Orange Coast and Cypress Colleges’ Aviation Programs are Launching Careers Feature Story

September 21, 2021

Demand is on the rise for those in the aviation industry and Orange Coast College and Cypress College are helping students prepare, offering a wide variety of in-demand certificates and degrees covering everything from aviation maintenance to drone piloting.

Lisa Knuppel, dean of career education/career services at Orange Coast College, said the college has programs training students with hands-on experience for a wide variety of careers in the field.

“It’s a very full and strong program that covers every aspect of aviation,” said Knuppel. “For people who are inclined, it’s a high-paying robust market. It’s very competitive. But if a career in aviation is what you want, a community college is a smart, affordable way to get your training and launch your career.”

Aviation Science

Orange Coast College offers an associate degree in Aviation Science that takes between 18 to 24 months to complete. The program prepares students to become private or commercial pilots or flight operations specialists. At Cypress College’s Pilot Program, certificates are offered for students who want to learn how to fly an aircraft as well as earn a Commercial Pilot associate degree. 

“What we know about our students in aviation sciences is that they pursue this because they love it,” says Knuppel. “If you are driven to be a pilot, an accredited program like this at a community college is going to get you there with less cost that other for-profit and private training programs, and give you strong industry connections to help you land a job.”

For those considering such a career, the job outlook for airline and commercial pilots is strong and the salaries you can expect, even stronger. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a 13% increase in piloting jobs in the next decade, higher than most occupations, and a median pay of more than $130,000 annually. Although many assume that an aviation career means working for an airline, employers also include private and corporate companies, such as FedEx, that hire pilots to fly planes that move goods and supplies.

On the other hand, students who only want to be able to fly an aircraft for their own personal or business travels can earn a Certificate of Specialization that can be completed in one academic semester, plus required flight hours.

Because of the variety of occupational options, OCC offers an extensive array of certificates and specializations: A Private Pilot Certificate of Specialization will allow a student to fly with passengers in good weather. An Instrument Pilot Certificate of Specialization is required for students who already have a Private Pilot certificate and want to learn Instrument Flight Rules. A Commercial Pilot certificate prepares students to become a commercial pilot, while an Airline Transport Pilot certificate prepares students for a career in multiple facets of the airline industry.

For those who would prefer to keep their feet on the ground, the Flight Operations certificate prepares students for careers in airline dispatch, aircraft and aircrew scheduling, and airport operations.

Aviation Maintenance

One of OCC’s most unique offerings is its Aviation Maintenance Technology program which provides students with the training they need to become mechanics in the aviation industry. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, aircraft mechanics and technicians earn a median pay of more than $66,000 a year, and can expect 11 percent job growth in the next decade, which is faster than most professions.

Orange Coast’s Aviation Maintenance Technology program offers degrees and certificates in five areas:

  •   Airframe (the body of a plane)
  •   Powerplant (the engine of a plane)
  •   Airframe and Powerplant
  •   Avionics (the plane’s electronic systems)
  •   Helicopters

Flight Attendant and Airline and Travel Careers

Students who would rather serve customers than repair an aircraft should consider pursuing an associate degree in Flight Attendant and Airline and Travel Careers. Flight attendants are another quickly growing field, with a projected growth of 30% in the next decade and median salaries of more than $59,000 a year. In addition to major domestic and foreign airlines, flight attendants are needed for corporate and private jets.

The Orange Coast College program for both flight attendants and customer service agents offers hands-on training at the campus and at the nearby airport. Students learn about the world of travel and get the skills they need to serve customers and use the industry standard SABRE reservation system.

Unmanned Aircraft Systems

For students who want to be pilots while still keeping their feet on the ground, Orange Coast College offers a certificate in Unmanned Aircraft Systems, while  Cypress College offers a certificate and an associate degree. More commonly known as drones, unmanned aircraft systems are increasingly being used in a variety of fields, including photography, law enforcement, environmental research and product delivery.

Students who complete a certificate in Unmanned Aircraft Systems will be capable of deploying and piloting drones, managing flight control systems, and collecting and analyzing telemetry data.