Individuals interested in designing and creating parts and vehicles for space flight and other atmospheric voyages should consider earning an aerospace degree. Programs and majors in aerospace engineering are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels.
Associate's degree programs necessitate a high school diploma or GED. Prerequisites for enrollment in a bachelor's program typically include a strong GPA in related high school courses and high college placement test scores. Students in master's programs should have at least a B average in undergraduate school. Successful doctorate degree applicants likewise will need high grades and typically place in the top 50 percent of their graduating class. In some cases, a doctoral candidate may also need previous work experience in the field.
Associate of Arts in Aerospace Engineering
An associate's degree in aerospace engineering is generally a preparatory program for a related 4-year degree. Students focus on completing the math and science prerequisites generally required for admittance to an aerospace engineering major program.
At the 2-year degree level, students complete general education requirements. They also take advanced classes in these subjects:
- Differential equations
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering
The minimum educational requirement for most aerospace or aeronautical engineers is a bachelor's degree. Depending on the degree program, a 4-year degree program focused on aerospace engineering prepares individuals for eventual careers in governmental or industrial positions where they can construct flight vehicles, launching weapons and satellites.
At the bachelor's level, students may be able to choose a degree concentration such as aeronautics or astronautics Undergraduate students usually participate in aerospace industry internships and often design and complete an aircraft or a spacecraft project before graduating.
Coursework for a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering typically includes variations of the following:
- Computer-aided design of aerospace systems
- Aerospace dynamics
- Aircraft structures
- Electrical engineering
- Experimental space systems
- Advanced engineering mathematics
Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering
At the graduate level, aerospace master's degree students develop more advanced research skills and critical-thinking abilities. Students can opt for a thesis or non-thesis track.
Aerospace engineering concentrations are often available in orbital mechanics, aerospace control and guidance operations, structural dynamics and aerothermodynamics. Students participate in lectures and lab work. Topics of study often include:
- Aerospace theories
- Global positioning systems
- Space mechanics and navigation
Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering
Ph.D. programs in aerospace engineering are research-focused. Students are required to come up with a unique concept and argue it to a panel of aerospace faculty. In order to graduate, doctoral candidates must not only successfully complete their dissertation but also pass a comprehensive knowledge and skills assessment. Like all levels of aerospace engineering programs, those interested must submit letters of recommendation.
At the doctoral level, students are often required to assist an aerospace professor for at least one semester. Throughout the program, students get closer toward doctoral candidacy by learning and participating in:
- Research methods
- Quantitative analysis
- Qualitative analysis
- Dissertation preparation
- Dissertation defense
Popular Career Options
Those who hold a master's degree in aerospace engineering often work for such agencies as the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA. Aerospace engineer graduates can work as:
- Airline diagnostic specialists
- Aerospace parts designers
- Aerospace engineering consultants
- Spaceship developers
- Missile and rocket engineers
Doctoral graduates of an aerospace engineering program typically find themselves working in authoritative or scholarly settings. The following jobs can be obtained with Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering:
- College professor
- University chairperson
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates of a 2-year aerospace degree may be eligible for jobs as aerospace engineering technicians. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, starting in 2014 and continuing through 2024, employment of aerospace engineering technicians was predicted to see four percent job growth, although there will be turnover among current positions. Additionally, as of September 2016, the BLS (www.bls.gov) noted that aerospace engineering and operations technicians earned a median income of $66,180 annually.
Individuals who majored in aerospace engineering are qualified to work as aerospace technologists and engineers. As of September 2016, the BLS noted that aerospace engineers earned a median wage of $107,830. Furthermore, employment of aerospace engineers from 2014-2024 was projected to decrease by two percent.
Students can enroll in aerospace engineering degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, depending on whether they want to work as technicians, engineers or high-level researchers and teachers. For all levels of education, students wishing to pursue aerospace studies should possess a strong academic background in science and mathematics.