Two NASA technicians hold a large sphere

An aerospace engineering and operations technician could...


Test a part from an aircraft after a crash to find out why it failed. Photo of a shattered segment from an aircraft Service and prepare the space shuttle for its next launch. Photo of a space shuttle on a launching platform
Prototype a communications satellite that will allow calls from anywhere on Earth. A man talks on a phone and holds a laptop on his lap while sitting outside Test solid rocket boosters to help determine which one will perform the best at liftoff. Large flames are shot from a rocket booster being tested
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Key Facts & Information

Overview Aerospace engineering and operations technicians are essential to the development of new aircraft and space vehicles. They build, test, and maintain parts for air and spacecraft, and assemble, test, and maintain the vehicles as well. They are key members of a flight readiness team, preparing space vehicles for launch in clean rooms, and on the launch pad. They also help troubleshoot launch or flight failures by testing suspect parts.
Key Requirements Strong hands-on mechanical and electrical skills, detail-oriented, creative, and able to communicate well and work in teams
Minimum Degree Associate's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Chemistry, physics, computer science, algebra, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, English; if available, applied technology.
Median Salary
Aerospace Engineering & Operations Technician
  $68,020
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
  $49,630
Min Wage
  $15,080
$0
$10,000
$20,000
$30,000
$40,000
$50,000
$60,000
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$80,000
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%)
Interview
  • Read this interview to meet Bob Garcia, an aerospace engineering technician and crew chief who is responsible for the maintenance of and modifications on all the F-16s (jet fighter aircraft) at NASA.
  • Watch this video to meet an aerospace technician at Pratt and Whitney.
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

Most aerospace engineering and operations technicians enter the occupation with an associate degree in engineering technology. Training is available at technical institutes, community colleges, extension divisions of colleges and universities, public and private vocational-technical schools, and in the Armed Forces. Because the type and quality of training programs vary considerably, prospective students should carefully investigate training programs before enrolling.

Education and Training

There are several ways to train to become an aerospace engineering and operations technician. In high school you should take as many math and science classes as possible. You can then attend a college or technical school and take a two-year program in engineering or aerospace technology. Some schools have work-study programs in which you attend classes while working in the industry. Some companies in the aerospace industry offer on-the-job training programs. Apprenticeship programs, such as those given in drafting and electronics, may lead to a technician's job. Graduates of technical schools run by the armed services may also be able to find jobs as aerospace engineering and operations technicians. In addition, there are home-study courses that can qualify you for a job as a technician in the aerospace industry. Technicians may have to pass a security clearance before they can work on defense projects.

Other Qualifications

Because many engineering technicians assist in design work, creativity is desirable. Good communication skills and the ability to work well with others also are important as engineering technicians are typically part of a team of engineers and other technicians.

Nature of the Work

The aerospace industry is based on aeronautics, the science of flight, and on astronautics, the science of space travel. Both aircraft and spacecraft are produced in this industry. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians construct, test, and maintain aircraft and space vehicles. They may work on rockets, missiles, helicopters, and airplanes. They may adjust test equipment for accuracy and determine causes of equipment malfunctions. Using computer and communications systems, aerospace engineering and operations technicians often record and interpret test data. Technicians in the aerospace industry may work on many kinds of projects.

Watch this video to learn more about Dan Rediger's job as an engineering technician who works on jet engines.

Most aerospace engineering and operations technicians work for companies that build aircraft and space vehicles. These companies have contracts to build this equipment for private airlines or the federal government. Some aerospace engineering and operations technicians work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), universities, or research institutes. Although much of this industry is located on the west coast, some companies in the aerospace industry are located in the south or along the east coast.

Due to the complexity of the aerospace industry, there is great variety in the type of work available for technicians. Many technicians specialize in certain kinds of equipment, such as air intake valves for jet engines. Some spend several years working on small, one-of-a-kind parts used in spaceships. Others specialize in certain kinds of systems, such as hydraulic, electrical, or mechanical systems. They may also work with aircraft instruments, sheet metal, or landing gear.

No matter what kind of equipment they work on, aerospace engineering and operations technicians generally work as part of a team under the direction of scientists or engineers. Technicians perform much of the routine work, allowing the scientists and engineers to focus on tasks that make use of their more advanced training.

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians work in all phases of their industry including research and development, production, and sales. Some technicians prepare precise drawings or scale models. Others work with special instruments to take measurements, collect information, or perform laboratory tests. They may write reports, make cost estimates, or prepare plans for the manufacture of equipment. Some aerospace engineering and operations technicians work as field representatives. They offer assistance and advice to their company's customers, such as NASA or the armed services. Other technicians work as technical writers, preparing information for instruction manuals or catalogs.

Work Environment

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians usually work in modern, well-equipped plants, laboratories, or offices. At times they must work in small spaces, such as the inside sections of space vehicles. Production lines or testing centers can be very noisy. Workers are given ear protectors if the noise level is dangerous. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians sometimes work nights and weekends, but 35-40-hour weeks are standard. At times technicians must work longer hours to complete a project on time. When their projects are completed, aerospace engineering and operations technicians must find other jobs. They may have to move to a new area to find a job requiring their special skills.

Aerospace engineering and operations technicians generally work as part of a team that includes scientists, engineers, and technologists. They must be able to work well with others. They should also have an aptitude for science and mathematics and be able to concentrate on the details of their work. Technicians need to be responsible people who can work well with their hands. Some aerospace engineering and operations technicians belong to unions.

On the Job

  • Inspect, diagnose, maintain, and operate test setups and equipment to detect malfunctions.
  • Record and interpret test data on parts, assemblies, and mechanisms.
  • Confer with engineering personnel regarding details and implications of test procedures and results.
  • Adjust, repair or replace faulty components of test setups and equipment.
  • Identify required data, data acquisition plans and test parameters, setting up equipment to conform to these specifications.
  • Construct and maintain test facilities for aircraft parts and systems, according to specifications.
  • Operate and calibrate computer systems and devices to comply with test requirements and to perform data acquisition and analysis.
  • Test aircraft systems under simulated operational conditions, performing systems readiness tests and pre- and post-operational checkouts, to establish design or fabrication parameters.
  • Fabricate and install parts and systems to be tested in test equipment, using hand tools, power tools, and test instruments.
  • Finish vehicle instrumentation and de-instrumentation.
  • Exchange cooling system components in various vehicles.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Aerospace Engineering & Operations Technicians

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Additional Information

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Free science fair projects.