An aeronautics or aviation degree can lead to various careers, including ones in aerospace engineering and commercial airline piloting. It can also set graduates on a course to pursue master's and doctoral degrees in the field, which can lead to more opportunities, such as professorships at colleges and universities.
Individuals with an interest in the design, manufacture and flight of airplanes, spacecraft or helicopters may consider earning degrees in aeronautics, aviation or aerospace science. Topics covered in these degree programs include aerodynamics, propulsion, control engineering, structures, materials and aeroelasticity. Potential job options for graduates include aerospace engineers, aircraft pilots, or postsecondary educators. Information from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the first two listed careers require the minimum of bachelor's degrees for most positions, but postsecondary educators typically need graduate degrees. Pilots are also required to obtain pilots' licenses and special certificates, as dictated by the Federal Aviation Administration.
|Career Titles||Aerospace Engineers||Aircraft Pilots||Aerospace Science Professors|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degree|| Commercial pilots: GED or high school diploma;
Airline pilots: Bachelor's degree
| Community college professors: Master's degree or higher;
Professors at 4-year colleges or universities: Doctorate degree
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||-2%*||+5%*||+13% (for all types of professors)*|
|Average Salary (2015)||$110,570*||$136,400*||$104,220 (for all engineering professors)*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Aerospace engineers design and construct new aircraft and spacecraft, including missiles and rockets. They develop models, use knowledge of physics to anticipate and correct problems and test new systems for flaws before moving into final production. They may also estimate the cost of new products. Most aerospace engineers hold a bachelor's degree.
The BLS anticipates aerospace engineering jobs to decrease by two percent between 2014 and 2024. The average annual salary for an aerospace engineer in May 2015 was $110,570.
Aircraft pilots are professionals who fly airplanes. Most aircraft pilots work for commercial airlines, while the rest perform other tasks such as crop dusting, traffic monitoring and flying passengers and cargo to remote areas. Pilots require extensive FAA certification and experience. At one time, most pilots gained experience in the military, but more students are now learning the ropes by pursuing a college degree in aviation.
The BLS projects a five percent increase in available jobs for airline and commercial pilots over the 2014-2024 decade. In May 2015, airline pilots, copilots and flight engineers made an average annual salary of $136,400.
Aerospace Science Professor
Students who complete an advanced degree program, such as a master's degree program, but more often a Ph.D. program, may consider becoming aerospace science professors. These professionals train and instruct students on aerospace design and aviation. Topics may range from combustion engines to electrical systems.
The BLS doesn't provide specific employment data for aerospace science professors, but it does note that job openings for postsecondary teachers in general were expected to rise by 13% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS also notes that postsecondary professors who teach engineering disciplines averaged $104,220 per year, as of May 2015.
Aerospace engineers usually have a bachelor's degree, which helps prepare them for a career developing complex machines, such as planes, rockets, and missiles. Aircraft pilots require significant FAA training and certification, which then qualifies them to fly commercial planes or smaller craft used for dusting crops or surveying a city's traffic conditions. Professors of aerospace science who teach at a university need to have a doctoral degree, while community college professors might only require a master's degree.