An associate’s degree is becoming increasingly desired by employers of aerospace engineering and operations technicians, although vocational programs that grant certificates or diplomas also offer good preparation. Some aerospace engineering and operations technicians work on projects that are related to national defense and thus require security clearances. U.S. citizenship may be required for certain types and levels of clearances.
High school students interested in becoming an aerospace engineering and operations technician should take classes in math, science, and, if available, drafting. Courses that help students develop skills working with their hands also are valuable, because these technicians build what aerospace engineers design. Employers also want these technicians to have a basic understanding of computers and programs to model or simulate products.
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. 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.
The Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET (formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), accredits programs that include at least college algebra, trigonometry, and basic science courses.
Many vocational and community college programs offer cooperative programs, with work experience built into the curriculum.
Communication skills. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians receive instructions from aerospace engineers. Consequently, they must be able to understand and follow the 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 figure out why a particular design does not work as planned. They must be able to evaluate system capabilities, identify problems, formulate the right question, and then to 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 instruction and offer advice. An ability to work well with supervising engineers, other technicians, and mechanics is critical as technicians increasingly interact with people from other divisions, businesses, and governments.
Math skills. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians use the principals of mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Technical skills. Aerospace engineering and operations technicians must be able to help aerospace engineers by building what the engineers design and helping with the processes and directions required to move from design to production. They must have both the hands-on skills of mechanics and some technical knowledge of aerospace engineering.
Although certification is not required, skills-based certification programs help students prepare for certification 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, and companies and the FAA seek to ensure the highest standards for the safety of the aircraft.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition