Specializing Career Fields with the FAA A&P License
People often ask me if they feel it is necessary to specialize in an area of aircraft maintenance such as avionics or sheetmetal repair, or is it better to be more of a general mechanic. Both avenues have their advantages and disadvantages. Most aviation maintenance colleges will have special programs aimed at specializing while getting the FAA A&P license. These added courses however are not cheap, so a well informed decision is crucial.
The benefits to specializing in a specific field are;
- Possibly slightly higher pay.
- Specializing allows you to focus on a narrow subject thus learning it more and becoming competent faster.
- It is more likely to work under a repairman certificate in a specialized field.
- Extra courses pay off with increased subject knowledge. Think troubleshooting.
Some of the downsides to picking to a specific field are;
- Being too specific may limit job opportunities. In most cases being general wins.
- Extra courses are not cheap.
- After paying for courses, you may find that you dislike the specific area and would rather do something else.
- Might take longer to get the FAA A&P License because of the added courses.
We have all heard the saying, but does it apply to aviation maintenance? No, I believe a competent mechanic can become good at most areas over time. Acquiring the FAA A&P license is only the first step to becoming an aircraft mechanic. It is a learning process. Some skills take longer than others. For example, I still am not confident in sheet metal repairs and would probably do more damage if I tried, but lucky for me, I make up for it with my good looks
The choice to specialize I believe should be made only after time is spent on the job performing the different duties that an aircraft mechanic performs. How else would to even know if you want to specialize in a specific field? Image spending big bucks on a course in avionics only to learn that you hate the smell of solder? Starting off as a general mechanic gives you the opportunity to work with others who specialize, and this gives you in site to their jobs. You may find that you are naturally talented in sheetmetal repair which could equate to you making big bucks. Good sheetmetal mechanics are getting harder to find.
Building your resume is easier when you have more skills. It is possible to then custom tailor your resume for a specific job position. Your first few jobs as an aircraft mechanic may not be your dream job, but learn as much as you can, and become good at as much as you can, and this will pay off. Choosing to specialize after getting the FAA A&P License might make sense depending on your current situation and job prospects in your area. You can always go back and get more schooling to specialize in an given area if the need arises.
Be safe and happy wrenching
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