Are you curious to find out what an aerospace engineer does? It sounds like an exciting career with that word “space” thrown in there. So, if space excites you and makes you curious, a career as an aerospace engineer might be a good fit.
As an aerospace engineer, you will spend time working on spacecraft and aircraft. This can be rather exciting. You can be a part of space travel and flight with this type of career. Let’s look at a more in-depth description to answer the question, what does an aerospace engineer do, along with some of the qualifications for this job title.
So, What Do Aerospace Engineers do?
The main job of an aerospace engineer is directing, testing, and manufacturing the prototype designs for spacecraft and aircraft. In addition, you’ll often work to improve existing crafts with new technology and equipment. Throughout the process, you will decide if the project is safe, evaluate the designs, create manufacturing methods, and inspect any malfunctioning products.
The most common tasks of an aerospace engineer include:
- Planning and conducting experimental, operational, environmental, and stress tests on aircraft or aerospace system prototypes
- Formulating new designs of aerospace products and systems to meet the needs of customers
- Investigating reports of technical issues with aerospace vehicles and aircrafts
- Creating technical reports and documents for systems and equipment, such as handbooks or manuals.
- Directing and coordinating engineering activities with technical personnel to develop aircraft and aerospace products
- Diagnosing issues with products and coming up with solutions to fix the malfunction or damage
These are just some of the many duties of an aerospace engineer. If this sounds exciting to you, learning how to become an aerospace engineer is an important step.
Becoming an Aerospace Engineer
Finish High School
Since you will need to go on to college, finishing high school is a must. You want to take AP science and math classes during your years in high school. This is very important to ensure you can get into a good university or college program.
Maintain a high GPA and make sure you score high on the SAT or ACT. With the right test prep course, you can score very high on the ACT or the SAT. This will help to ensure you get accepted into a good university or college program.
Get Your Bachelor’s Degree
You will need at least a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering to enter into this career field. During your time in college, you will likely study the following subjects:
- Space flight dynamics
- Fluid dynamics
- Structural analysis
- Control system analysis and design
Plenty of mathematics and science courses can be expected. You will also take courses in mechanics and electromagnetism.
Getting accepted to one of the top colleges or universities for aerospace engineering can help ensure you have plenty of job opportunities. The top options across the country include:
- Embry-riddle Aeronautical University – A great location in Daytona Beach, Florida, Embry-Riddle is known as one of the best options in the country. They have a laser-focused aerospace engineering program. The campus also has an airfield.
- Georgia Tech – A great choice, Georgia Tech offers one of the largest aerospace engineering programs in the country. They have 40-tenure track faculty members, along with research facilities and a collaborative learning lab.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Of course, MIT is a great school and offers one of the best aerospace engineering programs in the country. They have a wind tunnel known as the AeroAstro. Many graduates have gone on to enjoy great careers with NASA and the Air Force.
- Stanford University – A prestigious university offering a great aeronautics & astronautics program, you can go far with a degree from Stanford.
- Purdue University – Known for graduating 24 astronauts, Purdue University has one of the top aerospace engineering programs in the entire country.
If you get accepted into one of these aerospace engineering programs, you will likely gain more job prospects than other programs.
Get a Master’s Degree (optional)
You don’t need a master’s degree to work as an aerospace engineer. However, it can be rather helpful to open up opportunities. Some of the top employers prefer a master’s degree.
With a graduate-level degree, you will have better advancement opportunities. It’s also an opportunity to specialize if you prefer. For example, if you want to teach aerospace engineering, this is a good step to take.
Gain Additional Training
Entry-level aerospace engineering positions won’t require licensing. However, if you want to grow your career, more training is necessary. You can get training in many different areas. Working to earn a Professional Engineering license is a good place to start.
With a PE (Professional Engineering) license, you can manage and lead other engineers. This will require you to pass two exams, have about four years of experience, and hold a bachelor’s degree.
Common Aerospace Engineer Specialties
If you decide you want to specialize in a specific area of aerospace engineering, there are a few options. Usually, the two main areas include aeronautical and astronautical engineering. You might also decide to study thermodynamics, aerodynamics, flight mechanics, or celestial mechanics.
The astronautical engineer side of things works specifically with spacecraft carriers. They work to make these vehicles more efficient and help large and small satellites.
If you choose to become an aeronautical engineer, you will work to improve and design aircraft systems. In addition, you will research aerodynamics and apply your research to design and test new systems for aircraft.
With the right experience and specialty, you can earn a very high salary as an aerospace engineer. Therefore, it’s important to gain experience in the area you plan to specialize in. If possible, complete an internship in this area during college.
Frequently Asked Questions About Aerospace Engineers
What type of salary does an aerospace engineer earn?
As an aerospace engineer, you can earn a very nice salary. Entry-level positions usually start around $68K per year, while higher-level positions can pay more than $110K per year. The highest-paying positions in this field can pay more than $150K.
Your actual salary will depend on your education, experience, position, employer, and location. Some areas of the country tend to pay more than others.
The highest paying states for aerospace engineers include:
- District of Columbia
All of these states have an average salary of $120K or higher. Many other states have an average salary above $100K, too.
How long does it take to become an aerospace engineer?
You will need at least a bachelor’s degree to become an aerospace engineer. This will take four or five years to complete. It’s also necessary to gain some work experience. However, you can start in an entry-level position with just a degree.
If you want to manage or lead engineers, you will also need four years of experience. It will commonly take between four and six years to become an aerospace engineer.
Where do aerospace engineers work?
It’s common for aerospace engineers to work in manufacturing facilities, offices, and laboratories. Anywhere aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft are created, you will find aerospace engineers. You may work for private companies or the government.
It’s common for an aerospace engineer to spend quite a bit of time working with computers. Sophisticated software programs are a common part of the job, along with building virtual models.
Who hires aerospace engineers?
Many different types of companies hire aerospace engineers, including:
- Airline operators
- Aerospace companies
- Contract agencies
- Government Agencies
- Research and development organizations
- The Civil Service
- The Armed Forces
All of these types of companies employ aerospace engineers.
Is this type of career growing?
Aerospace engineering is a growing career, but it’s not growing very fast. Experts predict the growth for this job to be about 3% over the next ten years.
What type of schedule do aerospace engineers keep?
Most aerospace engineers will keep a regular 9-to-5 type of schedule. However, they will likely work at least 40 hours per week, often more.
Is it important to get a master’s degree to become an aerospace engineer?
It’s not required, but about one-third of aerospace engineers hold a master’s degree. With a master’s degree, you can earn a larger salary and advance faster to a higher-level position. Some employers require a master’s degree. If you decide to teach, you will need at least a master’s degree to teach at the university or college level.
Still Thinking of Becoming an Aerospace Engineer?
If you want to work on aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft as your career, this is the right field for you. The job of an aerospace engineer can be rather exciting, and it’s a high-paying career. As a result, many aerospace engineers are very happy with their career choice.
Joining this type of field will put you in high demand. If you want to enjoy your career and you love the idea of working on machines that fly, becoming an aerospace engineer is for you. Just make sure you do enough research to answer the questions fully; what does an aerospace engineer do?
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