When we think about aviation, often our scope is limited to that of the pilot. However, the field of aviation is far more expansive than that, encompassing a variety of possible career paths. In a way, the sky truly is the limit for someone pursuing a degree in aviation. According to Maureen Kiggins, Director of Public Affairs at Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, graduates with degrees in aviation could consider careers such as aircraft maintenance technician, aircraft dispatcher, general manager of an airport, pilot, customer service, airport operations specialists, air traffic controller and more. The variety of career paths for a graduate of an aviation program are appealing to potential students, and the growth the industry is experiencing is also enticing. Kiggins noted, “The 2016 Boeing Pilot and Technician Outlook forecasts that between now and 2035, the aviation industry will need to supply more than two million new aviation personnel including 617,000 commercial airline pilots and 679,000 maintenance technicians.”
As the demand for highly qualified aviation specialists grows, many schools and employers look to those with military experience as ideal candidates. Kenneth Witcher, Associate Professor and Dean of the College of Aeronautics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Worldwide Campus, explained that military experience “provides individuals with invaluable skills, particularly self-discipline, excellent communication skills, an appreciation for a strong safety culture, and an ability to conduct risk-analysis assessments. Active military personnel, as well as veterans, already have a safety-first mindset and a strong work ethic, so that they can adapt very easily to working in the aviation and aerospace industry.” For any student with a military background, a degree and career in the world of aviation is certainly one to be considered.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Worldwide Campus
Embry-Riddle has a 90-year record of providing excellent and globally competitive education in the field of aviation and aerospace. Embry-Riddle serves more than 31,000 students in Florida and Arizona, multiple satellite locations, and online programs which have been named “the nation’s best” by U.S. News & World Report. Embry-Riddle offers a variety of programs of study in the field of aviation.
“The College of Aeronautics currently offers associate degrees in eight fields, ranging from aeronautics and aviation business management to aviation maintenance, engineering fundamentals and logistics and supply chain management,” Witcher explained. Additionally, there are 17 bachelor’s programs in aviation security, project management, safety management, unmanned systems applications, and much more.
“[Nearly] 20 different master’s degree programs also encompass cybersecurity management and policy, occupational safety, human factors, unmanned systems, and other fields,” Witcher said. A Ph.D in Aviation is offered through the Daytona Beach, Fla. location.
Each program at Embry-Riddle focuses on real-life, applicable skills to ensure success for their graduates as they enter the workforce. Graduates of Embry-Riddle’s programs can expect an exciting variety of opportunities as they enter the workforce. It all depends on what specific field of study they pursue. Graduates of the Aviation Maintenance Bachelor’s degree might be employed focusing on “hydraulic components and system designing, manufacturing engineering, technical writing, aerospace systems development, aerospace products and parts manufacturing, surveillance technology” and more. Witcher said that graduates of the Unmanned Systems Applications program “are prepared to pursue careers in design, engineering, management, accident investigation, analysis, communication systems, emergency response coordination, mission planning” and more. The possibilities are endless!
Witcher, and Embry-Riddle, know the importance of military experience to potential Embry-Riddle Aviation students. Currently, more than 8,000 of Embry-Riddle’s currently enrolled students are active military members. The school understands that, particularly for those who are active duty, there is a balance between one’s education and military duties to maintain. VA counselors are available to help any student with military experience determine the best options for them, including reviewing tuition discounts and utilization of their GI Bill. Many of Embry-Riddle’s worldwide campuses are on military locations, including possible stations in Europe, Japan, and Korea. Dr. John R. Watret, chancellor for Embry-Riddle Worldwide, has said:
“We have a long-standing commitment to our service men and women, both active-duty and veteran, and take pride in being able to offer them degrees that are of the highest academic quality and that are sought after by employers in the aviation and aerospace industry.” Embry-Riddle is committed to nurturing students, both educationally and in their service to our country.
Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus
Kansas State Polytechnic offers bachelor’s degree programs in airport management, professional pilot, aviation maintenance management and unmanned aircraft systems. To aid students in these programs, KSU has a number of resources that create a state-of-the art atmosphere, including three instrument runways, modern classrooms and labs, a Canadair Regional Jet simulator, a dispatch center and a maintenance hangar.
