Aerospace engineers utilize mathematics and science to design, test, monitor and manufacture aircraft. Students interested in this field can pursue training through bachelor's, master's and Ph.D. degree programs. Coursework at each level will address subject matter such as aviation safety systems, advanced calculus and aerodynamic design. Hands-on lab sessions and projects are common at all levels; graduate programs, particularly those at the doctoral level, focus on research.
- Program Levels in Aerospace Engineering: Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering; Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering or Master of Aerospace Engineering; Doctor of Philosophy in Aviation and Aerospace Engineering
- Prerequisites: A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for entry into a bachelor's program; a bachelor's degree in a related field is required for entry into a master's or Ph.D. program.
- Other Requirements: Laboratory work is required at all levels; a thesis is required at the master's level; a dissertation is required at the Ph.D. level.
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering
A Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering will prepare you to design and test aircrafts, such as helicopters, jets, planes and spacecrafts. You'll be trained to construct, manufacture and analyze space systems and aircrafts. The curriculum includes basic sciences and mathematics essential to understanding the functions of aerospace engineering. Some programs culminate in a final project designing an aircraft or spacecraft. You must possess a high school diploma or GED, as well as provide appropriate SAT scores to enroll in this program.
The coursework in a bachelor's program explores propulsion, thermodynamics, stability and control, aeromechanical design and flight mechanics. In addition to classroom material, you will work hands-on in a laboratory environment on projects. Common topics may include:
- Aerodynamic vehicle design
- Low-speed aerodynamics
- Materials science
- Introduction to aerospace engineering
Master's Degree in Aerospace Engineering
Master's degree programs can be found as a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering and a Master of Aerospace Engineering. Graduate aerospace engineering programs will instruct you on the technological problems and scientific solutions pertaining to the aerospace field. You'll work with up-to-date technology, including simulation, computer analysis and computer-aided design, to solve real-world industry problems. Advanced coursework in aerodynamics and fluid dynamics, aerospace design and space design builds upon previously acquired theoretical knowledge. By completing such a program, you'll have a deep understanding of what goes into designing aircrafts and space modules.
To apply for a master's degree program, you must have already obtained a bachelor's degree and have background in science and engineering. Prior experience working in the field of engineering is also a plus for interested applicants.
Aerospace engineering programs can be concentrated in several areas including aerospace design, fluid dynamics, propulsion and space science. You'll typically complete original research and develop a thesis or final research project. Aerospace program topics include:
- Engineering analysis
- Dynamics of incompressible fluids
- Spacecraft dynamics
- Nonlinear control systems
- Turbulent shear flows
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Aviation and Aerospace Engineering
A Ph.D. in Aviation and Aerospace Engineering is available to aerospace engineering graduates. Within these programs, you'll complete courses and projects that teach you the foundations of aviation, as well as the inner workings of mechanical designs. You'll delve into advanced theories and practices of these two fields. The aviation program will emphasize the important aspects of safety management, economics and regulatory procedures. Additionally, you will improve your skills in the realm of teaching aviation to others.
If you wish to enroll into this program, you must have a prior bachelor's or master's degree in any aviation or aerospace engineering field. Aviation fields involve aeronautical science and aviation management. You must also obtain a passing score on your Graduate Record Exam (GRE), present letters of recommendation and provide a personal essay.
In addition to seminars and coursework, you must complete original research, a dissertation and a comprehensive exam. The dissertation consists of an original research paper that you must defend before an academic panel. Topics studied may include:
- Aviation safety management systems
- Environment of aviation
- Computational fluid mechanics
- Thermal systems engineering
- Mixed-methods research in aviation
Popular Career Options
Bachelor's holders are qualified for entry-level aerospace positions as engineers in aeronautics, propulsion and astronautics within aerospace industries and government organizations. Career examples may incorporate:
- Aerospace engineers
- Aeronautical engineers
- Astronautical engineers
Professional Licensing Information
Upon completion of an ABET-accredited bachelor's program, you can begin the process of becoming a professional engineer by completing the Fundamentals of Engineering examination. After acquiring four years of work experience under the supervision of a professional engineer, you may then complete the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, which will qualify you to become a professional engineer.
Career and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage of an aerospace engineer was $105,380, as of May 2014 (www.bls.gov). The BLS projected a 7% growth for aerospace engineers from 2012-2022.
Ph.D. holders are qualified for high-level industry careers, as well as academic and research careers within colleges and universities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, engineering professors at postsecondary institutions earned a median annual wage of $94,130 in May 2014.