Career Definition of a Spacecraft Engineer
Spacecraft engineers, also known as astronautical engineers, combine their mechanical and creative talents to design and produce different types of spacecraft. In the early stages of a project, they meet with clients or other professionals involved with the development of the craft. They review the objectives of the project and proposed budget to determine if they can design and deliver the desired craft for the financing available. They also need to consider all technical and safety specifications.
The next phase involves producing design plans for the spacecraft. The spacecraft engineer sets specific production goals and oversees the production process to ensure that the design specifications are followed. They also ensure that the project stays on budget, and once a prototype is completed, they are responsible for testing it to determine if it works as expected. Their duties can also involve testing related computer software that will operate the craft. They may also monitor spacecraft that's been launched and evaluate its performance.
|Educational Requirements||Bachelor's degree|
|Job Skills||Analytical skills, problem-solving skills, design skills, customer service skills, communication skills, teamwork skills|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$81,822|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)**||6% (aerospace engineers)|
Sources: *PayScale.com; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Spacecraft engineers typically need to have a bachelor's degree in a discipline such as aerospace engineering. Those considering a career as a spacecraft engineer should take mathematics, science, and computer programming classes in high school.
Spacecraft engineers may be required to use drafting software such as CAD for their designs. They may also require national security clearance. A Professional Engineering (PE) license is not generally required for spacecraft engineers but can help them advance to leadership positions later in their careers.
Spacecraft engineers need to have strong mathematical skills to perform calculations in their work and to establish budgets for projects. Their work involves interacting with other designers, production staff and clients, so communication skills are also important in this profession. They must be able to use computer design software to produce schematics and technical materials, so computer skills are required. They may also need computer programming skills to develop and evaluate the computer software used to operate the spacecraft they design. They rely on analytical skills to evaluate designs and project proposals, and they need problem-solving skills to determine how to effectively correct issues that arise during the design and production process. Since they may be involved in communicating directly with clients, they should also have strong customer service skills.
Career Outlook and Salary
From 2016 to 2026, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects that the average rate of job growth for all occupations will be 7%. Spacecraft engineers, who are included with the BLS listing for aerospace engineers, are expected to see a slightly lower job growth rate of 6% during this same period. PayScale.com reported that as of 2017, spacecraft engineers earned a median annual salary of $81,822.
Prospective spacecraft engineers might be interested in other engineering professions that involve analytical and design skills. The links listed here lead to more information about industrial designers, electrical engineers and mechanical engineers: