Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians

Summary

aerospace engineering and operations technicians image
Aerospace engineering and operations technicians operate and calibrate computer systems so that they comply with test requirements.
Quick Facts: Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians
2015 Median Pay $66,180 per year
$31.82 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Associate's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training None
Number of Jobs, 2014 11,400
Job Outlook, 2014-24 4% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 400

What Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians Do

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians operate and maintain equipment used in developing, testing, and producing new aircraft and spacecraft. Increasingly, these workers are using computer-based modeling and simulation tools and processes in their work.

Work Environment

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians usually work in manufacturing or industrial plants, laboratories, and offices. Some of these workers may be exposed to hazards from equipment or from toxic materials, but incidents are rare as long as proper procedures are followed.

How to Become an Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technician

Many employers prefer to hire aerospace engineering and operations technicians who have earned an associate’s degree in engineering technology. 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.

Pay

The median annual wage for aerospace engineering and operations technicians was $66,180 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of aerospace engineering and operations technicians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Workers in this occupation work on many projects that are related to national defense and therefore require security clearances. These requirements will help to keep jobs in the United States.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for aerospace engineering and operations technicians.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of aerospace engineering and operations technicians with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about aerospace engineering and operations technicians by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

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 testing new aircraft and spacecraft. Increasingly, these workers are being required to program and run computer simulations that test new designs. 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 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 11,400 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most aerospace engineering and operations technicians were as follows:

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 33%
Engineering services 18
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 17
Testing laboratories 16
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 5

They usually work in manufacturing or industrial plants, laboratories, and offices. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians 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 have opportunities for employment 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. 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 working with their hands also are valuable, because these technicians build what aerospace engineers design. In addition, technicians should have a basic understanding of computers and programs in order to model or simulate products.

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians typically need to earn an associate’s degree or a graduate 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. Vocational–technical schools include postsecondary public institutions that emphasize training needed by local employers. Students who complete these programs typically receive a diploma or certificate.

The Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET accredits programs that include at least college algebra, trigonometry, and basic science courses.

Many vocational 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. Consequently, they must make correct measurements and keep accurate records.

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 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.

Both companies and the FAA seek to ensure the highest standards for the safety of the 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 2015

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians

$66,180

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians

$54,140

Total, all occupations

$36,200

 

The median annual wage for aerospace engineering and operations technicians was $66,180 in May 2015. 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 $39,560, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $99,090.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for aerospace engineering and operations technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences $91,170
Computer and electronic product manufacturing 70,310
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 67,460
Engineering services 61,400
Testing laboratories 57,560

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 2014-24

Total, all occupations

7%

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians

4%

Drafters, engineering technicians, and mapping technicians

-1%

 

Employment of aerospace engineering and operations technicians is projected to grow 4 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians work on many projects related to national defense and therefore require security clearances. This restriction will help to keep jobs in the United States. In addition, aircraft are being redesigned to cut down on noise pollution and to raise fuel efficiency. Need for such redesigns should raise demand for research and development, particularly in support of air transportation.

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians work mainly in national defense–related projects or in constructing civilian aircraft. These technicians also are employed in the rising market for pilotless aerial vehicles. Successful research and development projects, ranging from more efficient propulsion systems to new air transport concepts, will result in new product lines and create demand for these workers.

Those who work on engines or propulsion will be increasingly needed as design and production emphasis shifts to rebuilding existing aircraft so that they give off less noise while using less fuel. Opportunities for employment with civilian space companies should increase as spaceflight shifts to the civilian market from government agencies.

However, aerospace engineering and operations technicians also are working to improve productivity through the use of automation and robotics, and the increased productivity likely will reduce low-end production employment in this occupation. Another factor that may slow growth in the occupation is the continuing adoption of computational fluid dynamics software. This technology has lowered testing costs and has replaced more traditional testing. As a result, these technicians will see a shift toward more high-end technology tasks.

Employment projections data for aerospace engineering and operations technicians, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians

17-3021 11,400 11,800 4 400 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of aerospace engineering and operations technicians.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Aerospace engineers

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.

Bachelor's degree $107,830
Drafters

Drafters

Drafters use software to convert the designs of engineers and architects into technical drawings. Most workers specialize in architectural, civil, electrical, or mechanical drafting and use technical drawings to help design everything from microchips to skyscrapers.

Associate's degree $52,720
Electro-mechanical technicians

Electro-mechanical Technicians

Electro-mechanical technicians combine knowledge of mechanical technology with knowledge of electrical and electronic circuits. They operate, test, and maintain unmanned, automated, robotic, or electromechanical equipment.

Associate's degree $53,340
Industrial engineering technicians

Industrial Engineering Technicians

Industrial engineering technicians help industrial engineers implement designs to use personnel, materials, and machines effectively in factories, stores, healthcare organizations, repair shops, and offices. They prepare machinery and equipment layouts, plan workflows, conduct statistical production studies, and analyze production costs.

Associate's degree $53,780
Mechanical engineering technicians

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture mechanical devices, including tools, engines, and machines. They may make sketches and rough layouts, record and analyze data, make calculations and estimates, and report their findings.

Associate's degree $53,910
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineering-and-operations-technicians.htm (visited May 29, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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Work Environment

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How to Become One

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Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. This tab may also provide information on earnings in the major industries employing the occupation.

State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

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Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.