Students interested in becoming pilots can pursue a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science, which often leads to FAA commercial pilot certification. Students interested in the development and design of aircraft and spacecraft can pursue bachelor's degrees in aerospace engineering.
Master's programs in aerospace engineering are usually designed for students who already hold a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering and seek training for advanced research careers. Students in master's programs usually choose a specialization as well.
Program levels include bachelor's and master's degrees. Prerequisites usually include a high school diploma for the bachelor level and at least two semesters of basic engineering pre-coursework for most aerospace engineering bachelor's degree programs. A GPA score of 3.5 and a bachelor degree in aerospace engineering is required for most master's programs. Program specializations include commercial pilot certification or aerospace engineering for bachelor level programs and aerodynamics or aerospace systems design for master's programs. Program length depends on the degree. The B.S. in Aeronautical Science requires 120 credits, the B.S. in Aerospace Engineering requires 130 credits, and the M.S. in Aerospace Engineering requires at least 30 credits.
Bachelor Degree in Aeronautical Science
Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science degree programs teach students the skills necessary to go on to careers as pilots. These programs emphasize skills in aeronautics, physics and mathematics. Students also complete flight courses that teach skills in flight crew operations, multi-crew member transport and aircraft performance, systems operation and navigation. Students who complete most aeronautical science bachelor's degree programs graduate with a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Commercial Pilot Certificate, which is the necessary government certification required for individuals to work as commercial pilots for payment or hire.
For acceptance to a B.S. in Aeronautical Science program, some programs recommend, but do not require, a minimum of 16 hours of college preparatory courses in areas such as math, physics and English. Students must also complete around 40 hours of general education coursework. In addition to courses in aerodynamics, instrument operations, navigation and meteorology, other courses that are typically found in an aeronautical program include:
- Systems and components
- Flight physiology
- Aircraft engines
- Flight safety
- Crew management
- Operational applications
Bachelor Degree in Aerospace Engineering
A Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering degree teaches students about the design and construction of air- and spacecraft. 'Aerospace' refers to the combination of aeronautics and astronautics, that is, the design and construct specifically of spacecraft. Because foundational skills for both of these specialties overlap, these disciplines are typically combined during the first two years of undergraduate coursework and diverge after students declare their specializations for the final two years.
Most programs require that students complete at least two semesters of basic engineering coursework prior to beginning classes in an aerospace engineering degree program, as they provide the foundational skills and concepts necessary to succeed in aeronautics classes. Students in aerospace engineering programs build skills in areas such as math, science, engineering and technology. They also study core aeronautical skills in aerodynamics, dynamics and control and propulsion. In addition to multivariate calculus, aerospace design, jet propulsion and aerodynamics, other typical courses found in aerospace programs include:
- Electricity and optics
- Differential equations
- Fluid mechanics
- Hypersonic aerothermodynamics
- Propulsion design
- Computer prototyping
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Master of Science Degree in Aerospace Engineering
Master of Science in Aeronautical or Aerospace Engineering programs allow students to more fully explore areas of aeronautics. Typically, students enrolled in these programs will declare a concentration in a field like propulsion, structures and materials, aerodynamics, dynamics and control or aerospace systems design. In addition to specialized skills such as fluid motion, vehicle guidance systems or combustion processes, these programs emphasize the research of theoretical, computational and experimental application methods. Coursework varies depending on students' selected concentrations. A sample of coursework includes:
- Production engineering
- Structural dynamics of production machinery
- Conduction heat transfer
- Convection heat transfer
- Fluid dynamics
- Compressible flow
Popular Career Options
Graduates of aerospace master's degree programs typically go on to work in advanced research and development, or become post-secondary instructors. Industries in which aerospace engineers typically are found include:
- Commercial aviation development companies
- U.S. Government
- Research facilities
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted an average growth in jobs for commercial pilots between 2014 and 2024. The best opportunities are expected to be with smaller scale and cheaper regional airlines and nonscheduled aviation services, while jobs with major airlines are expected to be more difficult to obtain because of strong competition. In 2015, the median average annual salary for commercial airline pilots was $102,520.
Employment opportunities for aerospace engineers are actually expected to decrease by about two percent between 2014 and 2024, though new types of aircraft design could lead to more demand for people working in research and development. In 2015, the median salary for aerospace engineers was $107,830 a year.
Continuing Education Information
Graduates of aeronautical science degree programs often elect to pursue a master's degree in aerospace engineering, aeronautics or aviation management. These programs can help students advance their careers within the aeronautics industry.
Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in aerospace engineering also may go on to pursue graduate degrees in the field. Some aeronautical engineers may elect to pursue master's degrees in business to better position themselves for careers in administration, as executives or in government positions.
Graduates of M.S. degree programs in aerospace engineering who are interested in teaching often obtain a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering. However, this degree is typically not required for careers outside of academia.
Despite the BLS predicting a decline in jobs during the 2014-2024 decade, students interested in becoming pilots have a wide range of academic options ahead of them, including a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science, a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, and a Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering, not to mention likelihood of a really high salary.