Obtaining an Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) license is an excellent way to begin a career as an aircraft mechanic. But like any professional certification, gaining this credential requires an investment of both time and money.
This guide examines the typical costs associated with earning an A&P license so you can plan and budget effectively.
The A&P license is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and allows mechanics to perform maintenance, repairs, and alterations on aircraft systems.
Given the critical nature of this work, the FAA requires A&P candidates to complete extensive training and testing. While certainly not cheap, the license opens the door to stable, high-paying jobs in the fast-growing aviation industry.
How Much Does A&P License Cost?
The total cost of obtaining your A&P license can range from $10,000 to $35,000, depending on the training pathway you choose. Traditional programs at FAA-approved Part 147 schools generally fall on the higher end of this spectrum.
For example, tuition and fees for a 20-month program at Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology costs around $33,000. Smaller, community college-based programs like the one offered by Western Dakota Technical Institute can cost closer to $15,000.
Accelerated A&P programs and apprenticeships may offer cheaper alternatives, often $15,000 or less. However, you’ll need discipline and focus to complete the fast-paced coursework.
Regardless of program length, budget for an additional $1,000 to $2,000 for tools, textbooks, materials, and FAA exam fees.
The Primary Cost Components of Earning Your A&P License
The specific costs involved in becoming an A&P mechanic depend largely on your chosen educational pathway. But in most cases, you’ll need to account for:
- Tuition and Fees: The cost of tuition, registration, and mandatory fees make up the largest portion of your total A&P training budget. This ranges from $10,000-$30,000.
- Books and Supplies: You’ll need to purchase textbooks and reference materials like the FAA Aviation Mechanic Handbook. Budget $500-$1,000 for required educational resources.
- Tools and Equipment: Even basic mechanic’s tools like wrenches, sockets, and screwdrivers can add up. Expect to spend $500 or more to acquire your starter toolkit.
- FAA Exam Fees: Registration for the oral, practical, and written FAA exams costs $300-$500. Retake fees apply if you need to retest.
- Practical Experience Costs: Gaining hands-on practice maintaining aircraft requires a time and possible travel commitment. This is easier and cheaper if you enroll in a formal training program.
Tapping Into Financial Aid and Scholarships
Financing your A&P license doesn’t have to fall entirely on your own shoulders. Here are some options to help defray the costs:
- Federal Student Aid like grants, loans, and work-study programs are available for students enrolled in Title IV eligible schools. Talk to the financial aid office.
- Aviation scholarships from groups like the Aircraft Electronics Association and Women in Aviation provide $1,000-$10,000 to help future aircraft mechanics.
- Employer tuition programs may fund your training costs in exchange for committing to work for that company for a set period of time after graduating.
- Military benefits like the GI Bill can be used to pay for A&P programs.
How Training Pathways Impact the Cost
Traditional aviation maintenance schools offer what’s often considered the most thorough A&P training, but lengthier programs mean increased tuition and living expenses.
Apprenticeship programs allow you to gain paid work experience for on-the-job training but may take longer to complete.
The fastest and often cheapest route is through accelerated “weekend” programs like those from Baker College or Spartan College.
Condensing coursework into nights and weekends can slash costs to $10,000-$15,000. However, you’ll need strong self-discipline to absorb the intensive curriculum.
Regardless, budgeting approximately $20,000 provides a reasonable estimate for earning your A&P license through most accredited pathways.
Creating Your A&P License Budget
Here are some tips for building your A&P certification budget:
- Start saving money specifically for this purpose as early as possible.
- Apply for every applicable scholarship and grant, even small ones.
- Consider completing general education prerequisites at an affordable community college.
- Minimize living costs by staying with family during training.
- Buy used tools and books when possible.
- Work part-time to help offset tuition and supplements costs.
- Make sure to factor in both training and testing fees in your estimates.
While not inexpensive, the cost of becoming an FAA-licensed aircraft technician results in excellent returns. The median salary for A&P mechanics is over $60,000 annually, with top earners making into the six figures. This career offers stable job prospects now and for years to come.
For those with passion for aviation, the financial investment in an A&P license delivers unmatched opportunity for good compensation and fulfilling work maintaining incredibly complex aircraft.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does an A&P program take?
Most full-time A&P programs through an FAA-approved aviation maintenance school take 18-24 months. Accelerated programs condense training into 12 months or less with extended hours, while part-time programs stretch up to 3 years.
Apprenticeships involve gaining experience while working, so may take 4 years or more.
How difficult is the A&P exam?
The three A&P certification exams (oral, practical, and written) are challenging and comprehensive. However, your aviation maintenance school training will thoroughly prepare you for the topics and types of questions tested.
While study and practice are very important, the exams are very passable for motivated students.
What is the fastest way to get an A&P license?
Accelerated and weekend-format A&P programs allow you to gain your license in as little as 8-12 months. These intensive programs condense the curriculum into nights and weekends so you can work while training.
They require discipline and hard work but minimize time requirements.