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Aircraft Engineer: Employment Info and Career Requirements

Read about a career in aircraft engineering. Research the educational and skill requirements, and learn about the job description and employment and salary outlook for an aircraft engineer.

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Job Description for Aircraft Engineers

Like all engineers, aircraft engineers apply scientific and mathematical concepts to solve commercial and practical problems. They are types of aerospace or aeronautical engineers who design, test, maintain and supervise the making of aircrafts. They may specialize in structural design, navigation, instrumentation or communications. These workers may also examine different types of aircraft, such as commercial jets, military fighters or helicopters. Some engineers are responsible for going over new project proposals and determining if they are physically and financially feasible. Others work in conjunction with aerospace mechanics and repair technicians in examining malfunctioning parts and aircraft in order to determine the cause of the failure and make design adjustments when necessary.

Education Bachelor's degree with mechanical engineering training
Job Skills Critical and analytical thinking, discussion skills, precision, problem solving, creativity
Median Salary (2015)* $107,830 for aerospace engineers
Career Outlook (2014-2024)* -2% (decline) for aerospace engineers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements

All entry-level aircraft engineers must have a bachelor's degree and receive training in mechanical engineering. Students who know early that they would like to pursue a career in engineering should focus their high school studies on chemistry, physics and mathematics, including algebra, trigonometry and calculus. The majority of aircraft engineers hold degrees in aerospace engineering or another type of engineering; engineering courses generally cover physical and life science, design and mathematics.

Some colleges and universities offer programs that include an internship or other cooperative work experience program for students in engineering programs. A select few offer 5-year programs that can lead to the acquisition of both bachelor's and master's degrees. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) lists accredited programs on their website. Experienced engineers often complete advanced degrees in engineering or business administration and are able to advance to executive, research or faculty positions.

Licensing Requirements

Entry-level engineers do not need licensure. Supervisory and more advanced engineering positions require that applicants be licensed as professional engineers. To qualify, one must hold an engineering degree from an accredited program, have relevant work experience and earn passing scores on the fundamentals of engineering and the professional engineering exams.

Required Skills

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that successful aircraft engineers possess the following traits:

  • Precise and problem-solving personality
  • Ability to clearly discuss engineering problems with non-engineers
  • Creativity and curiosity is needed for the development of new aircraft and aerospace technology
  • Analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Business-minded personality with the ability to take into account financial restrictions and government regulations

Employment and Salary Outlook

Job opportunities for aerospace engineers, according to the BLS, were expected to be below average in the coming years. The BLS estimated that employment for these engineers would decline approximately 2% between 2014 and 2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported the median annual salary for aerospace engineers was $107,830.

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