Did you know that the nation’s #1 two-year trade school is located just 10 miles south of downtown Pittsburgh? According to Forbes, six of the top 25 two-year trade schools in the entire country are right here in Pennsylvania, and the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) tops the list.

Forbes took into account academics, postgrad salary, and debt load. Students at PIA take a rigorous course load over a period of 16 months, 21 months, or a combined 33-month program. There is a customized nine-month core curriculum, along with highly specialized courses so that students have the necessary credentials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Even with such specialized curricula, students have more options than just aviation maintenance and electronics technology following their time at PIA. The program is grounded in many STEM skills and provides students with expertise and skill sets that are highly transferable. Students graduate and are able to pursue a wide variety of opportunities in higher education and across many careers.

With 189,000 new technicians needed in North America by 2037, aviation companies need a qualified and certified workforce to perform the intensive maintenance on their ever-growing fleets. And while you may not have learned about PIA until now, within the industry it is considered the gold-standard. Director of Admissions & Outreach, Roxanne Ober, said, “We recently held a career fair with 40 companies in attendance, and together they had more job opportunities available than we had graduates to fill those positions.” Even with that kind of demand, it is still shocking to learn that PIA alumni out-earn students from two-thirds of Forbes’ highest-ranked four-year (not just two-year) colleges, and at a fraction of the price.

Aviation faces a problem that many industry leaders find familiar: specialized aviation technicians are in increasingly higher demand in part because they are retiring faster than they are being replaced. And yet, despite a capacity of at least 500 students, PIA enrolls around 300 students currently. Top employers such as Boeing and Delta are working closely with PIA, eager to recruit more students to this top-notch program. With strong salaries right out of the program, ample opportunities for advancements within aviation, and a set of transferable and valuable STEM skills, Director of Marketing & I.T. Steven Sabold is convinced that a crucial piece of the puzzle is the information gap. “Within the industry, we’re known. Outside of it, we still need to raise awareness about the amazing program that we have here.”

And with national recognition from Forbes, the sky’s the limit for PIA and its sought-after graduates.

For more information, including arranging a tour of PIA, please contact Abby Smith, Team Pennsylvania’s Director of Education & Workforce Development.