According the KSU marketing department, students can expect unique and realistic experiences in their education in the aviation programs. “Our airport management program was the first of its kind in the nation, opening new opportunities for students and graduates,” KSU marketing told MAE&T. “This is the only program on an active airfield.”
In the professional pilot program, students have the use of a 35-aircraft fleet at the regional airport, within walking distance of campus. For the aviation maintenance program, the classroom is a 38,000 square foot hangar with direct ramp access to the regional airport, allowing students to conduct engine runs, aircraft ground operations and aircraft taxi in an operational environment. Finally, the unmanned aircraft systems programs are innovative and particularly cutting edge. Students interested in this field can choose from two options, either in flight and operations or in design. Students can also select a UAS minor to experience this unique learning opportunity. KSU built one of the largest enclosed UAS flight facilities in the nation and were awarded the country’s first approval to provide commercial flight training, to keep pace with the changing world of aviation.
Graduates of KSU’s aviation degree programs can seek a variety of careers, entering the workforce is such roles as flight instructor, pilot, airport manager, aviation safety director, aerospace quality manager, aerospace service engineer, aviation business administration, aircraft fleet manager, aerospace quality manager, pipeline and power line patrols, tower and structure inspections, industrial and nuclear accident monitory, railroad track inspections, military contractor, and more.
KSU has also demonstrated a commitment to students with military service. In fact, 1 out of 8 students at KSY is a current or former servicemember. KSU is a Yellow Ribbon Program approved institution that accepts the Post 9-11 GI Bill, offers ACE credit for military training and experience, and has a dedicated VA representative and Student Veterans Association in order to personally assist students as needed. Because KSU believes in hands-on teaching and learning experiences, students with military experience are particularly set up for success there. Often, they come to the programs with real life experiences that enable them to meet with success as they continue their studies at KSU.
Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology
At Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology, students can explore learning in such career paths as in aircraft maintenance, avionics systems technology, nondestructive testing, quality control and aviation management. Dan Peterson, Chief Executive Officer, USAF (Ret.), noted that “Spartan’s graduates work as pilots as well as A&P technicians, electronics or avionics technicians, nondestructive testers or inspectors, quality control inspectors among other things.” It is this variety that Peterson believes many students in the aviation programs at Spartan love. “No two days,” he said, “are the same.” Graduates could be inspecting planes, troubleshooting problems, designing specialized equipment, working on a jumbo jet, and more. There are so many options that one can pursue in the field, and Spartan’s programs allow students to determine the path that most interests them.
More than 300 students at Spartan are veterans, and a few more are active duty and in the reserves or utilizing the online programs offered. “It is a natural fit for veterans to pursue careers in the aviation industry,” Peterson said. “Often times, the jobs they held while in active duty have applicable skills.” He added that sometimes students may be eligible for transfer credits which allows them to finish the program early.
“The aviation industry requires an amount of discipline, reliability and of course integrity. These are characteristics that are often times more apparent in veterans,” Peterson said. In fact, employers in the aviation industry often seek out those with military experience for these reasons.
Spartan offers many supports for veteran students. The school accepts all major military benefits, have veteran student lounges, and a Student Veterans Association on their Tulsa campus. “Spartan has a long standing history of providing training to both military active duty and veterans since 1928,” Peterson said. “We consider serving this student population our duty and privilege.”
Thomas Edison State University
The School of Applied Science and Technology at Thomas Edison State University offers associate and bachelor’s degree programs in air traffic control, aviation flight technology, aviation maintenance technology and aviation management. An APR (Academic Program Review) can award credit for FAA licenses based on experience that military and veteran students may already have.
Donald Cucuzzella, assistant director of the school of Applied Science and Technology, explained that, “These licenses typically encompass credentials held by aircraft mechanics, civilian and military aircraft dispatchers, air transport pilots, certified flight instructors, helicopter pilots, control tower operators, flight engineers and commercial and private airplane pilots.”
