Watch Your Career Soar in Oklahoma's Aerospace Industry

Oklahoma is one of the top six global hubs for maintenance, repair and overhaul services, with the aerospace industry directly responsible for 72,535 Oklahoma jobs. Average state wages of more than $15 per hour make it a strong driver for Oklahoma's economy. Oklahoma aerospace sectors include the following:

  • Military aviation - including some 25,000 military and civilian workers at Tinker Air Force Base
  • Aircraft manufacturing - building airplanes, engines and other components
  • Spacecraft manufacturing - space vehicles, missiles and related equipment
  • Aeronautical system manufacturing, including instruments
  • MRO - major centers for maintenance, repair and overhaul of planes large and small
  • Flight training
  • Air traffic control
  • R&D - physical and engineering sciences related to aerospace research and development

High Demand for Well-Paying Jobs in Oklahoma Aerospace

Between new job creation and the rapidly retiring Baby Boomer workforce, thousands of jobs will need to be filled in Oklahoma's aerospace industry through 2014. This is just a sampling of the types of jobs and wages that are in hot demand in Oklahoma.

OccupationProjected New & Replacement Hires through 2014*2005 Median Average Annual Wages (National)
Aerospace Engineers429$73,170
Mechanical Engineers1,548$67,510
Industrial Engineers572$66,150
Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technicians572$48,530
Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians1,615$42,260
Helpers - Production Workers3,422$18,820**
Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers2,573$29,770
Sheet Metal Workers1,180$36,660

* These projections were based on a survey of aerospace employers based on the economic environment in 2006. As new businesses are recruited to the state and existing businesses grow, these projections change as well.
** This salary is a roll-up of several different occupations that fit this general category. Some positions in this category pay more, some pay less.

Oklahoma's Major Aerospace Industry Employers

Jobs in Oklahoma's aerospace industry account for 4.3% of the state's total employment. While there are very large aerospace industry employers, countless small businesses, particularly manufacturers, service the industry and provide substantial employment opportunities. Visit AeroJobsTulsa for a list of aerospace companies hiring right now. And visit the other aerospace jobs links shown at the right.

American Airlines, 7,000 employees, Tulsa
American's Tulsa maintenance, repair and overhaul center is the world's largest aircraft maintenance facility, performing services for American as well as other airlines and component manufacturers.

Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, 5,500 employees, Oklahoma City
With training, logistics, research and other aviation safety and business support products and services, MMAC is a major complex of the Federal Aviation Administration. It has the largest concentration of Department of Transportation workers outside the Washington, D.C. area.

NORDAM, 3,000 employees, Tulsa
A world leader in aerospace repair and manufacturing, Tulsa-based NORDAM specializes in composite and bonded-honeycomb components, fan/thrust reversers, nacelles engine components, interiors and aircraft transparencies.

Spirit AeroSystems, 2,000 employees, Tulsa and McAlester
Formerly part of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Spirit is the world's largest supplier of commercial airplane assemblies and components, building airframe components for both Boeing and Airbus.

Tinker Air Force Base, 25,000 employees, Oklahoma City
Tinker is home to seven major Department of Defense, Air Force and Navy activities with critical national defense missions, including the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, the Air Force's largest repair center.

ARINC, 300 employees, Oklahoma City
The company's Aircraft Modification and Operations Center in Oklahoma City performs heavy aircraft modifications and upgrades, avionics installations, aircraft systems integration and other tasks.

The Boeing Company, 900 employees, Oklahoma City
The Boeing Company's Oklahoma capabilities include engineering, maintenance, modifications and upgrades, supply-chain services, and others, primarily at Oklahoma's three Air Force bases.

What the Jobs Are

Oklahoma's aerospace industry is ripe with opportunity in any number of occupations, from engineers, machinists, and pilots to administrators, office assistants, and sales staff. Many skill sets that cross over from other industries are a perfect match within aerospace. Survey responses from Oklahoma employers show the following types of jobs in current demand with projections for greater demand.

Management and administrative - general and operational managers, management analysts, research analysts, and information clerks.

Technical - engineers, sheet metal workers, structural assemblers, machinists, aircraft painters, mechanics and technicians, and entry-level production and maintenance workers.

Skills You'll Need

Most aerospace jobs fall within either the manufacturing or the science, technology, engineering and mathematics career clusters. Many of the required skills apply to either cluster, including:

  • Communications
  • Information technology
  • Safety, health and environmental
  • Leadership and teamwork
  • Ethical and legal responsibilities
  • Employability and career development

Manufacturing

Additional skills you'll need for manufacturing careers include:

  • Problem solving and critical thinking
  • Knowledge of manufacturing businesses functions
  • Tech skills for manufacturing
  • Consumer satisfaction
  • New product development
  • Development and improvement of manufacturing processes
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Coordination of work teams

Some career paths also require skills in quality assurance or logistics and inventory control.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics

Two-thirds of the engineering jobs in Oklahoma's aerospace industry require advanced degrees. For electrical engineering jobs, the figure is 90%. In the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Career Cluster, you'll need skills in:

  • Math
  • Science
  • Engineering and technology
  • Problem solving
  • Cause and effect
  • Critical thinking

A Word About Composite Materials

A recent survey of Oklahoma aerospace employers indicated a significant projected demand for a workforce knowledgeable in leading edge use of composite materials that are used in aerospace components such as tails, wings, fuselages, and propellers. If planning a career in aerospace, make sure your education includes composite material key concepts.

