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Average Salary: $55,230

Expected Lifetime Earnings: $2,306,000

An aircraft mechanic's salary depends on almost as many variables as a weather forecast. In May 2010, aircraft mechanics' annual median wage was about $53k. Scheduled air transportation, most likely airlines, provided the highest median wages. Non-scheduled transportation, most likely general aviation and aircraft support work, showed the lowest salaries.

However, these figures don't tell the entire story. For example, in 2010, approximately 28% of aircraft mechanics belonged to a union. The mechanics' union affiliations may have affected the workers' pay rates, overtime availability, and other pay-related variables. Salaries also depend on mechanics' skill sets, regional economic conditions, and overall maintenance facility business volume.

Everyone gathering around the water cooler. They really should invest in a second cooler.

So tossing all these variables into the mix, you might expect an entry-level pay rate of $15 per hour. Not bad for your first career job. If you've completed an aviation maintenance school program, you might make out a little better. Let's also consider the other end of the pay spectrum. Perhaps you've graduated to a major airline mechanic position. You can expect to pull down about $36 per hour. Some positions may also offer shift differentials and overtime pay, which will put a few more pennies in your pocket.