When you think of aviation, you can’t help but think “up”—airplanes flying overhead, rockets launching into space. But did you know the world of aviation is so much more than that? To keep aircrafts safe in the air, we need experts on the ground to make it all happen.

For over 80 years, Vaughn College has been the cornerstone of education for students who choose to pursue careers in aviation. With a vast curriculum encompassing all aspects of aviation, it’s no wonder Vaughn graduates are succeeding at every level and landing their dream aviation jobs in a soaring industry. Want proof? Check out the recent success stories of Alexa Cruz ’22, Kirei Watson ’18, and Jade Kukula ’07.

We’ve narrowed down the top five aviation jobs and salaries in the industry today. See all the opportunities you have with your aviation degree:

1. Director of Aerospace Program Management

Annual Salary: $183,000 (including bonuses and profit sharing).
Education: Bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or related field; graduate degree may be required.

This leadership position is one to aspire to as it requires experience and expertise in the field. Directors of aerospace program management lead product and project-development programs and are involved in creating a company’s business strategies, negotiating contracts to build aircrafts, and ensuring budgets and timetables are met. They are typically hired by aircraft or engine manufacturers, or defense, telecommunications or other aerospace-related employers. Other tasks include:

2. Commercial Pilot, CoPilot, or Flight Engineer

Annual Salary: $113,000 (including bonuses and profit sharing).
Education: Bachelor’s degree in aviation.
Certifications: Commercial pilot’s license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and the FAA-issued Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate.

If you ever needed a reason―aside from your passion―to become an airline pilot, here’s one you can’t ignore: According to a recent report from Boeing projects, the airline industry will need more than 637,000 pilots by 2036. There’s never been a better time to pursue your dream and train to become a pilot amidst this staggering pilot shortage. Additionally, pilots have the potential to earn excellent salaries as their careers advance. Airline pilots, co-pilots, and flight engineers are on board to perform the same duties, ensuring the safe flight of aircraft from one place to another. Other tasks include:

3. Air Traffic Controller

Annual Salary: $85,000.
Education: Associate or bachelor’s degree.
Certification: Pass the FAA biometric-screening exam or attend an institution like Vaughn which offers the Air Traffic Collegiate Training Initiative program―a partnership between the FAA and Vaughn to provide air traffic control (ATC) instruction.

Air traffic controllers (ATCs) are a pilot’s eyes and ears on the ground, assisting with landing and take-off instructions. ATCs are also responsible for rerouting in-flight aircraft when inclement weather strikes. A unique characteristic of working as an ATC is the mandatory retirement age of 56, with full federal pension benefits. Other tasks include:

4. Aerospace/Aviation Project Engineer

Annual Salary: $83,000.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, aviation engineering or another field of engineering or science that is related to aerospace systems.

Aerospace/aviation project engineers have the exciting task of designing aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. They are employed in various fields which include manufacturing, analysis and design, research and development, and the federal government. Note that aerospace engineers working in national defense may need a security clearance. Other tasks include:

5. Aircraft Maintenance Manager

Annual Salary: $81,000.
Education: Bachelor’s degree.
Certification: Requires FAA aircraft and engine mechanic license.

Aircraft maintenance managers play a leading role of overseeing their team to ensure work is completed and performed according to quality control guidelines. These professionals must possess both technical and leadership skills to efficiently perform maintenance jobs in addition to supervising maintenance operations. Other tasks include:

Are you setting your sights on a career in aviation? Vaughn’s career services offer aviation enthusiasts a wide range of options where they can find the perfect career fit with certificate, associate, bachelor and master’s degree programs.

Check out all that’s possible with Vaughn’s maintenance aviation degree programs and certificates.

Note: Salaries reported by PayScale and based on a national average.

Passion and dedication are the driving forces behind one of Vaughn College’s newest faculty members. With one year under his belt at Vaughn, backed by 24 years of teaching experience, Miguel Bustamante, PhD, assistant professor of engineering and technology, is making his mark on campus with an exceptional teaching approach, all the while spearheading a recent humanitarian mission to Rwanda.

Bustamante brings 24 years of teaching a multitude of engineering and technology courses at Vaughn, such as electrical engineering, program logic control, programming language, and feedback control systems. These courses supply the knowledge and skill set that are the basis for success in the industry. They give students the ability to stand out from the crowd, and Bustamante loves nothing more than to pass this passion along to his students.

“Judgement-Free” Classroom

Bustamante believes making his classroom a “judgement-free” zone is the key to ensuring his students’ success. He admits the engineering and technology courses he teaches can be challenging but explains how his unique approach has proven to be a formula for student success. “It’s important to make students feel at ease while still being firm with them,” Bustamante stated. “Teaching is all in the approach and keeping students engaged.”

Here are some ways of how Bustamante ensures his students’ success in his engineering and technology courses:

  • Create a “judgement-free” zone where students can express themselves freely and ask questions without fear of being wrong
  • Bring humor to discussions to lighten the mood
  • Bring real-life experiences to lectures
  • Write information on the board to keep concepts fresh in their minds

Because the classes required for engineering degrees can be challenging, he believes these approaches will encourage student success and a positive classroom experience.

