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Schools for Aspiring Aeronautical Engineers: How to Choose

Students have many criteria to consider when selecting a school for aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering, including accreditation and concentration areas. Read on to find more information on selecting an aeronautical engineering school.

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Aeronautical engineers design aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical systems. While aeronautical engineers may work specifically with atmospheric flight (aeronautics) and astronautical engineers with flight in space (astronautics), educational programs as well as industry language may refer to both as 'aerospace' engineering.

Top 10 Aeronautical Engineering Schools

The following list includes a number of public and private schools that offer aeronautical engineering programs.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition* (2015-2016)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate $46,704; Graduate $46,400
Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, GA 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate $12,204; Out-of-state Undergraduate $32,396; In-state Graduate $13,452; Out-of-state Graduate $27,872
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate $13,856; Out-of-state Undergraduate $43,476; In-state Graduate $20,638; Out-of-state Graduate $41,688
Purdue University - West Lafayette West Lafayette, IN 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate $10,002; Out-of-state Undergraduate $28,804; In-state Graduate $9,208; Out-of-state Graduate $28,010
California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA 4-year, private not-for-profit Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate Graduate $43,710
Stanford University Stanford, CA 4-year, private not-for-profit Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate Graduate $45,729
Princeton University Princeton, NJ 4-year, private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral Undergraduate $43,450; Graduate $43,450
University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate $15,054; Out-of-state Undergraduate $30,214; In-state Graduate $15,023; Out-of-state Graduate $28,213
University of Maryland-College Park College Park, MD 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate $9,996; Out-of-state Undergraduate $31,144; In-state Graduate $11,376; Out-of-state Graduate $24,534
University of Colorado - Boulder Boulder, CO 4-year, public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate $11,091; Out-of-state Undergraduate $34,125; In-state Graduate $10,530; Out-of-state Graduate $27,828

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

School Selection Criteria

Aeronautical engineering programs can be found at 4-year colleges and universities. There are a number of things to consider when selecting a program in this field.

  • Prospective aeronautical engineers should look for schools that are accredited, as these schools may have exceptional job placement rates and a reputation for engineering excellence. Engineering schools should be accredited by ABET. Prospective engineers may also want to look for programs where the faculty is active in research and engineering.
  • Students may also want to make sure that the laboratories and facilities for the program allow for a hands-on, practical education.
  • Prospective graduate students may want to consider school funding, as well as external engineering fellowships specifically for graduate students. Sources for these funds include the National Science Foundation, National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship or the NASA Harriett Jenkins Fellowship Program.
  • When selecting a school, candidates may want to consider the possible areas of concentration that each school may specialize in, such as spacecraft, U.S. Air Force engineering or unmanned aircraft.

Aeronautical Engineering Certificate

Aeronautical engineering certificate programs are offered to engineers who already have a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME) or are in the process of attaining their BSME and want an aeronautical engineering minor. Certificate programs give students a broad education in engineering fundamentals as well as experience in current aerospace developments. Students may have opportunities to participate in research. The certificate program may last a year and entails aero-specific courses covering:

  • Fluid mechanics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Aerodynamics

Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering

Programs granting a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering typically last four years and entail a variety of academic and hands-on components. After completing general college courses in the first year, undergraduate sophomores begin taking basic engineering courses. The following years are devoted to more specialized aeronautical engineering courses. Students gain experience in engineering theory and practical applications to aeronautical engineering that will prepare them for a career in air or spacecraft design.

Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics

The master's program for aeronautical engineers takes about two years to complete and students can choose between thesis and non-thesis programs. Engineers may have to choose between aeronautics and astronautics at the master's level for further specialization, but some programs combine the two.

Not only will graduate students be educated enough to work in a variety of applied engineering settings, they can also conduct research or go on to pursue a doctoral degree in the field.

Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science in Aeronautical Engineering

The doctoral level of training is an additional four years of education and research. Graduate students who go on to get their doctorates may have to take qualifying exams, conduct research, write a dissertation and defend their dissertation in front of a panel of aeronautical faculty. Students may have to take additional exams relating to their specialization as well as in mathematics or other scientific-related fields. Ph.D. and Sc.D. graduates may wish to stay in academia and teach, or they can use their research and practical experience to work in development for NASA.

There are a number of public and private institutions that offer programs in aeronautical engineering, and most offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in this discipline. Prospective students can choose between public and private institutions across the United States.

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