Education and Training College
Salary Median—$47,450 per year
Employment Outlook Good
Definition and Nature of the Work
Airport managers oversee more than seventeen thousand airports in the United States. Some are large metropolitan airports with hundreds of scheduled flights arriving and departing every day. Others are private airfields with no scheduled flights and very little daily activity. Small airports are generally managed by their owners, but the operations of medium-sized and large airports are so complex that the airports need part-time or full-time managers.
While they generally have no direct control over flying activities, airport managers do make sure that Federal Aviation Administration regulations are enforced. They maintain good relations with the airlines that fly in and out of their airports and supervise the maintenance of runways and airport buildings. They oversee budgets, staffing, and public relations. Above all, airport managers must ensure that their airports run safely and efficiently and provide good service to their communities.
Depending on the size of the airport, managers may supervise small clerical staffs or large staffs of assistants and other workers. Alone or with their staffs, managers plan for the future needs of their airports and oversee new construction; meet with government officials and public representatives; and tackle the problems faced by passengers. Because businesses operating in the airport, such as food concessions and car rental companies, generate considerable income for airports, managers must negotiate contracts and make sure the vendors provide good service.
Airport managers do not need to be pilots, but they do need to understand aviation and business management. They must be able to work well with people and communicate effectively. Leadership and decision-making skills are essential.
Education and Training Requirements
Bachelor's degrees are required to enter this field. Most airport managers get degrees in business administration with special emphasis on air transportation or engineering. Many managers complete graduate studies in business administration.
High school courses in English, social studies, and mathematics can be helpful preparation. College courses should include management policies, economics, finance, public relations, business law, aviation legislation, and engineering. A few airports offer one- or two-year internship programs for college graduates. The programs provide experience in all phases of airport management.
Getting the Job
Most airport-manager jobs require extensive experience. The best route for new graduates is to develop work records in one or more fields of airline work, such as airline dispatching or airline public relations, and then apply for assistant manager positions. Experience in another field of management, such as bus transportation or sales management, can also be helpful. Job seekers can apply directly for assistant manager positions at smaller airports. Civil service commissions have information about the exams required for jobs at government-operated airports. They may also have lists of open positions.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Because airport managers are at the top of their field, they generally advance by moving to larger airports as assistant managers, department managers, and managers.
Employment of airport managers is expected to increase as fast as the average for all occupations through 2014. Growth of airports and air travel should increase the demand for airport managers. However, this is a comparatively small field, so job seekers can face strong competition for openings. Applicants with graduate degrees in business administration and diverse experience in the field should have the best opportunities.
Airport managers usually work in clean, modern offices in airport administration buildings. They may supervise such outdoor activities as snow removal on runways.
Workweeks generally run forty hours, especially in large airports. Night and weekend work may be required. In emergencies managers must be available around the clock.
Earnings and Benefits
Salaries for airport managers vary widely according to the size and location of the airport. In 2004 the median salary for all airport managers was $47,450 per year. Managers of large international airports earned more than $80,000 per year.
Where to Go for More Information
Airports Council International - North America
1775 K St. NW, Ste. 500
Washington, DC 20006
American Association of Airport Executives
601 Madison St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
Benefits usually include paid sick leave and vacations, life and health insurance, and retirement plans.