by Meredith Alt
WisDOT Bureau of Aeronautics
Published in Midwest Flyer – June/July 2018 issue
It is an exciting time to start planning a career in aviation, as the aviation industry expects an extraordinary demand for aviation-related jobs over the next 20 years. According to Boeing, between now and 2036, the aviation industry will need to fill more than 2 million positions for commercial airline pilots, maintenance technicians and cabin crew.
The aviation industry in Wisconsin is already experiencing shortages. Now is a great time to explore degree programs and training opportunities to help launch an aviation career for yourself – or encourage a high school or college student to consider this path! Below are some considerations for those interested in training in this field.
Choosing A Field of Study
To many people, pilots are the first thing that come to mind when thinking of aviation jobs. And indeed, the current demand for pilots is high enough that it is driving up pay for these positions. But, there is also a large need for workers on the ground – people who have the technical knowledge to construct and repair airplanes, as well as those who want to work in the business and operational side of the airlines and airports.
Before you select an educational program, you’ll want to think about which area of aviation is of most interest to you. If you want to be a pilot, a professional pilot program is one route, as is taking classes at a flight school and building hours by becoming a Certified Flight Instructor. If you are interested in aviation management, you’ll want experience with planes, as well as a degree with management emphasis. One excellent place to research aviation-related careers is the Experimental Aircraft Association careers webpage.
Wisconsin offers several degree and diploma programs that can kick start an aviation career in the air or on the ground. For those interested in becoming a professional pilot, Fox Valley Technical College and Gateway Technical College offer programs designed to give students the knowledge, skill, and experiences needed to become a professional pilot. Upon graduation, graduates will be qualified to take on careers such as airline pilot, charter pilot, corporate pilot and flight instructor.
For students interested in constructing, repairing and maintaining aircraft, Milwaukee Area Technical College and Fox Valley Technical College offer multiple programs for aircraft mechanics. In general, students will gain considerable experience working with airframe, powerplant, avionics, and other aircraft systems.
The above programs can usually be completed in two years or less if a student is full time. Students interested in an aviation bachelor’s degree should consider the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s Aviation Management program, which is an online program that allows students to transfer credits from 2-year programs in pilot training, avionics, or airframe and powerplant technical programs to complete their bachelor’s degree. The program focuses on developing advanced skills in leadership and administration so that graduates are prepared to lead and advance within the industry.
Many of Wisconsin’s bachelor’s degree programs in engineering offer aeronautics courses or a minor focused on aerospace studies. These include Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, UW-Milwaukee, UW-River Falls and UW-Madison. Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., offers a nationally recognized Space Sciences program and has opportunities connected to the NASA Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, which is headquartered there.
Interested in aviation, but not as a career? Many of the classes offered through these degree programs are open to all students. In addition, local fixed base operators throughout the state offer flight instruction to get your private, recreational, or sport pilot certificate if you’re interested in flying as a hobby.
For more information on aviation opportunities in Wisconsin, please visit the Wisconsin Bureau of Aeronautics Aviation Education webpage: wisconsindot.gov/aviationeducation