What Is Aerospace Engineering?
Aerospace engineering is the field of engineering focused on the design and creation of spacecraft and aircraft systems. Aerospace engineering has two sub fields: astronautical engineering (which is concerned with spacecraft and equipment outside of Earth's atmosphere) and aeronautical engineering (which is concerned with aircraft that fly within the Earth's atmosphere).
Aerospace engineers are the professionals who study this science and design, make, and test the different flying systems and equipment. They may work on satellites, spacecraft, missiles, or aircraft and ensure they function correctly. Read on for a detailed aerospace engineer job description.
What Do Aerospace Engineers Do?
As mentioned, aerospace engineers design spacecraft, aircraft, and other flying equipment to meet particular specifications and quality standards. These professionals may become experts in one or several different fields, such as control systems, materials, thermodynamics, or flight mechanics. Specific job duties vary by position and specializations, but in general, aerospace engineers may be responsible for:
- Coordinating the design, production, and testing of products
- Ensuring projects can be completed safely
- Determining if projects are realistic and financially possible
- Developing and meeting quality standards for a project
- Troubleshooting and correcting problems with products that arise
- Creating new technology in aviation
Aerospace Engineer Job Outlook
Aerospace engineering jobs are predicted to grow by 2% from 2018 to 2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This growth is slower than the national average. However, the redesign of old aircraft and need for new satellites and unmanned aerial systems is expected to contribute to the growth of the profession.
Aerospace Engineer Salary
The BLS reported that in 2018 the average annual salary for an aerospace engineer was $117,100. The industry that employed the most of these engineers at that time was the aerospace product and parts manufacturing industry, and these engineers made an average salary of $115,130. The BLS also reported that aerospace engineers working in scientific research and development services made the highest average salary for 2018 at $128,980.
Aerospace Engineer Education Requirements
Although there are a variety of associate's degree programs in engineering available, most professional engineers need at least a bachelor's degree in their particular field of engineering.
To become an aerospace engineer, students will typically need at least a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering. These programs typically result in a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree and are on-campus programs. Students in these programs may take courses in areas like:
- Flight dynamics
- Aerospace materials
- Engineering communication
Master's and doctoral programs in aerospace engineering are available and may allow these engineers to move into advanced positions, teach at a university, or work in research and development. Master's programs usually result in a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Aerospace Engineering (MAE) degree, while doctoral programs typically award a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in the field.
It is good for any engineer to gain practical hands-on experience through internship opportunities or other experiences, like engineering camps. Some aerospace engineers may be required to obtain security clearance to work on different projects for national defense. Although it is not usually required and is less common for aerospace engineers, some engineers may pursue a Professional Engineering (PE) license that requires passing 2 exams and having work experience and a degree.