Flying Magazine: Unique Aviation Career: Sales, Marketing and Public Relations

Posted: January 21, 2015

There are many rewarding careers in aviation that don't require a pilot's license. If you have a passion for aviation and experience in sales, marketing or communications, there may be more jobs out there than you imagined. 
Job Description: Establish corporate brands, develop advertising campaigns, achieve sales goals and shape public opinion for companies ranging from aircraft and avionics manufacturers to airlines. These are just some of the opportunities that aviation careers in sales, marketing and public relations offer, says Cherry Evans of the Virginia Department of Aviation. As director of the department's Communications & Education Division, her job exemplifies the wide-ranging possibilities in the arena. "We're responsible for promoting aviation awareness and education," Evans says, "in addition to our involvement in policy development, government and legislative affairs, air service development, research and development of community small air transportation systems, and in advancing economic development at Virginia's airports." Other responsibilities include design, development and distribution of printed and electronic communications, video production, logo/message design and other branding activities, and interacting with the public and government officials.
Job Requirements: Skills and experience in sales, marketing and public relations should be complemented by knowledge of aviation and the aviation industry. Evans has a B.S. in Mass Communications with a concentration in Public Relations & Advertising, and has completed ground school. The division's Public Relations Manager, Betsy Wilson, has a B.S. in Aviation Management and is a former flight instructor. 

Getting Training and Education: More than 60 universities offer aviation-oriented B.S. programs sanctioned by the Aviation Accreditation Board International (AABI) that include courses in these disciplines. "Students have options in how much marketing or finance or communications courses they want to take in pursuing an aviation business administration degree," says Blaise Waguespack, a professor in the Department of Management, Marketing, & Operations at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, an AABI-accredited institution.

Who's Hiring: Waguespack says some aircraft manufacturers hire grads with such educational backgrounds to begin their careers as "sales associates," as do airlines seeking network planners who "look at trends and make decisions on serving particular markets." Delta, Spirit and United Airlines, MRO provider Lufthansa Technik, and financial services company CIT have recently recruited on campus for grads with these backgrounds. There are also positions in Evans' division at the Dept. of Aviation. Candidates should have a Bachelor's degree in public relations, marketing, advertising, journalism or related field.
Salaries: Starting salaries vary widely but can easily reach into the six figures for an experienced professional. Virginia pays an executive of Evans' compensation scale between about $70,000 and $143,000 annually. 

Career Prospects: A Virginia workforce analysis found an ongoing shortage of pilots and aviation maintenance technicians, and Evans expects the same holds true for aviation positions in sales, marketing and public relations, but the analysis didn't consider jobs "specific to communications or aviation business management professionals."

Additional Benefits: Your advertising and PR work can be widely seen and have tangible impact. If working for an airline, free tickets are among the perks. For Evans, "time spent with astronauts, Brigadier Generals including Ben Davis, who led the Tuskegee Airmen, and with Chinese delegations, African delegations and several Virginia Governors" has been "the most rewarding benefit."