Aerospace technology programs prepare students for careers assembling, repairing, maintaining or operating space and aircrafts. Programs in this field are most commonly found at the undergraduate level, such as an Associate of Science in Aerospace Technology, Associate in Science in Aerospace Engineering Technology or Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Technology.
Associate degree programs prepare students for aerospace technician positions, and the course topics can range from welding to computer-aided design. When looking for a 2-year program, prospective students may want to look for programs that prepare graduates for SpaceTEC certification. Bachelor's degree programs in aerospace technology include many of the same courses as the associate programs, but often include additional engineering or technical courses. Some BS programs are available online, but they may require students to have already completed an associate degree.
Associate Degree in Aerospace Technology
Students in 2-year associate degree programs can prepare for certification as aerospace technicians. Programs teach students to calibrate instruments, operate simulators and maintain equipment designed to launch and position vehicles designed for air and space travel. Applicants need to have earned their high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted, and previous coursework in physics, chemistry and calculus is recommended. These types of programs often offer course credit for relevant military experience and prior Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification.
Associate degree curriculum integrates computer integrated manufacturing, quality control and thermal principles so graduates transition into a team-based environment requiring a wide range of manufacturing skills with little room for error. Topics of study can include:
- Arc welding
- Computer-aided design
- Electronics assembly
- Industrial safety
- Technical mathematics
Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace Technology
These 4-year degree programs combine instruction in engineering, industrial studies, aircraft performance, aerodynamics and mathematics with a significant amount of lab work and practical training. Bachelor's degree programs allow students to concentrate in aerospace technology, as well as aerospace administration, dispatch and maintenance. Students can also pursue a professional pilot track. Some programs allow students to conduct experiments to determine aerodynamic characteristics while collecting data in-flight. Students can work in industry, government and education, and may find positions in companies that supply engines for aircraft as well as general aerospace engineering companies.
Students can learn about the physical forces that affect the structures and component parts of aerospace craft and cause flight, such as lift, thrust and drag. Program coursework may include:
- Aircraft materials
- Flight theory
Popular Career Options
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports showed 12,890 aerospace engineering and operations technicians working mainly in aerospace manufacturing, architectural and engineering services, and scientific research and development, as of May 2015. The aerospace industry employs technicians to work on coatings, welding, structural assembly and electronics as well as fabrication and machining. Among these, entry-level workers were employed in the following positions:
- Aerospace technicians
- Computer support specialists
- Industrial engineering technicians
- Operations technicians
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
BLS predicts that employment for aerospace engineering and operations technicians was anticipated to show a 4% increase from 2014-2024. According to the May 2015 BLS statistics, aerospace engineering and operations technicians earned a median annual wage of $66,180.
The May 2015 reports showed that aerospace engineers earned a median annual wage of $107,830. Growth in employment for aerospace engineers was expected to decline by 2% for the decade between 2014 and 2024.
The national organization that certifies aerospace technicians is called SpaceTEC. Qualified applicants for certified aerospace technician status have two years of experience or training in the field or hold a valid FAA Airframe and Powerplant certificate.
Applicants take part in a 3-part exam process involving written, oral and practical skills exams. The certification exam for general aerospace technicians covers general aerospace information, applied mechanics, electricity, safety, processes, materials as well as tests and measurements. Certified SpaceTEC aerospace technicians are eligible for further certifications in specialty areas.
Graduates of the bachelor's program interested in furthering their education can earn a graduate degree in mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering or aviation systems. Programs at this level allow for specializations in areas like structures, design, fluid dynamics, hypersonics, propulsions and space science.
Aerospace technology degree programs prepare students to become aerospace technicians, operations technicians and industrial engineering technicians. Graduates can go on to pursue professional certifications in specialty areas or master's degree programs in mechanical or aerospace engineering.