Median Annual Wage
Number of Jobs
What do aerospace engineers do?
Have you ever wondered how airplanes are made? How about rockets? Or missiles? Aerospace engineers have a vital role in the production of aircraft, because they’re the ones design them in the first place! They design all kinds of aircraft including missiles, satellites, and even spacecraft! Also, aerospace engineers create and test protoypes of their designs to make sure everything goes according to plan. Often, aerospace engineers will specialize in areas such as structural design, navigation, control, and robotics.
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 held about 67,200 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of aerospace engineers are shown on the right.
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. Interestingly enough, they are spending more of their time in an office environment than they have in the past. This is because modern aircraft design requires the use of advanced technology, including sophisticated computer equipment and software design tools, modeling, and simulations.
- Aerospace product and parts manufacturing – 35%
- Federal government, excluding postal service – 15%
- Engineering services – 15%
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing – 10%
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences – 9%
Aerospace engineers typically work full time, and that’s because they’re busy people! Engineers who direct projects usually have to work extra hours in order to keep up with their work duties. Some of those duties include monitoring progress, determining how to measure aircraft performance, and participating in test flights to ensure that deadlines are met. Aerospace engineers work with other professionals involved in designing and building aircraft. So, it’s important that they are able to communicate well, divide work into manageable tasks, and work with others toward a common goal.
Median annual wages in top industries
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences – $123,600
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing – $121,750
- Federal government, excluding postal service – $118,050
- Aerospace product and parts manufacturing – $116,620
- Engineering services – $114,030
Employment of aerospace engineers is projected to grow 2 percent from 2018 to 2028 (slower than the average for all occupations). This means that there will be about 1,100 more of these jobs in the next decade. Although the employment change may be slow, there is a growing demand for research and development, because aircraft are being redesigned to cause less noise pollution and have better fuel efficiency. In fact, some aerospace engineers are currently working on unmanned aerial systems (self-flying planes!). However, there is a projected decline in employment of these engineers in the manufacturing industry, so it’s best to be careful when selecting an industry to specialize in.
How do I 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. Some colleges and universities offer programs in partnership with regional businesses, which give students practical experience while they complete their education.
For High School Students
If you’re interested in becoming an aerospace engineer, you don’t have to wait until college to prepare! High school students can prepare for this career by taking classes in chemistry, physics, and advanced math. Any classes that help students develop skills with computers such as computer programming and computer languages will be valuable as well. The more you can prepare for this career in high school, the better!
Aerospace engineers must be able to identify design elements that may not meet requirements and then must formulate alternatives to improve the performance of those elements.
Much of the work done by aerospace engineers involves meeting federal government standards. Meeting these standards often requires knowledge of standard business practices, as well as knowledge of commercial law. Additionally, project management or systems engineering skills can be useful.
Aerospace engineers must be able to produce designs that meet governmental standards, and to figure out why a particular design does not work. They must be able to ask the right question, then find an acceptable answer.
Aerospace engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Aerospace engineers use their education and experience to upgrade designs and troubleshoot problems when meeting new demands for aircraft, such as increased fuel efficiency or improved safety.
Aerospace engineers must be able both to write papers that explain their designs clearly and to create documentation for future reference.
Is there anything else I need to know in order to become an aerospace engineer?
We’ve covered almost everything about aerospace engineers including their salary, work schedule, job outlook, work environment, and education! Here are some common questions that one might ask about what it takes to become an aerospace engineer!
How long does it take 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. This college degree typically takes about 4 years for full-time students to earn. 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. Additionally, some colleges and universities offer programs in partnership with regional businesses, which give students practical experience while they complete their education. Later on, this will be extremely valuable for students when they enter the workforce, because the more experience you can get, the better!
What are the best colleges to go to if I want to become an aerospace engineer?
There are many colleges that offer great programs for students that are interested in becoming aerospace engineers including the following;
- Georgia Institute of Technology
- Massachusettes Institute of Technology
- Stanford University
- California Institute of Technology
- Purdue University – West Lafayette
- University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
- University of Texas – Austin (Cockrell)
- University of Colorado – Boulder
Do I have to have to go to college in order to become an aerospace engineer?
Yes, aerospace engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or another field of engineering or science related to aerospace systems. If college is out of the question for you due to financial circumstances, there are plently of options out there for you to get an education! Many universities offer scholarships that can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Also, now there are plenty of online degrees that students can complete from the comfort of their own home (without the expense of dormitory housing!). If you’d prefer to stay local, there are many community colleges that also offer degrees and they are generally much less expensive than universities.
How many women are aerospace engineers compared to men?
According to U.S. Department of Labor, aerospace engineers are made up of 7.8% women and 92.2% men. Although this occupation is definitely dominated by men, the number of women aerospace engineers is projected to grow.
How do I know if becoming an aerospace engineer is right for me?
As exciting as this job may seem, it is a lot of work – just like any other career in the workforce! If you are unsure if becoming an aerospace engineer is right for you, learn about it as much as you can! This career typically favors those who are highly intellectual and interested in mathamatics, science, and technology. Although, you are in control of your future so it is up to you what you’d like to become!
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