Aircraft engineers design and test aircraft. A bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering is required to begin a career as an aircraft engineer, while a master's or doctoral degree is required for advancement.
Aircraft engineers design and test aircrafts and aerospace-related equipment. They make sure that aircrafts are well maintained and that all safety procedures are followed. Aircraft engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in either aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering with an aerospace engineering emphasis for entry-level work. Those seeking advancement may earn a master's or doctoral degree in a related field, and they may also opt for professional certification.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree for entry-level employment; master's or doctoral degree for advancement|
|Certification||Optional certification for career advancement|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||-2% for aerospace engineers|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$107,830 annually for aerospace engineers|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Aircraft Engineering Education
Various educational options are available for aircraft engineers, but most workers entering the field obtain a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Engineering. While majoring in aerospace engineering is possible, engineers looking for more flexibility can major in mechanical engineering with a minor in aerospace engineering. Master's and doctoral degrees are available for students seeking advanced education. Minors offered in aerospace engineering fields include materials and structures, dynamics and control, and aerodynamics and fluids.
Aircraft engineering focuses on a mixture of mathematics and science-based courses. Students cover a range of topics, like aerospace engineering mechanics, aerospace dynamics, theoretical aerodynamics and structural analysis. The introductory courses handle the fundamentals of aerospace engineering, while the advanced classes examine more theoretical work. Aspiring aircraft engineers learn how to properly construct aircrafts in order to make sure the vehicles are safe and effective, while also taking heed of the various environmental factors, like wind, weather and atmosphere.
Most students in aircraft engineering programs become aerospace engineers or aircraft engineers. Requirements for these positions vary and are based on which industry the aircraft engineer enters into. For example, if working for the government, an aircraft engineer may be required to sign a contract and follow security procedures on a regular basis. Certifications are available but not a requirement. However, aircraft engineers seeking management or senior technician positions often look into obtaining certification to increase their chances of a promotion.
Due to the extreme safety measures enforced for aircrafts, aircraft engineers must continually test new equipment and ensure existing vehicles are properly maintained. Any carelessness or mistakes could result in fatal accidents during flights, so aircraft engineers often test new designs for years and years before putting them into service. These workers also run tests and simulations virtually to create useful test data. After this test data is created, aircraft engineers interpret the data and make any necessary adjustments before running new tests.
Jobs as an aircraft engineer are expected to decline by 2% from 2014-2024. Those preparing to enter this field will need to have at least a bachelor's degree in a related field, and applicants with a master's or doctoral degree may have more job options.