Graduate From High School
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that you'll most likely need a bachelor's degree to qualify for entry-level engineering jobs. Having a high school diploma or equivalent will help qualify you for bachelor's degree programs. Because aeronautical engineering is math-intensive, you might want to take algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus while still in high school. Courses in physics, chemistry and computers are relevant as well. Additionally, English, social studies and humanities courses can help prepare you for general education courses in college.
Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace Engineering
According to O*Net Online, almost 60% of aerospace engineers have a bachelor's degree. You may consider such majors as aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering, since the BLS indicates that engineers may be trained in one branch and work in related ones. Many bachelor's programs in aerospace engineering provide a broad education in the sciences and engineering during the first two years, and they examine specific instruction in aerospace theory and design during the last two years. Course topics may include aerodynamics, advanced materials, control systems, and propulsion systems.
Participate in an Internship
You should consider taking part in an internship or co-op program if one is available. They provide you with opportunities to network with professionals and observe aerospace engineering as it's practiced in a real-world setting. Some schools have standing partnerships with aerospace firms or engineering firms to facilitate the process of obtaining an intern position.
Get a Job as an Aeronautical Engineer
You can find employment opportunities with manufacturing companies, engineering services firms, and federal agencies. Approximately 61,400 aerospace engineers were employed as of 2020, which was projected to increase by eight percent by 2030. Demand for engineers was expected to be driven by a combination of ongoing improvements in design, advances in technology, retirements, and turnover, but many of the manufacturing industries engineers work for are seeing a decline.
Obtain a License
If you plan on offering your services to the public, you'll need to become a licensed engineer. Otherwise, you may voluntarily earn a Professional Engineer (PE) license. Requirements vary because they're regulated at the state level, but they roughly follow a 4-step process. It involves completing a bachelor's degree program accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, accumulating four years of supervised work experience and passing the PE exam.
The FE exam consists of 110 questions. The PE exam tests engineers on their knowledge of specific engineering disciplines, like civil, agricultural, or nuclear engineering. Relevant disciplines for you can include mechanical or electrical engineering. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying administer both the FE and PE exams.
What does an Aerospace Engineer do?
- Direct and coordinate the design, manufacture, and testing of aircraft and aerospace products
- Assess proposals for projects to determine if they are technically and financially feasible
- Determine if proposed projects will result in safe operations that meet the defined goals
- Evaluate designs to see that the products meet engineering principles, customer requirements, and environmental regulations
- Develop acceptance criteria for design methods, quality standards, sustainment after delivery, and completion dates
- Ensure that projects meet quality standards
- Inspect malfunctioning or damaged products to identify sources of problems and possible solutions
Aerospace engineers may develop new technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and spacecraft. They often specialize in areas such as aerodynamic fluid flow; structural design; guidance, navigation, and control; instrumentation and communication; robotics; and propulsion and combustion.
Aerospace engineers can specialize in designing different types of aerospace products, such as commercial and military airplanes and helicopters; remotely piloted aircraft and rotorcraft; spacecraft, including launch vehicles and satellites; and military missiles and rockets.
Aerospace engineers often become experts in one or more related fields: aerodynamics, thermodynamics, materials, celestial mechanics, flight mechanics, propulsion, acoustics, and guidance and control systems.
Aerospace engineers typically specialize in one of two types of engineering: aeronautical or astronautical.
Aeronautical engineers work with aircraft. They are involved primarily in designing aircraft and propulsion systems and in studying the aerodynamic performance of aircraft and construction materials. They work with the theory, technology, and practice of flight within the Earth’s atmosphere.
Astronautical engineers work with the science and technology of spacecraft and how they perform inside and outside the Earth’s atmosphere. This includes work on small satellites such as cubesats, and traditional large satellites.
Aeronautical and astronautical engineers face different environmental and operational issues in designing aircraft and spacecraft. However, the two fields overlap a great deal because they both depend on the basic principles of physics.
Aerospace engineers are employed in industries in which workers design or build aircraft, missiles, systems for national defense, or spacecraft. They work primarily for firms that engage in manufacturing, analysis and design, research and development, and for the federal government.
Aerospace engineers now spend more of their time in an office environment than they have in the past, because modern aircraft design requires the use of sophisticated computer equipment and software design tools, modeling, and simulations for tests, evaluation, and training.
Aerospace engineers work with other professionals involved in designing and building aircraft, spacecraft, and their components. Therefore, they must be able to communicate well, divide work into manageable tasks, and work with others toward a common goal.
Aerospace engineers typically work full time. Engineers who direct projects must often work extra hours to monitor progress, to ensure that designs meet requirements, to determine how to measure aircraft performance, to see that production meets design standards, to participate in test flights and first flights, and to ensure that deadlines are met.
The median annual wage for aerospace engineers was $122,270 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $77,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $168,370.
Aerospace engineers typically work full time. Engineers who direct projects must often work extra hours to monitor progress, to ensure that designs meet requirements, to determine how to measure aircraft performance, to see that production meets design standards, and to ensure that deadlines are met.