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Difference Between Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineering

The differences between aerospace engineers and aeronautical engineers are subtle, but distinct. Continue reading to review the aspects of these professions that differ, as well as what these professions have in common.

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Comparing Aerospace Engineer to Aeronautical Engineer

Aerospace engineers and aeronautical engineers share a lot of common duties. The main difference between these two professions is that aeronautical engineering is a specialization within aerospace engineering. Workers in aeronautical engineering often work exclusively with aircraft, while aerospace engineers may also work with weapons or spacecraft; and typically earn a higher salary than aeronautical engineers.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Aerospace Engineer Bachelor's Degree $109,650 (2016)* -2%
Aeronautical Engineer Bachelor's Degree $78,300 (2017)** -2% for Aerospace Engineers

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **PayScale.com

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Responsibilities of Aerospace Engineer vs Aeronautical Engineer

Aerospace engineers and aeronautical engineers are engineering professionals who work with crafts, machines, computers or electronics that operate in the air or in space. They perform a lot of similar tasks, such as developing design proposals and assessing their design plans to make sure they are safe and functional. Teamwork is crucial, and those who advance to senior positions may be involved in managing projects and overseeing the work of several different staff members. Some aerospace engineers specialize in working with different functions of an aircraft or weapon, such as navigation. Aeronautical engineers specifically focus on working with planes and other types of aircraft.

Aerospace Engineer

Becoming an aerospace engineer involves earning a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering, and possessing expert knowledge in aero or thermodynamics. Aerospace engineers apply technological theories to the development of various aircrafts. Duties include manufacturing and testing aircraft, space shuttles or weapons. These experts may develop new technologies for aerospace crafts, satellites or missiles, and can specialize in the development of these systems. Aerospace engineers may find themselves working on projects ranging from commercial airplanes to military rockets.

Job responsibilities of an aerospace engineer include:

  • Develop and evaluate design plans
  • Have prototypes constructed and assessed
  • Revise design plans to improve functions
  • Assess product safety and standards
  • Review problems and determine solutions

Aeronautical Engineer

Aeronautical engineers specialize in the design and development of planes and other aircraft, and possess expertise in fields such as aeroacoustics or fluid dynamics. They need to have a bachelor's degree in their field or a related engineering field, and earning a license may be required to advance to senior positions. They spend a lot of time working in offices, although they may go to factories and other locations where parts are being manufactured or where aircraft are being assembled as part of their duties. Ensuring that safe aircraft are constructed is a crucial part of their responsibilities, and they need to be very thorough in their assessment of the products they work with in order to identify potential issues or determine why a product hasn't worked properly.

Job responsibilities of an aeronautical engineer include:

  • Meet with clients to discuss their needs
  • Review design proposals and determine the cost of production
  • Modify design proposals to fit a client's budget
  • Perform tests to assess the safety of aircraft
  • Study product performance issues and recommend solutions
  • Determine how to minimize environmental damage from aircraft

Related Careers

A career as a satellite engineer may appeal to those interested in aerospace engineering, since satellite engineers specialize in designing and assessing satellites. Individuals curious about a career as an aeronautical engineer may also want to explore the option of being a corporate aircraft mechanic, since aircraft mechanics are involved with the construction and repair of aircrafts so that they operate safely.

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