Training and Education Opportunities

In Oklahoma, there are three main sources for education and training for the aerospace industry: colleges and universities, CareerTech, and private specialty schools. Visit the Plan Your Education section for a variety of tools and researches to help find the educational program right for you, including the Oklahoma Career Information System that will allow you to find specific college degree programs for aerospace occupations.

  • Colleges and universities, including community colleges. Visit this Oklahoma Career Information System database and click on a specific aerospace occupation to find related schools and programs.

 

  • Visit CareerTech. Oklahoma's 56-campus career and technology education system offers aerospace-specific programs in aviation maintenance technology and avionics as well as such potentially related programs in fields as pre-engineering, industrial technology, machining, and sheet metal fabrication.
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  • Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology offers programs in avionics and electronics, mechanics, maintenance technology and other aviation fields, including a Bachelor of Science program.
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  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Training & Testing page. Lists various training opportunities and other resources.
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  • Oklahoma Job Link. Click on Training Providers in the left navigation column and select from more than 500 specialties, including aviation and avionics specialties, as well as related manufacturing and other fields.
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Insiders

Hear from those who are glad they chose a career in aerospace.

Starting Out: Collin Corp, Mechanical Engineer
Collin Corp

Collin Corp

Mechanical Engineer
The NORDAM Group
Tulsa, Oklahoma

LEGOs Help Build Foundation for Aerospace Career

Collin Corp started early to prepare for a career as a mechanical engineer in the aerospace industry. As a boy he liked to build things with LEGO blocks and take things apart to figure out how they worked. That helped him figure out that a career in engineering would work for him.

At Edmond Memorial High School, he explored sciences like chemistry and anatomy and studied math through Calculus I. Like generations of Corps, he went to the University of Oklahoma, heading straight for the School of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering. Although he had thoughts of continuing on to earn a master of business administration degree, he decided to build on his engineering degree first, accepting a job with Tulsa’s NORDAM Group.

Initially, Collin worked on building and bonding parts for jet engine thrust reversers in an office just off the shop floor. "I like to be real hands on," he says, and he enjoyed working in the midst of overhead cranes and welding sparks. More recently, he’s moved into Interiors and Structures, where he’s a "sustaining" engineer working with advanced Computer Aided Design software and hands-on mockups to make sure window frames, headliners and other aircraft interior parts fit together perfectly. He’s still planning to go for that MBA at some point, but for now he plans to continue pursuing the wide range of opportunities at NORDAM.

Career Changer: Mike Collum, Avionics Technician
Mike Collum

Mike Collum

Avionics Technician
Tinker Air Force Base
Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma

Auto Plant Closing Opens Aerospace Door

The closing of General Motors' Oklahoma City assembly plant in 2006 turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to Mike Collum, who was pushed into premature retirement at age 52 after 25 years of repetitively working with such things as bumper covers at the plant. Now he works with such things as altimeters and other cockpit avionics at Tinker Air Force Base.

Taking a lifelong interest in airplanes and the knowledge that there was demand in aviation, Mike moved immediately from GM into the 18-month aeronautics and powerplant program at MetroTech in Oklahoma City. The final few months included a student trainee program at Tinker, where Mike was invited to train for avionics repair. The MetroTech hours also counted as credit at Oklahoma City Community College, where Mike completed his associate degree in Aviation Maintenance Technology in December 2008.

The move into aerospace helped Mike avoid a move away from his roots and his family in central Oklahoma to look for work elsewhere. It also gave him a chance to soar personally. "This program has allowed me to stretch my wings and really show myself and other people what I’m capable of," Mike says. "If not for MetroTech, I’d be doing something a lot less fulfilling."

Veteran: Ben T. Robinson, Director, The Boeing Company
Ben T. Robinson

Ben T. Robinson

Program Director, C/KC-135 support services program
Director, Oklahoma City site
The Boeing Company
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

College Slacker Soars in Air Force/Aerospace Career

Ben Robinson is only half jesting when he says his seven semesters as a freshman at Eastern New Mexico University were a record. Eventually, rather than be drafted, he joined the Army and found himself flying Chinook and Huey helicopters in Vietnam. Four years later, Ben was ready to go back to ENMU, where he earned a master’s degree in industrial management. But he was still drawn to flying, and to the military, and he enlisted again, this time in the Air Force.

After officer's training, he went on to fly B-52s, Air Force helicopters, and, at Tinker Air Force Base, AWACS surveillance aircraft. He also served in the U.S. Space Command, tracking satellites from Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, as well as serving stints in Germany and as a wing commander at Tinker, capping his career as a brigadier general at the Pentagon.

After retiring from the Air Force, Ben worked as consultant before being hired by The Boeing Company in 2003. Now the one-time college dropout is taking advantage of his broad experience in his role as director of Boeing’s Oklahoma City site and program director of its C/KC-135 support services program. And he's in the company of a lot of fellow military retirees. Much of central Oklahoma’s aerospace industry is military, Ben says, and in the case of Boeing, 51% of the employees are former military.