Aerospace engineers might develop control systems for jet fighters, analyze new materials for spacecraft construction or research propulsion methods for missiles. These experts in mechanics, thermodynamics, robotics and aerodynamics are involved in creating and producing helicopters, military and commercial aircraft, rockets and space exploration craft. They typically have at least a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering. A master's degree is usually needed for careers in engineering education and research. Experienced aerospace engineers might opt to seek Professional Engineer, or PE, licensure. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS for short, aerospace engineers made a mean annual salary of $110,570 as of May 2015.
Aerospace engineers use advanced education and experience in mechanical, electrical, materials or computer engineering disciplines to plan and construct spacecraft and aircraft. When dealing with spacecraft, these professionals are called astronautical engineers. Those who focus on aircraft are called aeronautical engineers. Most aerospace engineers concentrate on a single area of the field, such as propulsion systems, flight mechanics, guidance and control systems, aerodynamics or robotics. They might be involved in research, planning, testing, production or analysis within any of these areas.
Specific duties of an aerospace engineer can vary greatly because of the specialized nature of the industry. Aerospace engineers might conduct research on production materials used for construction of an aircraft, or analyze the structural integrity of its framework. Some aerospace engineers are in charge of designing guidance systems for missiles or control panels for fighter jets. Aerospace engineers coordinate test flights and document the results. Engineering space exploration vehicles, they may develop propulsion systems and design computer systems. Aerospace engineers can also be in charge of designing production methods and manufacturing facilities, or monitoring on-going performance.
The BLS predicted that opportunities in aerospace engineering would decline by 2% between 2014 and 2024, primarily because many aerospace engineers are employed in manufacturing industries that were also expected to see little to no growth in that decade. However, the BLS also noted that job prospects should be good for aerospace engineers who specialize in research and development as well as engine design and production.