Aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles.
What they do
Aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they create and test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.
Aerospace engineers typically do the following:
- 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 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.
How to become an Aerospace Engineer
Aerospace engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or another field of engineering or science related to aerospace systems. Aerospace engineers who work on projects that are related to national defense may need a security clearance. U.S. citizenship may be required for certain types and levels of clearances.
Entry-level aerospace engineers usually need a bachelor’s degree. High school students interested in studying aerospace engineering should take courses in chemistry, physics, advanced math, and computer programming and computer languages.
Bachelor’s degree programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies in subjects such as general engineering principles, propulsion, stability and control, structures, mechanics, and aerodynamics, which is the study of how air interacts with moving objects.
Some colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in partnership with regional businesses, which give students practical experience while they complete their education. Cooperative programs and internships enable students to gain valuable experience and to finance part of their education.
At some universities, a student can enroll in a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree upon completion. A graduate degree will allow an engineer to work as an instructor at a university or to do research and development. Programs in aerospace engineering are accredited by ABET
The median annual wage for aerospace engineers was $116,500 in May 2019. 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 $72,450, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $166,620.
Employment of aerospace engineers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Aircraft are being redesigned to cause less noise pollution and have better fuel efficiency, which will help sustain demand for research and development. Also, new developments in small satellites have greater commercial viability. Growing interest in unmanned aerial systems will also help drive growth of the occupation.
Similar Job Titles
Aeronautical Engineer, Aerospace Engineer, Aerospace Stress Engineer, Avionics Engineer, Design Engineer, Flight Controls Engineer, Flight Test Engineer, Structural Analysis Engineer, Systems Engineer, Test Engineer
Electrical Engineer, Product Safety Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Validation Engineer, Energy Engineer
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Aerospace Industries Association - This organization’s vision is to help our united membership improve the safety of air transportation, make America more secure, fuel exploration, drive innovation and ensure a vibrant industrial base.
- Aircraft Electronics Association - The mission of the Aircraft Electronics Association is to be a worldwide, self-sustaining organization committed to enhancing the profitability of its members. Students, check out the long list of scholarships
- American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics - This organization believes that aeronautic and astronautic professionals and students and STEM educators are the drivers of global innovation. It is committed to providing resources and experiences that assist in your personal and professional development. For the interested K-12 student, there is ample information to suit your interest in this field.
- General Aviation Manufacturers Association - This association seeks to promote a better understanding of general aviation manufacturing, maintenance, repair, and overhaul and the important role these industry segments play in economic growth and opportunity, and in serving the critical transportation needs of communities, companies and individuals worldwide. Students, internships are available.
- National Business Aviation Association - NBAA is the leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful. Students, view the long list of scholarships
Magazines and Publications
From Leonardo da Vinci's 500-year-old drawings to Star Wars movies today, humans have always dreamt of flying. Aerospace engineers make those dreams come true- whether testing in-atmosphere aircraft for travelers, or designing spacecraft for astronauts. Aerospace engineers also design satellites and missiles, and test materials for endurance and adaptability. From prototype development to manufacture and beyond, these engineers are involved at all stages of production and maintenance. An engineer's attention to detail and rigorous documentation is crucial for a project's success, and can even save lives. Aerospace engineers must be problem solvers with strong analytical and advanced math skills who can create and clearly communicate designs that meet regulations. They must ensure all the customer's requirements are fulfilled and resolve any problems, all while ensuring safety and minimizing cost. Typically working full time, aerospace engineers, especially project directors, often put in extra hours to coordinate with essential team members and ensure that deadlines are met. Aerospace engineers need a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering for most positions. To advance in their careers, they often earn advanced degrees and a Professional Engineering license. In this vital role, no detail is too small to matter- projects soar and crash on the wings and work of aerospace engineers.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistic www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org