Old Job/Bright Future: Aircraft Technician

Once just the grease monkey, the mechanic may become the most educated member of a plane’s crew.

A nurse with all the answers and a bedside manner. An aircraft mechanic with a computer science degree. The Future of Work will mean some big changes to existing jobs, but in many cases humans will remain the critical component. Here is Part 4 of a four-part series.

Aircraft mechanics aren’t particularly well loved; usually because you only see them working on your plane after the pilot announces that your flight is delayed for maintenance. But believe it or not, the ability to perform keep planes airborne and meet government standards is going to be a premium skill over the coming years.

The skills mechanics need, however, are shifting quickly. Already new model engines have the ability to send and receive data, and in a few years every part of a major aircraft will have a relationship with a major computer system, says aviation industry expert Mike Boyd of the Boyd International Consulting Group. To interpret all the data, an aircraft mechanic will need to be as handy with software code as he or she is with a wrench.

The total employment for aircraft technicians is expected to grow only slightly, but be about 139,000 over in 2024, only 1 percent higher than today’s existing amount, according to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But those limited number of positions will increasingly be filled with highly skilled employees. Instead of an aircraft tech getting hired from a Ford dealer, you’ll have someone getting hired out of MIT,” Boyd says. With the increased specialization likely will come higher pay as aviation firms start competing with high tech firms for talent.

Indeed, if you want to work around an airplane, mechanic may be the best role. There’s no major move to replace pilots or flight attendants with robots, but passenger expectations and an increasingly tense atmosphere over safety may make those roles less attractive. “There’s nothing on the horizon that will eliminate or make any easier a flight attendant’s job.” Boyd says.

Part 1: Barista

Part 2: Logistics Officer

Part 3: Nurse