How to Become an Astronautical Engineer


The first step towards becoming an astronautical engineer, is to determine if this career is well suited to your personal traits, your skills, your professional ambitions, and your desired lifestyle.


Astronautical engineers are typically individuals that have a keen academic interest in aviation, aircraft and flight technology; they tend to read over and above what is taught in the classroom. They are interested in applying these interests to a career that is innovative and challenging.


Many in this profession also have a natural aptitude in math, science and technology. They are individuals with creativity and determination; individuals who are able to work patiently and diligently towards their goals, and they typically don’t get discouraged easily.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to get started in this profession. 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!



What is an Astronautical Engineer?

Astronautical engineers are specialized aerospace engineers that are responsible for designing, developing and testing vehicles and equipment that operate outside of the earth’s atmosphere. They might be responsible for conducting basic and applied research in order to determine whether or not certain materials and equipment adapt well to aircraft design and manufacture.



Required Education for This Profession

You'll probably need a degree in aeronautical or aerospace engineering, or a degree in mechanical engineering with a focus on aerospace engineering. A bachelor’s degree in applied science will also qualify you to work in entry-level positions within the field.  


Success Tip: If you plan to major in aeronautical or astronautical engineering, you should being by developing a solid background in high school math and science. You should also have scientific curiosity and be both imaginative and analytical in your thinking.





General Job Description

The job description of an astronautical engineer can vary based on factors such as their job title, where they work, their level of responsibility, their area of specialization, and many others.


For example, astronautical engineers often focus on a specific sub-category of astronautical engineering, such as electrical and electronic engineering, spacecraft design, structural engineering, software engineering for automation and guidance purposes, or propulsion systems. Others may focus their efforts on the research or application of concepts such as space weather or astrodynamics.


Astronautical engineers might work in entry-level engineering roles, such as wind-tunnel engineer, or work in senior engineering roles, such as principle design engineer.


In general however, they are responsible for using their technical skills and expert scientific knowledge to design, develop, research, test, adjust and upgrade sophisticated and complex engineering solutions for vehicles and components that operate outside of the earth’s atmosphere, including space shuttles, space launch vehicles, satellites, rockets, space capsules and planetary probes.



Typical Duties of the Job

• Direct or participate in research and development programs

• Prepare technical reports and other documentation, such as handbooks or bulletins, for use by engineering staff, management, or customers

• Maintain comprehensive records relating to equipment, material and prototype performance

• Coordinate the activities of engineering or technical personnel involved in the design, fabrication, modification, or testing of aircraft or aerospace products

• Study past performance of potential vendors and suppliers in order to determine their suitability for specific projects

• Evaluate and modify existing designs by formulating mathematical models or applying computer-based methods

• Review performance reports and documentation from customers and field engineers, and inspect malfunctioning or damaged products to identify the source of problems

• Plan and conduct environmental, experimental and operational tests on existing models or prototypes of aircraft and aerospace systems



Who Employs Engineers?

Astronautical engineers are hired by organizations involved in the development and manufacturing of spacecraft and related equipment and components, such as satellites, weapons and defense systems. This group of employers is typically composed of government agencies, such as the Department of Defense, and aerospace companies, such as Boeing.


They are also hired by space agencies and executive agencies that focus on scientific research and engineering projects. Public and private research agencies, as well as colleges and universities, may also hire them in a research and/or teaching capacity.





Licensing Requirements

Although licensing requirements can vary by region and by employer, astronautical 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 (typically 3-5 years)

• A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam



How Much Do They Earn?

The salary level of astronautical 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.


Astronautical Engineer Salary Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Aerospace Engineers occupational group earn an average of between $47.14 and $55.01 per hour.


Astronautical 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. 



Astronautical Engineer Job Postings

Our job board below has "Astronautical Engineer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to astronautical engineer, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.



Aeronautical Engineer

Aerospace Engineer


Automotive Engineer



References for This Career Guide

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of this profession.


Occupations in Alberta:Aerospace Engineer.” (March 14, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Architecture and Engineering: “Aerospace Engineers.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Majors:Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering.” (n.d.). The Ohio State University website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.

Newsroom:What is Aeronautical Engineering?” Spencer Hensel (April 3, 2019). Southern New Hampshire University website. Retrieved October 23, 2019.




Scholarships for Becoming an Astronautical Engineer

The 'Applicable University Majors' section below shows fields of study relevant to the work of an astronautical 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!



Applicable University Majors

The areas of study listed below are highly relevant for becoming an astronautical engineer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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