Aviation plays a major role in society, and the aviation industry encompasses a broad spectrum of career opportunities. A degree in aviation shows a high level of commitment to the field. An aviation science degree is designed to be flexible enough to provide graduates with a thorough understanding of aeronautics and give them an edge in this highly competitive field. There are a variety of jobs available for the professional who holds this degree.
Aviation science majors are in demand by all branches of the military to pilot experimental aircraft. These graduates are sometimes recruited to lead a team of fighters. Others pilot refueling craft that support critical missions. According to Payscale, the salary earned by a military pilot depends on his rank and years of experience. The average salary for a pilot in the United States Air Force ranged from $44,694 to $92,903, as of October 2010.
Experienced pilots are sometimes employed by government and law enforcement agencies to enforce speed limits from the air or head search-and-rescue missions. Aerial firefighters with a degree in aviation are licensed and hired by the federal government. Their job is to help firefighters on the ground with fire control. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an aerial firefighter and other pilots for governmental agencies earned an average of $119,000 per year in 2009.
Experienced scientists and engineers with an aviation degree are employed by NASA. They are involved in the day-to-day operations of the aerospace industry on the ground. Many are chosen for space missions. A career as an astronaut requires excellent physical and mental condition. According to NASA, the salary for an astronaut in July 2009 was based on the federal government's pay scale for GS-12 and GS-13 employees. Salaries range from $65,140 for GS-12 to $100,700 for GS-13, based on academic achievements and experience.
Air traffic controllers are usually employed by the Federal Aviation Administration to work in a high-pressure environment coordinating air traffic takeoffs and landings. They are trained to use highly sophisticated equipment and to monitor all the aircraft within the range of their airspace. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the median salary for an air traffic controller in 2008 was $111,870. Jobs in this field are expected to grow by 13 percent by 2018.
The position of airport manager requires a degree in aviation science and exemplary business skills. Most large cities and many smaller communities have airports. The manager must understand and implement federal regulations for all operations. Most airport managers are paid a base salary plus bonuses based on efficiency.
Flight instructors train pilots at small flight schools and help them become certified pilots. They develop their own training techniques and teach classes for pilots of smaller aircraft. Instructors train pilots using flight simulators on the ground. The median salary for pilots and flight instructors as of May 2008 was $111,680.
Some pilots with aviation degrees can be employed by big businesses or corporations to pilot private jets. Regional charter companies hire pilots at an average salary of about $50,000 a year, and pilots hired on a full-time basis by corporations in 2009 earned up to $100,000 or more per year. Check with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and industry associations for the latest information on aviation industry pay scales.