Careers: Flying & Aviation/aviation career
Hello, I have done a lot of research, and it seems I am no farther than where I started. If you can answer my question that would be awesome! To give you some background, I am currently taking Mechanical Engineering at my University. I Later want to take an Aviation Maintenance Technician course after. However I am not sure whether to complete my mechanical engineering degree first, or just graduate with my Technician, then take my aviation course. Will the difference in the two (having mechanical engineering degree with aircraft maintenance, or having mechanical technician with aircraft maintenance) make a large impact on the type of salary I would get? Personally I would love to work with Ultralights, specifically Powered Parachutes, but That likely won't happen because of the limited job opportunities/locations for it. Any input as to what kind of degree is most important would be most appreciated, thank you for your time ~ Alyssa
Thank you for your question, I will try to assist!
First of all, your plan sounds good---that is, to combine a Mechanical Engineering degree with an Airframe and Power Plant License/Aviation Maintenance Technician degree/certificate. This combination is very marketable, especially to aviation/aerospace manufacturers as well as the larger airlines. However, on the aviation side, the Airframe and Power Plant (or Aviation Maintenance Technician) Certificate from the Canadian Government (or from the US Federal Aviation Administration, if you wish to work in the USA) would be the key credential to obtain. That is, if you have the A and P certificate (or its equivalent in Canada), that would give you the minimum training and regulatory approval needed to actually work on aircraft of ANY kind....to work on the larger airline aircraft, you will (of course) need special training.....
Second, it appears that you are asking me whether to do both of these or not and then you are asking me, if you do both, which should you do first--is that right?
A. Regarding doing both: If you can afford the time and the money, yes, do both. Both the Mechanical Engineering degree and the A and P certificate (and a related degree) would make you VERY marketable in the aviation industry, but, especially with manufacturers. Aerospace/aviation manufacturers value both engineers AND certificated A and P mechanics....aviation manufacturers especially like to hire people who not only know engineering principles (for design purposes), but, also who know aviation and aircraft (so that the engineers understand how the aircraft need to operate in the aviation industry environment). So, yes, having both, will influence your salary and will help it on the higher end....
B. Regarding which one to do first: If you are fairly far along in your mechanical engineering degree, and, you like it, stick with it and finish it....if you do not like it as an academic field, you might jump over to the A and P certificate and/or degree program.....there ARE Aviation Technology or Aviation Maintenance Technology bachelor's degrees that include the A and P certification offered in the USA. Two of the best are at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the university I work for, Southern Illinois University Carbondale (in Southern Illinois, about two hours by car from St. Louis, MO or one hour from Paducah, Kentucky). Another reason to do A and P or aviation second is to have that fresh on our mind as you search for jobs in aviation.....and, if you attend a school like Purdue or SIUC, you will get placement help from those institutions, which place students at Boeing, etc, all the time....
Finally, on where in the industry to work---you are so right in that ultralights and powered parachutes are a very small end of the aviation business right now. When the FAA opens up airspace for more commercial use by ultralights in the coming years, this business will grow. But, for now, the big business is in designing and building airline aircraft. The big three in this field are Boeing (US), Airbus (France/Europe) and Embraer (Brazil).....and #4 is Bombardier in your nation......plus their key suppliers. There are additional manufacturers who build military aircraft such as Lockheed Martin and Northrup.....
I hope that this answer helps. I wish you the very best! Follow up with another question as needed.
David A. NewMyer, Professor Emeritus
Aviation Management and Flight Department
Southern Illinois University Carbondale