How to Give Flight to Your Aviation Career as an International Student

How to Give Flight to Your Aviation Career as an International Student

Traveling the world as part of your job is thrilling, and if you choose an aviation career, you could do just that. For international students who are interested in pursuing a career in aviation, here are a few fields to research, and their requirements.

Career Options and Requirements

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers monitor the landing and takeoff of airplanes, and keep a close eye on air traffic to ensure safety. They keep in constant contact with pilots to keep skies and runways safe around the world, and assist during any emergencies.

Due to the high-risk nature of their work, the educational requirements for air traffic controllers are extensive. Applicants need to undergo training at a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facility. Next, you will need practical, on-the-job experience before you can be certified. Good English communication is mandatory, as the pilot on the other end of the transmissions will need to be able to understand you. Even if you become an air traffic controller in a non-English speaking country, you must be able to communicate with pilots clearly in English.

Flight Attendant

As a flight attendant, your job will be to ensure that all of the passengers in a commercial airplane are comfortable and safe. For some airlines, you will need to have at least basic first-aid training, as there will not be an on-call doctor. You will also receive training on dealing with emergencies, and cabin management.

Flight Attendants also need to obtain FAA certifications. Candidates must complete a training program and pass an exam. Following this, flight attendants have recurring training to maintain their certifications. A flight attendant should have exceptional communication skills, and is expected to have good physical stamina. In addition, international flight attendants who are fluent in more than one language have a better chance of securing a job.

The physical requirements for flight attendants vary depending on the airline. Generally, you will not be allowed to have any visible tattoos, your vision must be 20/30 (with or without corrective lenses), and men are expected to be clean-shaven. Additionally, you must be able to be on your feet for many hours a day.


A vital area in aviation, mechanics are responsible for the service and upkeep of commercial and private aircraft. Aircraft maintenance is a physically demanding job that can require heavy lifting. However, depending on your area of specialization, it can also be quite technical and software-oriented. All aircraft mechanics must also maintain proper service records.

For aircraft maintenance jobs, you will need an FAA certification. You can acquire this through Aviation Maintenance Technician School (AMTS) or on-the-job training (OJT), the latter being the more cost-effective method. Non-citizens of the U.S. can get U.S. certification through the International Civil Aviation Organization.


Even within piloting, there are many areas in which to specialize. There are cargo, commercial and private pilots, to name a few. The common thread between all of these is the immense amount of training you’ll need. You will also need to pass a physical test and a medical exam.

To become a commercial pilot, applicants will require at least a bachelor’s degree from a certified flying school. Other requirements include a commercial pilot’s license, 250 hours of logged flying experience, and an instrument rating. Pilots can accumulate the required flying experience through either civilian or military means.

Specific physical requirements for commercial pilots can vary by airline. However, all will require pilots to be in excellent physical health, with good hearing and 20/20 vision, though corrective eyewear is allowed. Those on medication to control their blood pressure may not be considered for commercial pilot positions.

Programs Offering Aviation

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

One of the oldest aeronautical universities in the U.S. is Embry-Riddle, an FAA-Certified academy. Embry-Riddle has campuses both in Florida and Arizona, and has programs for pilot certifications, maintenance technicians, and air traffic controllers. Embry-Riddle will ensure that you get hands-on learning, as it houses the country’s first unmanned aircraft lab, and simulator devices that guarantee a safe but real experience.

Ohio State University

With an airport in its backyard, students of Ohio State University in Columbus are definitely in for a treat. The faculty here are highly experienced, and will guide students through the nuances of flying aircraft. OSU also offers courses for air traffic control. Apart from core subjects, students can choose from electives like flight education, airport management, and air transportation analysis.

Purdue University

Recognized worldwide as a leader in aviation education, Purdue University is an excellent choice for international students. The university has seven undergraduate and four graduate courses, all offering hands-on experience from the best faculty. Purdue is located in West Lafayette, Indiana. The courses here focus on dealing with challenges in the aviation industry. Students also have exceptional opportunities for research at Purdue.

Academics of Flight

Patterned after the FAA standards, the flight attendant course at Academics of Flight is aimed to prepare students for what they can expect on the job. This 50-hour course covers essential subjects like Special Passenger Handling, Health and Grooming, and Cockpit Resources Management. This school is located in New York City.

Cypress College

Cypress College in California offers courses for flight attendants, pilots, and aviation management students. This college has trained aviation professionals since 1967. Keeping up with changing technology, all of the courses at Cypress ensure that students receive the required training, and hands-on experience.

National Aviation Academy of Tampa Bay

The aviation maintenance school of National Aviation Academy of Tampa Bay, has been training professionals since 1932. Its campuses are located in Clearwater, Florida, and Concord, Massachusetts. This is an FAA-approved school that has faculty with real experience in the field. International students need to have a U.S. high school diploma equivalent in order to enroll. Additionally, they must also prove their English proficiency, per the FAA standards.

Give Your Career Wings

Travel and tourism are lucrative industries with numerous well-paying jobs available. If you’d like to pursue a career in aviation, start researching FAA certifications, career fields, requirements, and schools early. No matter what field of aviation you choose, it is sure to be a rewarding career.

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