What is an Aircraft Maintenance Technology Degree?

Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians keep airplanes in safe operating condition. Degree programs in aircraft maintenance technology teach students how to inspect, maintain, and repair aircraft.

The typical curriculum covers both the airframe (structural) and power plant (engine) components of aircraft. Students learn about aircraft metal structures, fuel systems, electronics, hydraulics and propulsion systems, landing gear systems, and maintenance and inspection regulations.

Many programs in aircraft maintenance technology are structured around the various specializations of airframe and power plant (A&P) mechanics.

These include:

  • Avionics technicians – specialists in aircraft electronic instrumentation and computer systems
  • Designated airworthiness representatives (DARs) – specialists who inspect aircraft for their suitability to fly safely
  • Inspection authorized (IA) mechanics – mechanics who hold both airframe and power plant licenses and are therefore qualified to perform comprehensive inspections on aircraft
  • Repairmen – maintenance personnel who are permitted to complete only very specific duties on specific jobs at specific repair centers

Program Options

Certificate or Associate Degree in Aircraft Maintenance Technology – Eighteen Month to Two Year Duration
The difference between certificate and associate degree programs in aircraft maintenance technology is often a difference in name only. The important thing is to choose a school that is approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), because only graduates of FAA-approved programs qualify to sit for FAA airframe and power plant certification exams.

Here is a sample of the kind of coursework that these programs include:

  • Introduction to Standard Aviation Practices – introduction to aviation manuals, drawings, and standard documentation procedures for completed work
  • Aircraft Flight and Structures – flight theory, flight controls, basic electronics, testing and treatment of metal corrosion in aircraft
  • Aircraft Reciprocating (Piston) Engines – operation, maintenance, and repair of piston engines, assembly and disassembly of engines
  • Reciprocating (Piston) Engine Systems – testing, adjustment, and installation of internal combustion engine components
  • Aircraft Hydraulics – maintenance and repair of aircraft hydraulic systems and components
  • Landing Gear, Wheels, and Brakes – wheels, tires, brakes, anti-skid, gear extension and retraction
  • Aircraft Structural Repairs – inspection, fabrication, and repair of metal, tube, and composite material structure
  • Aircraft Electrical Circuits – electromagnetism, AC and DC electricity, power conversion, electronic devices, wiring, and batteries
  • Power Generation and Distribution – electrical controls, monitoring circuits, electric motor systems, and single-engine and multi-engine electric systems
  • Aircraft Propellers – inspection, installation, removal, repair, and overhaul of different kinds of propellers
  • Aircraft Gas Turbine Engines – testing, inspection, disassembly, and reassembly of gas turbine engines
  • Aircraft Gas Turbine Systems – inspection and servicing of engine instrumentation, ignition, fuel control, and lubrication systems
  • Aircraft Rigging – flight controls and fixed surfaces (ailerons, elevator, rudder)
  • Rotary Wing Aircraft – inspection, service, and repair of helicopters
  • Aircraft Instrumentation – installation and removal of engine, flight, and system instruments
  • Aircraft Electronics and Regulations – installation, inspection, and operation of electronic communication, navigation, flight control, and data recording systems
  • Aircraft Systems – fire detection and suppression systems, ice and rain protection, pressurization and oxygen systems, fuel systems
  • Technical Operations and Quality – quality assurance, operation of an Approved Maintenance Organization (AMO), aircraft handling, inspection, weight and balance, aircraft interiors
  • Aircraft Maintenance Practices – hands-on experience in aircraft maintenance and troubleshooting

Bachelor’s Degree in Aircraft Maintenance Technology – Four Year Duration
At the bachelor’s level, aircraft maintenance technology programs cover all of the subject areas listed above in the certificate / associate degree section. The bachelor’s curriculum, though, generally also includes elements of aircraft maintenance management and aerospace engineering.

Apprenticeship in Aircraft Maintenance Technology – Thirty Month Duration
Aspiring aircraft mechanics and technicians with no formal training must complete a minimum of 30 months of verifiable on-the-job training under the supervision of an FAA licensed mechanic before they can take the FAA’s certification exams.

Degrees Similar to Aircraft Maintenance Technology

Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace engineering degree programs teach the analytical, computational, and engineering and design skills needed to work in the aerospace industry. Students learn how to apply this knowledge to the manufacturing, testing, and monitoring of civil or commercial aircraft, military aircraft, missiles, rockets, spacecraft, lunar vehicles, and space stations.

Automotive Mechanics
Automotive mechanics training programs prepare students to work in the servicing and maintenance of cars. Coursework covers preventative maintenance, brake systems, suspension systems, steering systems, wheel alignment, drive lines and axles, and electrical fundamentals.

This degree field prepares students to work as electricians – the tradespeople who install, maintain, and repair electrical wiring and systems, including heating, ventilation, air conditioning, security, lighting, and computer networks. Programs may cover all types of electrical work, while others may focus on one of the four principal classifications of the electrical trade: residential, commercial, industrial, low voltage.

Engineering Technology
Engineering technology programs teach the engineering skills required to assist engineers in their work. Common classes are computers for engineering technology, construction methodologies, structural systems, strength of materials, and technical drawing.

Some of the subfields of engineering technology are civil engineering technology, construction engineering technology, aerospace engineering technology, and automotive engineering technology.

Mechanical Engineering
Students of mechanical engineering learn how to research, design, develop, and test mechanical and thermal devices, including tools, sensors, engines, and machines. These devices serve many industries, including the aerospace, medical, energy, and manufacturing sectors.

In addition to coursework in engineering and design, degree programs in the field include classes in mathematics, materials science, and physical sciences.

Robotics Technology
Degree programs in robotics technology prepare students to work with engineers who design robots and robotic systems than can perform duties that humans are either unable or prefer not to perform.

Skills You’ll Learn

Graduates with an aircraft maintenance technology degree gain this valuable set of transferable skills:

  • Ability to adapt to working with new systems
  • Ability to identify and solve technical and sometimes complex problems
  • Ability to understand technical information, follow guidelines, and conduct inspections
  • Ability to read gauges, dials, and other instruments
  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
  • Ability to work to deadlines
  • Attention to detail
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Focus / concentration
  • Hand/eye coordination and manual dexterity
  • Physical strength
  • Safety awareness
  • Spatial perception
  • Verbal and written communication
  • Visualization skills

What Can You Do with an Aircraft Maintenance Technology Degree?

The vast majority of aircraft maintenance technology grads go on to work directly in the aviation field. These are their most common employers:

  • Scheduled and charter commercial airlines
  • FAA certified aircraft repair stations and overhaul bases
  • Aircraft manufacturing companies
  • Aerospace parts manufacturers
  • Flight training schools
  • Corporations that own private aircraft
  • US Armed Forces
  • Fixed base operators (FBOs) – independent companies contracted by airports to provide aviation services like fuel, hangar space, air taxi, and repair and maintenance


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