A division of aerospace engineering, aeronautical engineering focuses on applying physics, mathematics and other disciplines in order to construct aircraft. Aeronautical engineers work to make sure propulsion systems operate efficiently and that an aircraft's aerodynamic performance is sufficient. Aspiring aeronautical engineers should get their bachelor's degrees in aeronautical or aerospace engineering, though some related majors may be sufficient.
Although entry-level aerospace engineers in general do not require a license, higher-level positions may require a PE, or professional engineering license.
In order to become an aeronautical engineer, prospective candidates must complete a bachelor's degree program, usually in aerospace or aeronautical engineering, that has been approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Programs can take 4-5 years to complete. Students typically begin their education by enrolling in core courses in mathematics, chemistry and physics. Additionally, most programs require students to complete introductory labs in which they test engineering principles applied to flight and propulsion.
Once students have completed their core requirements, they may take more challenging classes that cover topics ranging from the aerodynamics of airplane bodies to electrical systems in cockpits. After covering the fundamentals of flight and stability control, students may delve into aircraft sensors and electrical components, as well as wing structure and flaps. Programs may also provide training in power generation for aircraft, including combustion engine design.
During the senior year of a bachelor's in aerospace or aeronautical engineering, students generally participate in lab and design courses. These courses may require research into issues ranging from construction materials to wing design. While completing their assignments, students may be responsible for simulating flight and modifying areas where designs may not function well. Applying their knowledge, students may then alter models, test designs, and prepare class presentations.
Graduates must take two examinations and accrue four years of work experience in order to become licensed professional engineers (PEs) in their state. They can use the title of EIT, or engineer in training, after passing the first Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, which can be taken any time after graduation. EITs must also complete a minimum of four years' on-the-job training, after which they take the PE exam to become professional aeronautical engineers.
Employment & Salary
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for aerospace engineers were projected to decrease 2% from 2014-2024, which is slower than average. As of May 2015, aerospace engineers, including aeronautical engineers, made a median annual salary of $107,830, as reported by the BLS.
Aeronautical engineers need a bachelor's degree in aerospace or aeronautical engineering. As of May 2015, they earned a median salary of $107,830 a year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.