Technical and mechanical ability often shows itself at an early age. Chances are you’ve seen this in yourself. You always took care of your own bike and car. Do others see it? Are you the first person they come to when something is broken? Do you like troubleshooting mechanical problems and won’t stop until you’ve found the solution? If you wear the term “gearhead” with pride, a career as a mechanic may seem an obvious choice. But what if you want something bigger? Something more unique that can broaden your career and income possibilities? The professions are out there - here are just a few.
You know that mechanics repair automobiles and prepare them for day-to-day travel, but have you ever wondered who ensures airplanes are safe and ready to take flight? The first step toward a job in aviation maintenance is to acquire the proper airframe and powerplant (A&P) training. With an A&P license you will have the skills to ensure airplanes are safe for flying each day, repair and maintain jets, inspect engine components for problems, test all repairs for safety and listen to descriptions of aircraft problems, find their causes and make the appropriate repairs. While some programs require 19 to 24 months to obtain a degree, the program at Redstone College, a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved school, can be completed in as little as 18 months.
There are two sides of aircraft maintenance – the mechanical and the electrical. If you’re more interested in the electrical aspects of aviation maintenance, you may be interested in a degree in advanced electronics technology specifically steered toward aviation. This avionics associate degree takes about 15 months to complete and will prepare you for work repairing communication, navigation and autopilot collision avoidance systems.
Looking for job security? The job market for aviation mechanics and technicians is growing. Aerospace giant Boeing released a long-term market outlook report and it contains good news for those interested in a career in avionics. According to their report, the company anticipates more than 600,000 airline maintenance technicians will be needed by 2031 to replace an aging workforce and keep up with the demand of increased air travel.
Pros working in aviation maintenance technology agree it’s an exciting field to consider. "I firmly believe this industry has the most diversity to offer anyone looking for a challenge, testing their knowledge and abilities every day,” says Dan Sonego, senior manager of technical operations for United Airlines. “This career field isn’t for the person who wants to go into work expecting the norm, but it is for the person ready to face whatever is thrown at them. The rewards are tremendous."
Wind energy technician
There are mechanical jobs in industries you may not have even considered before. Green jobs are out there too including skilled positions as a wind energy technician. It's a great way to be part of an up-and-coming industry as the U.S. Department of Energy states in a report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory that our country is on pace to draw as much as 20 percent of its electricity from wind by the year 2030. As our energy grid becomes increasingly dependent on wind turbines, people with wind energy training who can keep those turbines running will be in demand. A wind energy technician associate degree generally takes 15 months to complete. When you review programs at different schools, look for a school with on-site turbine units as well as a safety training tower.
HVAC systems and repairs
If working indoors and on solid ground is more your thing, you may be interested in a career repairing heating/ventilation/air conditioning (HVAC) systems. With commercial and residential construction back on the rise, there is high demand for people who can help plan for, install and maintain these systems. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of HVAC mechanics and installers is expected to grow 34 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Rising demand for trained technicians will result in excellent employment opportunities.
When looking at HVAC training programs, look for a school that offers the opportunity to work on several types of systems, from residential to industrial. Redstone College’s million-dollar HVAC lab features more than 20 residential furnaces and air conditioning units. There are also light commercial and residential boilers and a commercial walk-in cooler and freezer.
In today’s workforce having mechanical know-how and the right training opens up more opportunities than ever before. As industries become highly specialized and technology advances the need for well-trained technicians, there is a growing list of opportunities out there; you just have to know where to look. Making the most of those opportunities is up to you.