, and governments.

Math skills. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians use the principles of mathematics for measurement, analysis, design, and troubleshooting tasks in their work.

Mechanical skills. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians must be able to assist aerospace engineers by building what the engineers design. Mechanical skills are needed to help with the processes and directions required to move from design to production.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although not required for the job, certification is offered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Certification may be beneficial because it shows employers that a technician can carry out the theoretical designs of aerospace engineers.

Private companies and the FAA both seek to ensure the highest standards for the safety of aircraft. SpaceTEC, the National Science Foundation’s Center for Aerospace Technical Education, coordinates a nationwide program through community and technical colleges to help students prepare for certification.

Pay About this section

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2020

Aerospace engineering and operations technologists and technicians

$68,570

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians

$58,900

Total, all occupations

$41,950

 

The median annual wage for aerospace engineering and operations technicians was $68,570 in May 2020. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,400, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $103,450.

In May 2020, the median annual wages for aerospace engineering and operations technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Computer and electronic product manufacturing $72,890
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 70,280
Engineering services 64,590
Scientific research and development services 63,320

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians are employed throughout the private sector, with large and small manufacturing organizations, as well as with engineering services firms. Schedules worked tend to parallel those of the other engineering and operations staff members, and most work full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2019-29

Aerospace engineering and operations technologists and technicians

7%

Total, all occupations

4%

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians

1%

 

Employment of aerospace engineering and operations technicians is projected to grow 7 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. Most employment growth for these workers will be in the professional, scientific, and technical services industry. Aircraft may be redesigned to cut down on noise pollution and to raise fuel efficiency, spurring demand for technicians to work on these projects.

Successful research and development projects, ranging from more efficient propulsion systems to new air transport concepts, also will result in new product lines and create demand for these workers. In addition, aerospace engineering and operations technicians will be needed to meet rising demand for manufacturing small satellites known as cubesats or smallsats, which are used for communications, gathering data, and other purposes.

Employment projections data for aerospace engineering and operations technicians, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Aerospace engineering and operations technologists and technicians

17-3021 11,900 12,700 7 800 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about careers in engineering, visit

Technology Student Association

For more information about certification, visit

Federal Aviation Administration

SpaceTEC

O*NET

Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technologists and Technicians

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