What does an aerospace engineer do?
Aerospace engineers are responsible for the design, development and testing of missiles, rockets, commercial aircraft, spacecraft, helicopters, military jets and other products that fall into the categories of aircraft or spacecraft. There are two subfields within aerospace engineering, astronautical engineers, who work solely with spacecraft and aeronautical engineers who work with aircraft.
Aerospace engineers also work to develop and assess new and more advanced technologies for defense systems and aviation.
What kind of training does an aerospace engineer need?
Most entry-level positions for aerospace engineers will require a minimum of a bachelor degree in aerospace engineering. A bachelor-level program in aerospace engineering will consist of advanced mathematics classes, basic engineering courses and aerospace engineering classes.
While a bachelor degree may be sufficient to enter the field, most aerospace engineers choose to further their education and their career by earning specialty certificates or a graduate degree in a specialized discipline within aerospace engineering. Some examples of aerospace engineering specialty areas include propulsion, guidance systems, structural design, navigation systems, instrumentation and communication, aerodynamics, thermodynamics and celestial mechanics.
Engineers providing services to the public are required to obtain a license to practice in the state in which they intend to work. The first part of the licensing process, passing the Fundamentals of Engineering Exam administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), can be completed upon graduation. The second licensing exam, the Principles and Practice of Engineering, can be completed after gaining four years of work experience in engineering.
What are the prospects for a career as an aerospace engineer?
In 2006, there were approximately 90,000 aerospace engineers working in the United States. Career opportunities for aerospace engineers are expected to increase by 10% by the year 2016, which is just below the average rate of growth expected across all industries. New aerospace engineering job openings will largely be in relation to advancing commercial aircraft technology and working on military and defense projects. (1)
How much do aerospace engineers make?
Entry-level aerospace engineer salaries vary widely depending on level of training and education, certifications earned and geographical location. The average base salary range for aerospace engineers in entry-level positions, such as Aerospace Engineer I, is $47,943 to $66,443, with most entry-level aerospace engineers making between $52,435 and $62,118. Median salaries by geographical region are $60,300 for the Northeast; Middle Atlantic, $59,600; South, $54,300; Midwest, $56,000; and West, $58,500. (2)
Students who want to be a part of space exploration and advancing aviation technology well beyond our current limits will find a career as an aerospace engineer incredibly rewarding.