How to Become an Aerospace Engineer: Career Path Guide
If you want to become an aerospace engineer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as an aerospace engineer:
Those who become aerospace engineers are individuals that have a keen academic interest in aviation, aircraft, spacecraft and flight technology; they tend to read over and above what is taught in the classroom. They are quite passionate about aircraft and spacecraft, and want to be professionally involved in their development.
In order to become an aerospace engineer, you will also need the ability to work with computer aided design and manufacturing software. You will also need a high level of stress tolerance, as this is required to cope with new demands and solve new problems. In order to succeed in a career as an aerospace engineer, you must be able to visualize complex processes, and you must be very precise in your work and when you perform calculations.
Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an aerospace engineer. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!
Education Needed to Become an Aerospace Engineer
The minimum educational requirement for entry-level employment as an aerospace engineer is a bachelor's degree in engineering or applied science.
Aerospace engineering jobs with more advanced levels of responsibility typically require further education. For example, most specialized engineers in the aerospace industry have at least a master's degree. Also, most aerospace engineers that work in research and development have doctoral (Ph.D.) degrees.
Those that wish to pursue a career as an aerospace engineer and are enrolled in a Bachelor of Science program can choose to specialize in aerospace engineering at the post-graduate level. Students may also enter this career field by pursuing a mechanical engineering degree, provided that it places emphasis on aeronautical and aerospace engineering.
What is an Aerospace Engineer?
Aerospace engineers are responsible for researching, designing, developing, maintaining, testing and evaluating the performance of aircraft that either stays within the earth's atmosphere, including both civil and military aircraft and weapons systems (aeronautical engineers), or aircraft and equipment, such as satellites and space vehicles, that operate outside of the earth’s atmosphere (astronautical engineers).
In general, the work of aerospace engineers covers:
• Fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters
• Space vehicles
• Missiles and weapons
• Flight simulators
• Flight components and instruments
• Satellite systems
Job Description of an Aerospace Engineer
The job description of an aerospace engineer can vary based on whether they work in aeronautics or astronautics. It can also vary based on the specific products, components or systems they are working on, and what their level of responsibility is.
Many aerospace engineers specialize in a particular area, such as propulsion, avionics, systems integration, aerodynamics or materials and structures. Within these specializations, aerospace engineers may work in a wide variety of roles, including research, design, development, testing, manufacture and maintenance.
Aerospace Engineer Job Duties
The job duties of an aerospace engineer can vary, based on what the specific responsibility of their job is. In general however, aerospace engineers:
• Study and develop designs for aircraft, spacecraft and other aerospace vehicles, systems and equipment
• Apply engineering principles in order to reduce the impact of the vehicle or equipment on the environment
• Analyze and test the effects of airflow in order to obtain information needed to design vehicles, systems or equipment
• Determine the aerodynamic loads used by structural engineers
• Analyze and optimize the constraints associated with the aerodynamics, stability, structures, materials and propulsion systems of aircraft and spacecraft
• Conduct analysis pertaining to fretting fatigue
• Use computer aided design (CAD) applications to convert design specifications into drawings and renderings
• Estimate project costs and timelines
• Give presentations to managers and clients
Who Creates Jobs for Aerospace Engineers?
Aerospace engineers are hired by organizations involved in researching, designing, developing, maintaining, testing and evaluating the performance of aircraft that either stays within the earth's atmosphere, or aircraft and equipment that operate outside of the earth’s atmosphere.
Organizations that hire aerospace engineers include:
• The armed forces
• Colleges and universities
• Aviation regulation organizations
• Airline operators
• Engineering consulting companies
• Public and private research organizations
• Astronautical research and exploration organizations, such as NASA
• Companies that design and manufacture aircraft and aircraft components
• Companies that design and manufacture spacecraft and spacecraft components
• Companies that manufacture missile systems
Find Aerospace Engineer Job Postings
Aerospace Engineer Jobs - Canada
Aerospace Engineer Jobs - United States
Licensing for Aerospace Engineers
Although licensing requirements can vary by region and by employer, aerospace engineers are typically required to be licensed as professional engineers, as their work affects public safety. Those who become licensed carry the designation of professional engineer (PE). To be licensed as a professional engineer, you generally need to meet the following requirements:
• A degree from an accredited engineering program
• A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
• Relevant work experience
• A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam
Working Conditions for Aerospace Engineers
Working Hours: Aerospace engineers usually work a normal, weekday working week. Overtime, including evenings, weekends and holidays, may be required in order to perform various tasks, or to complete a project before a deadline. Some employers may require aerospace engineers to work shift work, which involves working in cycles of morning, afternoon or night shifts.
Work Environment: Aerospace engineers are often members of teams when working on particular projects, and often work closely with aerodynamicists and other engineers. They may work in offices, classrooms, laboratories, factories or outdoor settings; depending on what product they are working on.
Work Hazards: Aerospace engineers may be exposed to hazards from equipment or materials, although accidents are rare if proper safety procedures are followed. The intense concentration required for this job, and the pressure of deadlines can be stressful for aerospace engineers.
Skills and Traits Needed to Become an Aerospace Engineer
In order to become effective in a career as an aerospace engineer, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits. These traits and skills will allow you to perform your job duties with competence, as well as maintain a positive attitude towards your work.
• A passion for aircraft, spacecraft and flight technology
• Strong problem-solving skills
• A natural aptitude for science, math, information technology and computers
• Working knowledge of computer aided design (CAD) or manufacturing (CAM) software
• Excellent written and communication skills
• Excellent technical knowledge
• The ability to plan, prioritize and manage projects effectively
• The ability to work within budgets
• A commitment to staying abreast of new developments in the field
• A comprehensive understanding of engineering licensing regulations
Aerospace Engineer Jobs
Our job board below has "Aerospace Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Aerospace Engineer Salary Level
The earnings of aerospace engineers can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, their level of responsibility, and many others.
Aerospace Engineer Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Aerospace Engineers occupational group earn an average of $44.34 per hour.
Aerospace Engineer Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of workers in the Aerospace Engineers occupational group is $77,817 per year.
Aerospace Engineer Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Aerospace Engineers occupational group is $97,480 per year. The lowest 10% of salaries in this group are below $60,620, and the top 10% are above $143,360 per year.
Careers Similar to Aerospace Engineer
Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Aerospace Engineer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.
References: How to Become an Aerospace Engineer
Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as an Aerospace Engineer.
Alberta Learning and Information Service website: alis.alberta.ca
National Careers Service website: nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk
Service Canada website: www.servicecanada.gc.ca
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website: www.bls.gov
Scholarships for Becoming an Aerospace Engineer
The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study that are relevant to a career as an Aerospace Engineer. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on our All Scholarships by Major page.
Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!
Majors that Apply to Becoming an Aerospace Engineer
Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming an Aerospace Engineer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!