Avionics is short for aviation electronics, and avionics technicians are specialists in the maintenance and repair of electronic systems for aircraft. Technicians typically work full time, but rotating shifts, long hours and overtime are the norm. Despite the time pressure, most avionics technicians find the job personally rewarding. According to the Princeton Review, avionics techs report high job satisfaction because the work is intellectually stimulating.
Major Employers and Career Areas
Avionics technicians work for a variety of employers, including private research institutions, the federal government, aerospace companies and airlines. The range of products they work on includes jet engines, flight control circuits and missile guidance systems. As a general rule, however, avionics techs typically focus on one of two major areas. Some work primarily as research and development technicians, helping engineers devise and test new components and systems. Others focus on production and maintenance, helping to keep the factories running and the aircraft flying.
Range of Duties and Responsibilities
Avionics technicians assemble electronic components, install instrument panels, calibrate instruments, test electronic circuits and install software. They interpret test data to diagnose problems, and once they find them, they make the necessary repairs. The equipment they commonly use ranges from hand and power tools to electronic instruments such as voltmeters and circuit testers. An important part of their role is maintaining careful records of regular maintenance and repairs. Depending on the job, some technicians specialize in a particular area, such as computerized guidance.
Essential Skills and Personal Qualities
Avionics techs need superior manual dexterity to assemble parts, wires and components. The work also requires physical agility, good balance, the ability to climb ladders and the strength to lift heavy loads. Technicians must be keen observers to recognize subtle signs of malfunction, and they need an orientation to detail to make precision adjustments. Problem-solving skills are essential for diagnosing circuit and component malfunctions correctly. Avionics techs must be able to communicate with other technicians and work well on a team. The job also requires the ability to write clear and accurate technical reports.
Education and Certification Requirements
An associate degree in avionic technology is the typical job requirement. Degree programs usually include general education classes such as English and math, plus technical instruction in general electronics, electronic devices and circuits, digital and microprocessors and aircraft radar systems. Most avionics techs also pass exams for certification or licensing, although not all jobs require it. Depending on the work, helpful credentials include Airframe certification through the Federal Aviation Administration or a Federal Communications Commission license for communications equipment.
Job Outlook and Advancement
Despite expected growth in air traffic, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that jobs for avionics technicians will increase by only 3 percent between 2012 and 2022, compared to 11 percent for all occupations. New aircraft are lower-maintenance, and the outsourcing of repairs abroad will also reduce job growth. Technicians with certifications and expertise in the latest digital systems technology will have the best prospects. An avionics tech can advance to electrical, aviation or communications engineer by completing a bachelor's degree in the related engineering major.