Graduates of the programs at Thomas Edison are headed in to a dynamic field with a number of career options. Because the technologies are always evolving, the job is always changing as well, making for an exciting work experience. Some may wonder if earning a degree in the field is necessary, but Cucuzzella noted: “A degree often equates to security for many aviation-related positions during every phase of a career cycle. For those wishing to transition away from more physically demanding positions, for instance, a university degree would allow them to remain in their field while preparing for a new administrative or managerial role.” Additionally, as many currently in the industry approach retirement, a job candidate with both military experience and a degree in the field is an extremely desirable candidate with considerable competitive advantage in the hiring process.
In addition to often coming to Thomas Edison with FAA licenses and certifications, military veterans’ “hands-on, technical prowess is often enhanced by the leadership qualities they developed in the military as well as their personal discipline and sense of commitment,” Cucuzzella said. Instructors as well as non-military peers at Thomas Edison often speak about the “valuable perspective” that students with military experience bring to the learning environment. Thomas Edison currently serves 3,518 active duty, reservists, and military veterans, with 392 of those specifically in the aviation programs.
“The university prides itself on serving those who have served our country and our evolving support structure continues to reflect this,” Cucuzzella said. “For more than 40 years, our Office of Military and Veteran Education has been a cornerstone of this endeavor by providing personalized attention to active, reserve and veterans in all branches of the U.S. military during each phase of their academic journey.”
Some of the military resources and benefits available include an online Military and Veteran Portal (MVP) to let veterans determine possible credit equivalency, degree programs, and estimated costs and job potential before application. A virtual resource center, Operation Vet Success (OVS) and Operation College Promise are all additional resources in place to assist veterans as they reach for academic success.
Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology
At Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology, students have a wide selection of aviation pathways to prepare them for the ever-expanding career field of aviation. Students can earn certificates in aircraft dispatch and aviation maintenance. They can also earn an Associate in Occupational Studies (AOS) in Aviation Maintenance or an Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Aircraft Operations (Flight), Airport Management, Aviation Maintenance, or Electronic Engineering Technology – Avionics.
A number of Bachelor of Science degree paths are available, including Aeronautical Sciences, Aircraft Operations (Flight), Airline Management, Airport Management, Aviation Maintenance, Aviation Maintenance Management, General Management, and Electronic Engineering Technology – Avionics. Vaughn also offers a Master of Science in Airport Management.
“Vaughn College is one of 33 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Air Traffic — Collegiate Training Initiative (AT-CTI) partners,” Kiggins said. “The FAA hires approximately 50 percent of its candidates from the AT-CTI and the military.”
Vaughn has invested over $1 million to ensure its students have the most cutting edge training devices available to them. They have two Redbirds motion simulators, which Kiggins said “manipulates your sense of balance, simulating actual roll, pitch and yaw motions. From varying weather conditions to equipment failures, these new simulators not only provide a wide range of training scenarios, they're also approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.”
Vaughn is also home to The FRASCA Cessna 172 Flight Training Device, which includes a fully enclosed flight deck with 220 degree wraparound visuals, realistic controls like a real aircraft, and single or twin engine configurations. A CRJ-700 simulator simulates the Canadair two-engine fan jet. Additionally, Vaughn has a new radar and tower training facility and a new ATC laboratory to “support the same airport and airspace that students will encounter upon entering the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Academy,” explained Kiggins. Considering all of these technologies and innovative practices, it is no wonder that Vaughn was recently selected as a Delta Air Lines partner institution.
Currently, Vaughn has 172 students with military experience enrolled in their programs. Vaughn’s aviation program seems to attract veterans because “communication skills, and the ability to work in teams is vital,” Kiggins said. Vaughn has a Veterans Organization that helps assist veterans with the transition to a successful academic life and provides networking and fellowship opportunities. Career Services works with students to make sure that they are on course to successfully earn required certifications to be employable, and an internship coordinator helps place students in internship opportunities to ensure career success post-graduation. Vaughn prides itself on its ability to produce graduates who are ready and able to take on the challenging work of aviation career paths.