What credentials do I need to become an aircraft maintenance technician?

To become an aircraft maintenance technician, you’ll need quite a bit more technical training than you would for other maintenance positions. These will take the form of either actual work experience or formal education at an FAA-approved aviation maintenance school. The reason for these requirements is the FAA requires all aircraft maintenance to be performed by certified personnel.

On-the-job training

Some people are able to get certified with only a high school diploma. To do so, they get enough on-the-job training to get certified. The FAA’s requirements for this training are either:

  • 18 months of practical work experience with either airframes or power plants, or…
  • 30 months experience with both at the same time

Sometimes, those who go the work experience route do so through the military. If you’ve served in the armed forces and worked on engines, aircraft, or both, your experience there might qualify.

Formal education

The majority of those who become aircraft maintenance technicians do so through formal education at an FAA-approved school. There, you receive the technical training they need to perform the various maintenance tasks required of them. At the end of the coursework, you’re rewarded a certificate of completion.

Pass three different exams

Once you have either sufficient work experience or a certificate of completion, you’ll be able to take the needed certification exams. You must pass three:

  • A written exam
  • An oral exam
  • A practical exam

These must be completed within a 2-year period.

A, P, and A&P certification

Once you’ve completed the work and exams, you’ll qualify for one of three types of aircraft technician certifications:

  • Airframe mechanics (A), which qualifies you for body work
  • Powerplant mechanics (P), which qualifies you for engine work
  • Airframe and Powerplant (A&P), which qualifies you for both

Often, employers will prefer those with an A&P rating, so it might be worthwhile to go that route.

Additional qualifications

In addition to FAA certification, you’ll want the following skills:

  • Attention to detail
  • Manual dexterity and physical strength
  • Strong observational skills

The better your skills in these areas, the more hirable you’ll be.