Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic Certification from the FAA
I got my A&P in 2013, after going through a trade school, but my work in aviation began much earlier - in 2001 I signed up to work as an avionics technician in the USAF. I spent 4 years doing that, then left the military to go to college. 2 years later, I got a job offer to work in aerospace manufacturing, which I took, working in aerospace manufacturing until the 2009 crash. After getting my A&P in 2013, finding a job was easy - my first two jobs were cold calls, asking a repair shop if they needed another set of hands, an interview, and I was in. No shortage of work for skilled mechanics. I later transferred to a major aircraft manufacturer working in their repair shop. In 2018 I took a job working at a leading-edge aerospace company in California testing rocket systems. I still work on my own though, repairing and inspecting aircraft as side work. It's a rewarding hobby (literally, $60/hr reward) that leads me to working closely with people that love aviation as much as I do.
Routine maintenance on aircraft, troubleshooting mechanical problems and repairing them, sheet metal work, engine repair, hydraulics, air conditioning, and other system repair.
The satisfaction of working with your hands to repair, fabricate, or fix something.
Hard work, you need mechanical aptitude, some days can have very long hours, some work is very frustrating, it's physically intensive and you sometimes need to fit into very small spaces to do work. Few aircraft hangers are air conditioned.
It really varies based on where you work. Airliners can pay better, "bizjet" can pay pretty well too, general aviation won't pay as well as either of those. I started out making 15/hr in 2013, by 2018 I was making over 24/hr. I'm now making more than 80k/yr.
Unless you get extremely lucky with an apprenticeship (which I have seen happen with car mechanics), you absolutely need to have your A&P certificate first. Avoid for-profit schools, community colleges and state colleges usually have better (and better funded) programs that cost half as much or less. Once you have your A&P, be willing to move, and you can pick where in the US you want to work.
Manual dexterity is an absolute must, you will work at times with very small objects that you cannot drop. An understanding of how to take something apart and put it back together again, a mechanical aptitude to understand how things work, and the ability to read about a mechancial system and understand it well enough to figure out what is going wrong and how to fix it all are important skills.
It is white male dominated. I've known women to work in the industry, but as much as I hate to admit it, they can face significant discrimination at times. The culture can be very friendly, in a rough sort of way. I've worked with some amazing people, and I've worked with some less than fantastic ones - either way, you get to know your coworkers really well and most of the time you'll be working closely with them.
Getting your Inspection Authorization is the next step up, but requires at least 3 years experience. A lot of people never get it, but if you do, it's worth it.
As with all skilled labor professions, the future outlook is great. Not a lot of competition, and tons of opening positions. The only downside is with the overall economy - during a downturn, aerospace is hit hard, fast.
There are two types of people that work in aerospace/aviation:Those that love aircraft and aviation and aerospace, who love seeing aircraft take off, and who usually enjoy the job even when they wind up with long hours and hard work, and
Those that are just in the industry seeking a dollar, and they are almost universally miserable.