Aerospace College and School Program Overviews

Aerospace engineers assist in the manufacture of spacecraft, aircraft, missiles and rockets. They design and analyze new products and supervise the development of aerospace technologies and may develop expertise in a specific field, such as aerodynamics, thermodynamics or guidance systems.

Essential Information

Program curriculum covers the mechanical, propulsion and thermal requirements of aerospace projectiles and vehicles. Aerospace engineers specialize in a particular technology or scientific field, such as aerodynamics, celestial mechanics, spacecraft, commercial aircraft or missiles. An accredited college degree is required for aerospace careers, and these programs can be found at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Engineers typically require a bachelor's degree at minimum, though students have the option of starting in a 2-year program and transferring into a 4-year program.

  • Program Levels in Aerospace Engineering: Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate in aerospace engineering
  • Prerequisites: Associate's and bachelor's degree requires a GED or high school diploma; master's degree requires a bachelor's degree in a related field and GRE scores must be submitted; doctorate degrees require a master's degree in a related field
  • Length of Study: Associate's degrees take two years; Bachelor's degrees are four years; Doctorate degrees last two to three years

Associate in Arts in Aerospace Engineering

An associate's degree in aerospace engineering focuses on designing and developing aerospace technology, including spacecraft, missiles and aircraft. A 2-year college program is typically designed for individuals seeking transfer to a 4-year college program. Successful individuals will possess skills in research and analysis and be able to conceptualize new technologies.

Students also take overview courses in the basic sciences.

  • Introduction to aerospace engineering
  • Pre-engineering mathematics
  • Dynamics
  • Chemistry
  • Physics

Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering

A 4-year college program in aerospace engineering focuses on the design, operation and analysis of space and aircraft. Students may pursue specialization in aeronautics or astronautics. Aeronautics concentrates on the design and construction of aircraft, while astronautics focuses on developing spacecraft. Graduates find employment in military or commercial aircraft engineering, space exploration, space-based telecommunications, spacecraft engineering and transportation engineering.

College instructors lecture on aerospace fundamentals, theories and practices. Designing aeronautical vehicles is central to school curriculum. Courses may include:

  • Aerodynamics and flight performance
  • Aerospace structures
  • Guidance and control
  • Propulsion systems
  • Aerothermodynamics
  • Introduction to aerospace design

Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering

A master's degree in aerospace engineering prepares graduates for leadership positions in the aerospace industry and for further study in a doctoral college program. Students learn how to conduct flight vehicle analysis and create preliminary designs of aerospace vehicles. Engineering schools offer concentrations in areas such as aerodynamics and propulsion, computational fluid dynamics, aerospace structures and nondestructive testing. Alternative degree titles are Master of Science in Aerospace Administration and Master of Aerospace Engineering.

College professors lecture on the formulation of equivalent loads, the element stiffness matrices, energy methods and the global structural matrices. Students complete a research-based thesis project on a specialized aerospace topic. Courses may include:

  • Advanced aerospace engineering
  • Fluid mechanics and aerodynamics
  • Structural design
  • Flight controls and mechanics
  • Aerospace vehicle design
  • High speed aircraft

Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineering doctoral programs can be tailored to meet an individual student's career objectives. Students deepen their understanding of aerospace theory, technology and practical application. This research-based program is designed for individuals seeking to increase understanding of the technical areas of aerospace engineering. Graduate students can specialize in areas such as system design and optimization or aeroelasticity and structural dynamics.

Graduate school requirements include scholarly dissertations that contribute original research to the aerospace engineering field. Program curriculum is typically completed in 2-3 years. Courses may include:

  • Aerospace engineering research
  • Special problems
  • Robotics research
  • Structures and materials
  • Aerodynamics and propulsion
  • Dissertation research and preparation

Salary Information Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), aerospace engineers earned a median wage of $105,380 in May 2014. The BLS also reported that 69,080 aerospace engineers were employed in 2014, with a 7% job increase projected over the 2012 to 2022 decade. This growth is slower than the average for all occupations, but jobs will be focused within the U.S. due to national security. In addition, new companies are expected to emerge as efforts towards space travel become more privatized.

Popular Career Options

Leadership positions within the aerospace industry require an advanced college degree. Career opportunities include:

  • Aerospace design engineer
  • Aerospace systems engineer for vehicle systems
  • Aeronautical research engineer
  • Fluid dynamics manager
  • Aerospace component engineer
  • Field service engineer

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