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Salary and Career Info for an Aerospace Defense Engineer

Aerospace defense engineers are involved with testing and inspecting aircraft and defense systems. Learn about the education, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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An aerospace defense engineer develops and tests various prototypes for the US military, such as defense systems, missiles, or aircraft. Other career titles these professionals might have include defense test engineer or structural design engineer. In addition to an engineering license, aerospace defense engineers require a bachelor's degree from an accredited program that is related to aerospace engineering.

Essential Information

The job of an aerospace defense engineer is extremely important because they work to protect the United States. Job responsibilities for these engineers include creating prototypes of aircraft and missiles, monitoring production costs of these technologies and making sure the quality of the equipment is up to code. Students looking to get an entry-level position in this field typically get their bachelor's degree, which offers core classes like fluid mechanics, advanced mathematics and aerodynamics. All aerospace defense engineers are required to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering test in order to become licensed.

Education Requirements Bachelor's degree
Other Requirements Licensure required for all engineers
Job Growth (2014-2024)* -2% (for all aerospace engineers)
Mean Wage (2015)* $110,570 (for all aerospace engineers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary Information for an Aerospace Defense Engineer

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), aerospace defense engineers earned an average annual salary of $110,570 as of May 2015. The highest salaries were found among aerospace engineers who worked in the employment services industry, followed by those employed with nonscheduled air transportation, and then the federal branch of the government.

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Career Information for an Aerospace Defense Engineer

Entry-level positions typically require a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or a related field from a program recognized by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Bachelor's degree programs typically last four years and include general education curricula, as well as core classes in fluid mechanics, aerodynamics and advanced mathematics. Upper-level courses might include computer-aided design (CAD), flight simulation, control systems design and thermodynamics.

Additionally, all states require engineers to be licensed. Graduates of ABET-accredited engineering programs are eligible to take the Fundamentals of Engineering test, which is the first part of the state licensing exam. Those who pass are referred to as engineers-in-training (EITs). EITs with four years of documented work experience are qualified to take the second licensing test, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, to become licensed professional engineers (PEs). Some states require continuing education for PEs, which might include completing college-level coursework, attending educational seminars and publishing research papers.

The BLS estimated that job opportunities for aerospace defense engineers would decrease by two percent between 2014 and 2024. Several positions are available for those interested in this field, including aerospace defense design engineer, aerospace defense test engineer and aerospace structural design engineer.

Aerospace Defense Design Engineer

Aerospace defense design engineers use CAD, flight simulation software and other specialized programs to create conceptual designs and prototypes of aircraft, missiles and defense systems. Design engineers receive product needs and requirements from clients and coordinate planning with research and structural departments to develop design criteria. Other duties include standardizing specifications, creating testing methods and monitoring production costs.

Aerospace Defense Test Engineer

Aerospace defense test engineers plan and implement operational stress tests for government entities and private contractors. These engineers audit the design process to ensure performance and quality standards. Other duties include developing inspection procedures, analyzing specifications, ensuring compliance with government regulations and adhering to international standards of quality management.

Aerospace Structural Design Engineer

Structural design engineers research, analyze and approve materials to be used by the Department of Defense, aerospace corporations and defense companies. These professionals evaluate product data, design specifications and draft reports to determine feasibility, production costs and project durations. Other duties include using CAD to analyze aircraft structure and optimize design, evaluating loading conditions and preparing technical reports documenting observations, analysis and recommendations.

The duties of an aerospace defense engineer vary depending on the specific job title; for example, defense design engineers concentrate on the design element of defense systems and simulations, while a defense test engineer is responsible for ensuring prototypes meet quality and performance standards. An aerospace structural design engineer analyzes the design and structure of aircraft, while also preparing reports and recommendations for defense clients and companies. The BLS reports a 2% decline in employment opportunities for aerospace engineers over the 2014-2024 decade.

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