How to Become an Astronautical Engineer

The first step to 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 begin a career as an astronautical 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!



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 may 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 Working as an Astronautical Engineer

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.





Astronautical Engineer 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 may 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.



Astronautical Engineer Job Duties

• 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 Hires These 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 for This Profession

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 Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Aerospace Engineers occupational group earn an average of between $37.34 and $45.16 per hour.


Astronautical Engineer Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of workers in the Aerospace Engineers occupational group is $77,817 per year.


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 Jobs

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

Similar Occupations 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 a career as an Astronautical Engineer.


Alberta Learning and Information Service website:

All About Careers website:

Ohio State University website:

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website:



Helpful Scholarships

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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