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Composite Mechanic Career Guide

What is a composite mechanic?

A composite mechanic, sometimes known as a composite technician, is a specialized role within the aviation, automotive, construction, and manufacturing industries. These professionals possess expertise in composite materials, which are combination materials created by bonding two or more unique materials to obtain desired properties not found in the original components.

It’s their job to manufacture, maintain, and repair composite structures, often dealing with advanced equipment and machinery. They play an integral role in advancing the efficiency and robustness of products and systems by offering high strength while reducing weight. Without their expertise, industries reliant on complex materials like carbon fiber, fiberglass, and Kevlar would struggle to produce innovative and reliable products or systems.

Duties and responsibilities

A composite mechanic’s primary responsibilities include constructing, maintaining, and repairing composite components. They must follow blueprints and technical drawings for accurate assembly. They use various equipment, such as hand tools and automated machinery, to cut and shape composite materials. These professionals are also responsible for inspecting structural integrity and detecting potential defects or issues. The role requires precision and great attention to detail to ensure the safety and reliability of the final product.

These mechanics must adhere strictly to safety standards and regulations, considering the potential hazards of handling composite materials. They often work closely with engineers and designers to support the research and development of new composite parts or accomplish improvements on existing ones. Data management, including logging and tracking inventory or maintenance records, is also essential to their job.

Work environment

Composite mechanics often work in manufacturing or repair shops where composite material products are made or maintained. These settings can be loud due to machinery and equipment operation and may involve exposure to dust, fumes, or potentially harmful chemicals. Using protective clothing and safety equipment is a must during work hours. They often collaborate with a team of other mechanics, engineers, and quality control experts, making strong teamwork and communication skills necessary.

Much of their work requires physical dexterity and manual handling of materials and tools. Standing for extended periods, bending, reaching, or lifting heavy objects are all a part of the job. Regardless of the physical demands, they must always prioritize safety, given the weight of their responsibility to ensure the structural integrity and functionality of composite components.

Typical work hours

Composite mechanics typically work full-time hours, usually over a standard forty-hour week. However, considering the need for 24/7 operation in some industries, such as aviation or automotive, they might often be required to work in shifts, including evenings, weekends, and even holidays. In emergencies or to meet tight production deadlines, overtime may be required.

How to become a composite mechanic

Becoming a composite mechanic involves several steps, including gaining the proper educational background, acquiring hands-on experience, and eventually securing the certifications required in this field. This career guide section will walk you through all the necessary steps to enter this exciting and dynamic profession.

Step 1: Complete a high school education or equivalent

The first step begins with receiving a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED. This is the minimum educational requirement for most entry-level jobs in this field. Courses that can help prepare you for this career include mathematics, technical drawing, physics, and any vocational courses in auto repair or mechanics.

Step 2: Obtain a technical degree

While not always strictly necessary, many employers prefer those with formal training beyond high school. A technical degree in a relevant field, such as mechanical engineering or automotive service technology, is desirable. This form of post-secondary education can provide you with specialized knowledge of composite materials and how to work with them professionally.

Step 3: Gain entry-level experience

The next step is to gain an entry-level job to build practical experience. This could be with a company specializing in composite materials or a broader sector, such as automotive service centers or manufacturing firms. In an entry-level role, you will learn the basics of composite mechanics, including inspecting and testing materials and adhering to safety protocols, while honing your technical skills.

Step 4: Consider a vertification or licensing

While not strictly necessary in all cases, some employers prefer or require professional certification or licensure. The American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA) offers the Certified Composites Technician (CCT) certification, which covers a range of disciplines within the field of composites. These kind of certifications can make you more attractive to potential employers and help you negotiate better pay.

Step 5: Secure a job

After you’ve built a solid foundation of education, experience, and certification, you can start applying for jobs as a composite mechanic. Construct a professional resume highlighting your education, any certifications you’ve earned, and the practical experience you’ve gained.

