Aerospace engineers have the exciting job of designing aircraft or spacecraft components, systems, and elements for successful and safe flight and functionality. Since these systems are complex and constantly evolving, aerospace engineers must have extensive education and training to perform their jobs and eventually move up to independent or advanced positions in the industry.
These engineers must also possess advanced skills in math, science, and design. This detailed guide provides information on becoming an aerospace engineer, including the education requirements, salary, and job outlook.
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What Does an Aerospace Engineer Do?
Aerospace engineers assist in the design, creation, and testing of products used in the aeronautical and astronautical industries. They may also design missiles, satellites, or other systems used in national defense. There are many specialized fields within the aerospace engineering industry, including thermodynamics, navigation, structural design, propulsion, combustion, and fluid flow control.
An aerospace engineer can work on a number of different functions and designs within an air or space craft, depending on their role on a project. These engineers may be tasked with various duties, including:
- Evaluating current systems and creating ways to improve functions and efficiency.
- Assessing project proposals to conclude if they’re relevant and realistic.
- Reviewing new designs to ensure they meet customer requirements and perform as needed.
- Troubleshooting malfunctioning equipment to create solutions on how to make the products work properly.
- Ensuring that projects are meeting quality and safety standards.
- Developing consistent design methods and processes while adhering to strict deadlines and completion dates.
To create innovative designs, aerospace engineers may also need to research current technologies and expand their knowledge on how to use certain systems or software. Additionally, they may be asked to coordinate design requests, assist with production, verify designs, and test products to complete assigned projects.
Aerospace engineers usually work full time. Project directors may also need to work additional hours when testing or editing designs and participating in test flights or performance checks. Most projects have strict and tight deadlines, so aerospace engineers can have unpredictable hours if a project doesn’t stay on schedule.
Aerospace engineers spend most of their time in an office environment since most designs are completed using computer software. However, they may need to visit manufacturing plants to oversee part production. Additionally, they may attend test flights or watch their designs in action out in the field.
Average Aerospace Engineer Salary
An aerospace engineer’s salary depends on their level of education, specific job title, location, and other variables. It’s considered one of the highest-paying jobs in engineering because aerospace engineering requires extensive education, training, and dedication.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for an aerospace engineer in May 2018 was $115,220, which averages out to a $55.39 hourly pay rate. The highest-paying aerospace engineering jobs were in the research and development and navigational and measuring fields.
Aerospace Engineering Education, Licenses, Certifications, and Training
To enter the field of aerospace engineering, you must commit to getting an education and undergoing extensive training.
Aerospace engineers must earn their bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or another engineering or science-related field. Aerospace engineering bachelor’s degree programs are all-encompassing and include laboratory work, classroom courses, and field studies. Aerospace engineering students study several subjects, including:
- General engineering principles.
- Stability and control.
You aren’t required to earn a master’s degree to become an aerospace engineer. Training and experience with hands-on work can help you obtain employment quickly after graduation. Many universities offer bachelor’s degree programs that partner with local engineering businesses so you can gain practical experience through job shadowing and internships.
Licensure is not generally required for aerospace engineers. However, engineers who earn their Professional Engineering (PE) license may find it easier to advance to leadership roles or obtain more independent roles. To obtain a PE, you must have at least four years of work experience in the engineering field and pass two exams. Depending on the state you live in, you may also be required to attend continuing education courses to renew your license.
Most of the training that aerospace engineers receive is on the job. After acquiring an entry-level position, an aerospace engineer learns more about the role by assisting other senior-level engineers. As the engineer learns more, responsibilities are increased and assigned tasks become more complex. Since computer software and other technologies are at the core of an aerospace engineer’s job duties, computer skill training and advancement is key.
Aerospace Engineer Job Outlook
Employment for aerospace engineers is expected to grow by 2% from 2018 to 2028, which is slower than average when compared to other occupations. Plenty of aircraft need to be more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, so the majority of growth in the aerospace engineering field will revolve around redesigning aircraft. Self-navigating aerial systems and technological advancement for small satellites may also lead to more employment opportunities for aerospace engineers.
Should I Become an Aerospace Engineer?
A job as an aerospace engineer may not be for everyone and you should have specific interests and qualities if you plan to enter the field. Learning about your personality type and what you have a passion for can help you understand if this job is right for you.
To become an aerospace engineer, you must enjoy building, designing, and working with tools or machines. You should also possess certain skills, including:
- Math skills: You must use calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced math skills to create designs as an aerospace engineer.
- Critical thinking skills: You must figure out why certain designs aren’t working and critically think about how to adjust components so they function properly.
- Problem-solving skills: Aerospace engineers face problems everyday and must use their skills to solve them rationally and efficiently while meeting strict deadlines.
If you’re not sure whether a career as an aerospace engineer is right for you, try taking a career test to find a better match for your personality.
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