Aviation is a diverse field that requires specialized knowledge in many areas across a variety of positions in order for all of the systems to operate and function together. From aircraft design to flight control to computer systems, aviation and aeronautics needs highly qualified, skilled operators. A background in computer science is essential for many of the career opportunities within the aviation field.

Computers in Aviation

An aircraft is made up of a several technological sub-systems that combine to work together in order to operate the complicated operations of flight. These systems require the appropriate software and computer hardware, and a computer science degree helps candidates in this field acquire the necessary skill set to design, develop, implement, and maintain across each system.

Computers are used in every area in the aviation industry from training to flight design to communication. Computer science skills are a prerequisite for practically every position. Before flight, computer software is utilized in order for aircraft to be designed and for training pilots. Troubleshooting also takes place prior to manufacturing through computer modeling along with planning flights and flight patterns.

During flight, pilots and other flight crew members utilize computers to assist with navigation through electronic instruments and monitoring flight management systems.

Communications in flight is another important role filled by computers and trained computer professionals. From communication within the aircraft to contact with air traffic control, computers and computerized satellites create the information systems for everyone from pilots to ground control to ensure safe flight and proper operation of all computerized systems.

Computer Science Skills in Aviation

Some of the skills needed in the positions that involve aviation computer technology include the ability to read and understand specific codes, writing software, verifying embedded software, the ability to author certification documentation, the ability to author artifacts, working with federal enterprise architecture technologies, and certification and accreditation documentation.

Computer scientists and engineers are utilized for various tasks, including verifying and validating flight management systems. Positions in aviation that require computer skills and knowledge include computer systems analyst, computer software engineer, and computer systems security analyst.

Education for Aviation Computer Systems

Specific requirements for every computer-based position in aviation will vary by the hiring company, but the minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field is typically required. For most companies and organizations, a computer science degree fulfills the minimum requirement for careers that involve aviation software or computer systems.

One of the most common requirements to get started in a career in aviation with a computer science degree is experience with the software and computer systems that are utilized in the flight industry. Students with a computer science major can get this experience through internships with aviation companies, specializations in courses, and capstone projects geared toward aviation.

The Careers in Aeronautics page on the NASA website has helpful information and links at Careers in Aeronautics.   Additional information on training, certifications, and careers in aviation can also be found at the Federal Aviation Administration website.