Step 6: Continue professional development

Once you’ve secured a job in your chosen career, the journey doesn’t end there. This field is evolving rapidly, with new materials and techniques developed constantly. To remain relevant, it’s essential to keep learning through on-the-job training, professional development courses, or further certification or specialty training. These opportunities will not only develop your skills but also make you a more appealing candidate for promotions and higher-level jobs in the future.

How much do composite mechanics make?

A composite mechanic’s income is influenced by several factors such as level of experience, education, geography, industry, and company size. Entry-level positions often require a high school diploma or equivalent, but those with advanced training, certifications, or an associate degree in a related field could command higher salaries.

Experience in the sector is also influential; seasoned professionals earn more than those relatively new to the field. Regarding geography, the pay grades differ from state to state, with metropolitan areas generally offering higher salaries due to the increased cost of living. Larger aviation or manufacturing companies usually offer higher wages and benefits than smaller organizations as well.

Highest paying industries

  • Engineering Services – $64,130
  • Scheduled Air Transportation – $62,540
  • Scientific Research and Development Services – $61,780
  • Federal Government – $59,320
  • Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing – $58,540

Highest paying states

  • California – $60,890
  • Washington – $59,780
  • Alaska – $57,960
  • Nevada – $56,980
  • Hawaii – $55,540

Browse composite mechanic salary data by market

Types of composite mechanics

In this career guide section, we will explore several types and specializations associated with composite mechanics.

Composite repair mechanic

These mechanics are experts in fixing and maintaining composite materials. Their focus lies predominantly on restoring these materials to their initial state after they’ve been damaged or succumbed to wear and tear, which involves intricate knowledge about different composites and mastery of repair techniques.

Aerospace composite mechanic

The aerospace industry heavily banks on the skills and knowledge of aerospace composite mechanics. These specialists thrive on fabricating, assembling, and repairing composite materials used in the manufacture and maintenance of aircraft and spacecraft. Their expertise contributes significantly to aerospace technology advancement and safety measures.

Automotive composite mechanic

Automotive composite mechanics ply their trade in the automotive industry, often working with composite materials used in vehicle structure and design. Their skills help boost automobile performance and enhance aesthetic appeal, leading to advanced and efficient car models.

Composite fabrication mechanic

These specialists primarily create composite materials according to specific customer needs. They work closely with designers and engineers, and their role is pivotal in prototyping and product development. Attention to detail and understanding different composites are vital for this specialty.

Marine composite mechanic

Marine composite mechanics are integral to shipbuilding and marine equipment production. They work on manufacturing, maintaining, and repairing composite materials found in various maritime applications, such as ship hulls and propellers. Their role aids in creating durable and efficient marine vessels.

Top skills for composite mechanics

This section outlines the primary skills and traits needed for career success as a composite mechanic. The following descriptions provide insights into the abilities anyone aspiring to this role should focus on developing.

Understanding of complex engineering diagrams

As a technical vocation, interpreting complex engineering diagrams is a fundamental aspect of the job. These diagrams reveal precise instructions for assembling or repairing composite materials. Accurate interpretation and execution of these instructions are vital to maintaining the structure’s integrity and functionality.

Hands-on practical skills

Being mechanically inclined is important, as most of the work involves engaging with tools and machinery to manipulate composite materials. Proficiency in using power tools and precision instruments is vital for success in this role. Whether constructing or repairing composites, hands-on practical skills will always be utilized.

Attention to detail

A meticulous eye for detail is paramount for conducting accurate inspections of composite materials. These mechanics must be capable of detecting flaws or potential issues that may compromise quality and safety. In many cases, they may be the last line of defense when preventing accidents or faults in the final product. Thus, being extremely attentive to detail can make a significant difference in the outcome of their work.

Problem-solving aptitude

Repairing composite materials often requires identifying what’s wrong before determining how to fix it, making problem-solving skills indispensable. These professionals must be able to think quickly and adapt to changing situations. Their determination and creative thinking can lead to effective and innovative solutions for complex problems.

