Aerospace College and School Program Overviews

Read about aerospace associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral college degree programs. Get details about potential coursework and career options.

Essential Information

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. Aerospace engineers typically develop expertise in a specific field, such as aerodynamics, thermodynamics or guidance systems. 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.

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.

Education Prerequisites

Prospective students seeking admission into an undergraduate aerospace program must have a high school diploma or GED. Colleges typically require standardized test scores. Academic transcripts from all previous schools must be submitted.

Program Coursework

Program curriculum covers the mechanical, propulsion and thermal requirements of aerospace projectiles and vehicles. 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.

Program Coursework

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
  • Materials engineering
  • Calculus

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.

Education Prerequisites

Prospective graduate students must possess bachelor's degrees in aerospace engineering, physical science, engineering or closely related fields. Graduate school admission requirements are more competitive than undergraduate programs. Some colleges require minimum grade point averages and GRE scores. Academic transcripts from prior colleges and schools must be submitted. Recommendation letters and a personal essay may be required.

Program Coursework

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
  • Multidisciplinary computations
  • Space vehicle design
  • Rocket propulsion

Popular Career Options

Leadership positions within the aerospace industry require an advanced college degree. Aerospace engineers specialize in a particular technology or scientific field, such as aerodynamics, celestial mechanics, spacecraft, commercial aircraft or missiles. Career opportunities include:

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

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.

Education Prerequisites

Admission into a doctoral degree program is a very competitive process. Prospective students must possess master's degrees in aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, engineering or closely related fields. Graduate schools typically require recommendation letters, personal essays and academic transcripts from all previous colleges or schools.

Program Coursework

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
  • Dynamics and control
  • 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 $103,720 in May 2012. The BLS also reported that 81,000 aerospace engineers were employed in 2010, with a 5% job increase projected over the 2010 to 2020 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.

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