Associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs in aerospace engineering are available. Engineers typically require a bachelor's degree at minimum.
Aerospace engineers specialize in a particular technology or scientific field, such as aerodynamics, celestial mechanics, spacecraft, commercial aircraft or missiles.
Associate in Arts in Aerospace Engineering
An associate's degree in aerospace engineering focuses on designing and developing aerospace technology, including spacecraft, missiles and aircraft. A 2-year college program is typically designed for individuals seeking transfer to a 4-year college program. Successful individuals will possess skills in research and analysis and be able to conceptualize new technologies.
Students also take overview courses in the basic sciences, such as:
- Introduction to aerospace engineering
- Pre-engineering mathematics
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering
A 4-year college program in aerospace engineering focuses on the design, operation and analysis of space and aircraft. Students may pursue specialization in aeronautics or astronautics. Aeronautics concentrates on the design and construction of aircraft, while astronautics focuses on developing spacecraft. Graduates find employment in military or commercial aircraft engineering, space exploration, space-based telecommunications, spacecraft engineering and transportation engineering.
College instructors lecture on aerospace fundamentals, theories and practices. Designing aeronautical vehicles is central to school curriculum. Courses may include:
- Aerodynamics and flight performance
- Aerospace structures
- Guidance and control
- Propulsion systems
- Introduction to aerospace design
Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering
A master's degree in aerospace engineering prepares graduates for leadership positions in the aerospace industry and for further study in a doctoral college program. Students learn how to conduct flight vehicle analysis and create preliminary designs of aerospace vehicles. Engineering schools offer concentrations in areas such as aerodynamics and propulsion, computational fluid dynamics, aerospace structures and nondestructive testing. Alternative degree titles are Master of Science in Aerospace Administration and Master of Aerospace Engineering.
College professors lecture on the formulation of equivalent loads, the element stiffness matrices, energy methods and the global structural matrices. Students complete a research-based thesis project on a specialized aerospace topic. Courses may include:
- Advanced aerospace engineering
- Fluid mechanics and aerodynamics
- Structural design
- Flight controls and mechanics
- Aerospace vehicle design
- High speed aircraft
Doctor of Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace engineering doctoral programs can be tailored to meet an individual student's career objectives. Students deepen their understanding of aerospace theory, technology and practical application. This research-based program is designed for individuals seeking to increase understanding of the technical areas of aerospace engineering. Graduate students can specialize in areas such as system design and optimization or aeroelasticity and structural dynamics.
Graduate school requirements include scholarly dissertations that contribute original research to the aerospace engineering field. Program curriculum is typically completed in 2-3 years. Courses may include:
- Aerospace engineering research
- Special problems
- Robotics research
- Structures and materials
- Aerodynamics and propulsion
- Dissertation research and preparation
Salary Information Employment Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), aerospace engineers earned a median wage of $107,830 in 2015. The BLS also reported that 72,500 aerospace engineers were employed in 2015, with a 2% job decrease projected over the 2014 to 2024 decade. New companies are expected to emerge, however, as efforts towards space travel become more privatized.
Popular Career Options
Leadership positions within the aerospace industry require an advanced college degree. Career opportunities include:
- Aerospace design engineer
- Aerospace systems engineer for vehicle systems
- Aeronautical research engineer
- Fluid dynamics manager
- Aerospace component engineer
- Field service engineer
Although there is a predicted decline in job growth for aerospace engineering, there are still options available for individuals with both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the field.