Adherence to safety regulations

Mechanics work in environments that can pose significant safety risks if careful procedures are not followed. Hence, a firm commitment to safety regulations and standards is vital. Understanding and correctly implementing safety protocols helps ensure both personal safety and the well-being of other team members. Additionally, it safeguards the quality of the work done, leading to outputs that meet or exceed the required thresholds.

Composite mechanic career path

A composite mechanic’s career path is highly diverse and offers numerous growth opportunities. The skills in analyzing and repairing composite materials can be applied across various industries, making the role flexible and in demand. One common career progression involves becoming a lead or supervisor. These roles entail overseeing a team of mechanics to ensure work is done efficiently and to the highest standard.

Another common path is specializing in a specific area, such as aviation or automotive composites. Such progression often requires further education or certifications, leading to a higher salary and more targeted job opportunities. In many cases, those who further specialize have opportunities to work on prototype development for aerospace or automotive manufacturers.

After gaining extensive experience and additional qualifications, they might decide to transition into a more instructional role. This could involve becoming an educator in a technical vocations school or a corporate training setting. These positions demand strong communication skills and a passion for teaching others.

Lastly, many find career progression in quality control or management roles. For example, progressing to a composite quality engineer or a quality control manager allows one to utilize their knowledge of composites to oversee and enhance quality measures in the production process. Further down the line, top-level roles such as plant manager or operations manager are realistic goals, requiring strong leadership skills and a deep understanding of manufacturing processes.

These experts in composite materials are witnessing many opportunities and growth in their field. The increasing use of composite materials in diverse industries like aerospace, automotive, and energy is creating a surge in demand for those with specialized composite handling, repair, and manufacturing skills. Technical advancements, novel production techniques, and the strategic advantage of lightweight, sturdy composites propel this industry forward.

Industry trends are driven by the persistent quest for optimally balanced, lightweight, durable materials that promise longevity and resilience. Breakthroughs in nanotechnology and multi-material systems have expanded the horizons of composite mechanics. As composites increasingly replace metal in various applications, the emphasis is on innovation and efficiency in manufacturing and repair processes.

Sustainability also features prominently in current industry discourse, with an intensified focus on reducing environmental impact through bio-based or recyclable composites. Numerous firms are integrating green practices in their production cycles, marking an encouraging trend for the environmentally conscious mechanic. The need for skilled professionals who can combine sustainability with industrial performance continues to rise.

Employment projections for composite mechanics

Hiring projections are flat and expected to be similar to the national average across all industries in the U.S. Certain subsectors involving composite technology may experience higher growth due to specific industry developments.

Aircraft and aerospace equipment are projected to grow faster, attributable to the rising use of composite materials instead of aluminum in aircraft manufacture. Resilient professionals staying in tune with the wide-ranging applications of composite materials are likely to access a broader range of job opportunities in coming years.

Composite mechanic career tips

Master the relevant tools

Mechanics should be familiar with all the tools used to repair and maintain composite materials, including grinders, cutters, blotters, vacuum bagging systems, and temperature-controlled ovens. Besides using these tools, knowing how they function helps troubleshoot and resolve issues swiftly, enhancing productivity and quality of work.

Stay updated on composite materials and technologies

Composite materials constantly evolve in response to industry needs and technological advances. These professionals must stay on top of updates in materials and technologies. Understanding new material traits, how they interact with existing materials, and how to use the latest technologies for efficient and effective repair and maintenance is critical.

Embrace continuous learning

As the field always evolves, constant learning is paramount to staying competitive and efficient. Some recommendations to facilitate continuous learning include:

  • Participating in relevant training programs for new equipment and techniques
  • Attending webinars and conferences related to composite materials and technologies
  • Keeping up-to-date by reading trade magazines and subscribing to industry-related newsletters

Obtain relevant certifications

Certifications can serve as a stamp of proficiency in key areas of your role. Some certifications relevant to this field include CCT by the American Composites Manufacturers Association and Aircraft Composite Repair certifications. These add legitimacy to your skills and can increase your value to an employer.

