Careers: Flying & Aviation/career in accident investigation
i am a 52 year old architect looking for a career change. i am interested in aviation accident investigation but am concerned that it may be too late in my career to pursue. i have a bachelor's degree in architecture and 27 years of experience, much as a manager. in looking at programs such as at ERAU, it appears that a bachelor's degree for accident investigation is a 5-year effort, and some reading i have done online implies that it takes many years to get to a reasonable level of compensation.
what are the options for entering this field (is the insurance industry an alternative) and is it realistic for someone of my age to be able to enter the field in a reasonably short time?
thanks so much for your insight.
While I have had training in the investigative proceedure of aviation accidents for my degree and have studied accidents/incidents for years, I personally have not applied for a job with the NTSB as I am career pilot.
That said, there are some requirements you must meet in order to qualify for a position as a NTSB field investigator, one of which is to be a licensed commercial pilot who is multi-engine and instrument rated with at least 1,000 hours flight time (300 in twins). You didn't say if you are a pilot, but if not I do agree it may be a bit late in the game at 52 to aquire the minimum flight experience requirements due to time and cost. Their FAQ page states:
What about employment opportunities with the NTSB?
"The NTSB generally hires investigators who have specific qualifications and/or previous safety work experience in transportation. We have hired current FAA air traffic controllers, airline transport category pilots, hazardous material experts, maritime experts, and aerospace engineers just to name a few of the disciplines. We also have an intern and co-op program. Several of our senior investigators and managers started out as student interns and have risen through the ranks over many years."
That said, perhaps there is another kind of position that may not have such extensive aviation prerequisites. I do not know. You can try looking through their jobs page- http://www.ntsb.gov/about/employment.html
I also suggest contacting your NTSB area office and request a meeting (phone/in person) with an investigator if possible to ask them about any possible 'entry level' type positions with the agency. (Not "Field Investigators" who must be pilots) I have also read insurance agencies have their own onvestigators, but I am not aware of any details.
Besides ERAU, there is also an Accident Investigation course offered at the University of Southern California. It's supposed to be one of the foremost programs in the world for training investigators. Many different countries and airlines send their safety board members through this program. You may find it of interest and they may have some advice to offer on a career with such training. Visit:
I wish you success in your new career, no matter what it is.