Where his passion started

Bustamante’s passion for electrical engineering began at an early age growing up in Columbia, South America, but it wasn’t until his family moved to New York when he was 15 years old that he knew his future in engineering would become a reality.

After high school graduation, Bustamante enrolled at a local college in New York where he earned a bachelor of science degree and a master’s degree in electric engineering. In 1996, he began teaching at the college, devoting himself to his students every step of the way. In 2004, he decided to go back to school to pursue his PhD in electrical engineering. “Teaching inspired me to pursue my doctorate,” Bustamante said. “It was important for me to pass my knowledge in mathematics and engineering on to my students.”

 Bringing Classroom Knowledge to a Real World Mission

The Vaughn student chapter of Engineers Without Borders proudly partnered with the humanitarian efforts of Engineers Without Borders USA, an organization that utilizes the skills of engineers across the country to combat the challenges faced by some of the world’s poorest people in their efforts to live healthy lives.

Last February, Bustamante, along with four Vaughn students who are pursuing engineering and technology degrees, visited the African country of Rwanda to test water supplies in the village of Kibingo. The goal of the 10-day mission was to determine a solution that would provide potable water to the town of 900 villagers. The team located, tested and marked every water source in the village, tested the sediment in the soil, and met with authorities.

“The students had the ability to use their knowledge of mathematics, science and computer-aided design from their engineering and technology courses in a real-world scenario,” Bustamante said. “Their collected data was analyzed, revealing microbial contamination that exceeds the limits in accordance with the National Primary Drinking Water Standards (NPDWS) set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), confirming the water sources are unsafe and inadequate for safe consumption.”

Currently, the students are crafting an engineering solution system to provide enough clean water to serve over 250 families in the village of Kibingo. “The post-assessment and solution to treating the water supplies is good to go,” Bustamante stated. “We are now working on raising capital for the project and plan on returning to Rwanda in January 2020 to implement the system.”

When it comes to achieving your goals, Bustamante believes in staying the course and forging ahead to overcome any obstacles. “I want my students to remember that gaining knowledge will only get them halfway to their goals. The other half is to never lose their sense of wonder and knowing the journey to knowledge never ends.”

Learn more about Vaughn’s engineering and technology programs.

Unique 3D printed sensor technology may be a real gamechanger in NASA’s future efforts to send humans to the moon and possibly Mars. Recent funding is fueling a much-anticipated program that could potentially make great strides in advancing the way NASA can detect life-sustaining elements in space and even monitor the health and safety of its astronauts.

The world of 3D printing really hits home for Vaughn students and alumni. Vaughn College is at the forefront of 3D printing technology, thanks to a 3D prototyping innovation center that was launched just a few years ago. It is equipped with 15 3D printers and two 3D scanners to provide students with hands-on opportunities to transform their concepts into physical objects.

What is 3D printed sensory technology?

Think of the way a printer uses ink to print things such as newspapers, for example. Now, take that principle and add amazing innovations where the ink is replaced with nanomaterials―such as carbon nanotubes and graphene―and applying them, layer-by-layer, onto a substrate to create miniature sensors.

The result is a set of highly sensitive tiny powerhouses that are lightweight, can withstand radiation and require less power, thus keeping them stable in extreme conditions. This 3D printer could produce these tiny platforms that may someday be sent on planetary rovers for further exploration in search of life throughout the solar system.

Vaughn Alumni, Jade Kukula ’07, who earned her bachelor of science in mechanical engineering, is no stranger to 3D printers. She studied “swarm robotics” for her bachelor’s degree project. The term “swarm robots” refers to a coordination of multiple robots that can communicate with one another. Right out of college, she took her learnings from Vaughn and applied them to the Hubble Space Telescope team, where she became responsible for maintaining the health and safety of the telescopes, as well as related science and engineering data.

Making it happen

NASA engineer Mahmooda Sultana won a $2 million technology development award funded by NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s (STMD) Early Career Initiative (ECI) to further develop the nanomaterial-based detector platform. As reported by Lori Keesey of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, this potentially revolutionary sensor technology stems from a self-contained platform, measuring only two-by-three inches, that is capable of sensing minute concentrations of gases, vapor, atmospheric pressure and temperature. Additionally, this platform would then transmit the data via a wireless antenna. Pretty cool, right?

For the next two years, Sultana and her team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will be working on this amazing program. They will design the sensor platform to determine the best combination of materials to achieve parts-per-billion concentrations of water, ammonia, methane and hydrogen. Northeastern University will then take Sultana’s design and use the 3D printing system to complete the process, simplifying the integration and packaging process.

Up until now, sensors were built one at a time and then integrated into other components. The advent of 3D printing will change that by allowing technicians to print a suite of sensors on one platform.

Interested in pursuing an engineering and technology career?

Vaughn offers a wide range of associate and bachelor’s degrees to prepare you for an exciting career in engineering, technology, management or aviation, that will set you apart from the competition. Here are a few of the majors offered at Vaughn which provide students with a rigorous and comprehensive course of study to enable them to become successful in their chosen fields.