Build a professional network

Building a broad professional network can open doors to job opportunities and allow you to gain insights from peers. It’s beneficial to join or get involved in associations and organizations relevant to your field. Some examples include:

  • The American Composites Manufacturers Association (ACMA)
  • The Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering (SAMPE)
  • The International Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI)

Consistently follow safety practices

These mechanics work with materials and equipment that could pose safety hazards if mishandled. Strictly adhering to safety rules and regulations is non-negotiable and paramount in preventing injuries and accidents. Continual engagement in safety training helps you stay up to date with the latest safety practices and guidelines in the industry.

Where the composite mechanic jobs are

Top employers

  • Lockheed Martin
  • Northrop Grumman
  • GE Aviation
  • Textron
  • Boeing

Top states

  • California
  • Florida
  • Washington
  • Texas
  • Arizona

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • Aeroindustryjobs
  • LinkedIn
  • Avjobs


What skills are required to be successful as a composite mechanic?

A composite mechanic should possess strong technical skills for handling and repairing composite materials. A good understanding of mechanical systems, machinery operation, and craftsmanship is essential. Some familiarity with CAD programs is also helpful for interpreting design specifications. Fine motor skills and attention to detail are required for precise work, and strong problem-solving skills enable efficient troubleshooting.

What kind of training or education is commonly associated with composite mechanics?

Many employers require a high school diploma or equivalent as a minimum educational requirement, though some may prefer candidates with an associate’s degree in a related field. In terms of training, vocational training and apprenticeship programs offer valuable hands-on learning opportunities. Also, some employers might require certification, such as the Certified Composite Technician credential offered by the American Composites Manufacturers Association.

What does a typical day look like for a composite mechanic?

A typical day often involves reading and interpreting mechanical drawings, schematics, or instructions to construct or repair composite structures properly. They may spend much of their day operating machinery to shape and alter composite components. Regular inspection and testing of the created or repaired mechanisms for quality and functionality is also expected. Compliance with safety regulations and maintaining a clean workspace is another crucial part of their daily routine.

What are the physical demands and work environment for composite mechanics?

Composite mechanics often work in manufacturing or repair workshops where they may need to stand, kneel, or bend for extended periods. They frequently use tools and operate machines, which may require good physical strength and stamina. The work can be noisy and requires wearing protective equipment to prevent injuries. Depending on the employer, they may also have to work in shifts, including weekends or evenings.

What kind of tools and machinery do composite mechanics utilize regularly?

Composite mechanics work with various tools, such as drills, saws, grinders, and sanders. They may also use heat guns or autoclaves to shape and form composites. They might use micrometers, calipers, and other measuring tools for precise measurements. Mechanics also often operate machinery such as milling machines, lathes, or computer-controlled machines to produce and repair composite parts.

What sectors or industries employ composite mechanics?

Composite mechanics can be found across various industries, including aerospace, automotive, sporting goods, and renewable energy. They might work on structures such as aircraft, cars, wind turbine blades, and sports equipment like golf clubs or bicycle frames. Boat building is another significant area of employment, given the widespread use of composite materials in marine applications.

How important is safety knowledge for a composite mechanic?

Safety knowledge is vital for composite mechanics who handle potentially hazardous materials and operate machinery, requiring awareness and adherence to safety protocols. Proper usage of personal protective equipment, safe handling of chemical substances, and knowledge of emergency procedures are all important aspects of safety in this profession.

What are some common challenges a composite mechanic may face?

Composite mechanics might face challenges like executing precise measurements or maintaining high-quality control standards. Tight deadlines or production targets could add pressure to the job. They also sometimes work with limited information or must solve problems with minimal guidance. The job’s physical demands, such as heavy lifting, can also be challenging.

How does a composite mechanic contribute to the overall operation of a manufacturing plant?

They play a critical role in a manufacturing plant. In addition to producing and repairing composite structures, they maintain the efficiency and safety of manufacturing operations. By ensuring high-quality standards, these mechanics help reduce waste and rework, contributing to overall productivity. They may also collaborate closely with engineers and other professionals, providing valuable insights from the production floor.