Aerospace engineer essential career information:
- Median pay (2011): $102,420
- Number of jobs (2010): 81,000
- Employment growth forecast (2010–2020): 5%
- Entry-level education requirements: Bachelor’s degree
Aerospace engineers what they do:
The next time you fly, take a minute to think about the people who make it possible. Chief among them: aerospace engineers, the men and women behind the development of ever newer, faster, better airplanes.
Aeronautical engineering focuses on aircraft, while astronautical engineering focuses on spacecraft. A successful aerospace engineer grasps the principles of physics and the intricacies of sophisticated computer software.
Aeronautical engineers are mainly involved with designing aircraft and their propulsion systems, as well as studying the aerodynamic performance of aircraft and construction materials. An aeronautical engineer career involves creating detailed diagrams and conducting simulated tests to ensure everything runs as efficiently as possible.
An aeronautical engineer career may involve supervising the workers who build prototypes to make certain they meet the manufacturer’s or government’s precise specifications.
Many industries rely on aeronautical engineering skills. Aeronautical engineers may also be involved with the science and technology of spacecraft, including how spacecraft perform inside the earth’s atmosphere.
Aeronautical engineers typically specialize in a certain type of aircraft, such as private planes, helicopters, or commercial jets. Most specialize in one of the many electrical or mechanical systems that comprise aircraft, such as the propulsion system, engines, robotics, instrumentation and communication, or navigation boards.
Aerospace Engineers Job Duties:
- Determining whether a proposed project is feasible
- Overseeing research and development
- Creating detailed blueprints
- Developing criteria for design, quality, and completion dates
- Ensuring designs meet customer requirements, reflect environmental challenges, and are structurally sound
- Conducting simulated testing
- Inspecting failed components or aircraft to isolate the problem and find solutions
- Ensuring aircraft and spacecraft meet quality standards
Aerospace engineers job titles:
- Design engineer
- Flight test engineer
- Systems engineer
- Aeronautical engineer
- Structures engineer
- Avionics engineer
- Aerospace stress engineer
- Flight systems test engineer
Aerospace Engineers Education, Certification, and License Requirements:
An entry-level aerospace engineer may need a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field.
Candidates for an aerospace engineer career need analytical and critical thinking skills and the ability to handle complex problem-solving. Many aeronautical engineers work on defense projects for the U.S. government, which requires a security clearance.
Some schools partner with companies to give prospective aerospace engineers practical experience while earning their degree. Some universities also offer five-year programs for candidates to earn both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. Advanced education may qualify an aerospace engineer to teach or work in product research and development.
Aerospace engineers who gain experience and want to take on more responsibility must earn a license as a professional engineer, which generally requires a degree from an accredited engineering program and passing scores on the Fundamentals of Engineering and the Professional Engineering exams.
Aeronautical engineers can take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam after earning a bachelor’s degree, at which point they serve as engineers-in-training or engineer interns to acquire enough experience to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam.
Aerospace engineers in several states must take continuing education courses to maintain their licenses.
Career Advancement Opportunities:
Aerospace engineers can eventually take on the role of technical supervisors to lead a team of engineers and technicians. Some move into executive positions or work as engineering managers. Such advancement usually requires an aeronautical engineer to work as an apprentice under a more experienced aerospace engineer.
Aerospace engineers programs cover subjects such as:
- General engineering principles
- College algebra
- Stability and control
- Computer science
Aerospace Engineers Employment Outlook:
Forecast: Five percent employment growth from 2010 to 2020 for aerospace engineers.
The need for security clearances to work on defense projects will keep many aerospace engineering jobs in the United States. Also, the demand for improved safety, efficiency, and environmental soundness should create a demand for aeronautical engineers.
Aerospace engineers who focus on engines or propulsion may see job openings as the aeronautical engineering emphasis changes from production to retrofitting existing aircraft.
Aerospace Engineers Salaries:
- 2011, median annual wage: $102,420
- 2011, workers at the 75th percentile annual wage: $125,260
- 2011, workers at the 25th percentile annual wage: $81,190
Aerospace Engineer Major Employers:
- Aerospace products and parts manufacturing
- Navigational, measuring, electro-medical, and control instruments manufacturing
- Architectural, engineering, and related services
- Federal government
- Scientific research and development services