How to Become an Aerodynamicist


Those who become aerodynamicists are typically individuals who have a natural aptitude in mathematics and science, as well as a formal education in engineering. They typically want a career in science, technology and mathematics; a career that allows them to explore their strong personal interest in aerodynamics.


If you want to work in this field, you must be comfortable working closely with other professionals, such as senior-level engineers and project managers, and sharing your opinions with them.


You must also be willing to work a typical weekday schedule, which may involve work after hours to meet deadlines, and perform other duties as needed. It's also critical that you have the intellectual and emotional capacity needed to complete the rigorous educational requirements of this profession.


Below, we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as an aerodynamicist. 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 aerodynamicist?

An aerodynamicist is an engineer who plans and conducts research and analysis pertaining to aerodynamic, thermodynamic, aerothermodynamic and aerophysics concepts and designs, for the purpose of determining their potential suitability to aircraft, spacecraft, land vehicles and aerospace products.



Educational Requirements

You'll likely need a university degree in either aeronautical engineering or aerospace engineering to work as an aerodynamicist. You might also be able to get into this field if you have a degree in mechanical engineering, with coursework in aerodynamics.


It's highly recommended that you also pursue coursework in computer studies and technical drawing, as these will help you gain practical skills for this career.


After graduating, you'll have to work for at least 3-5 years to gain enough practical experience before testing to gain PE (professional engineer) designation with your local licensing body. It's worth noting that some aerodynamicists also continue their studies towards Masters and Ph.D. degrees. 


Success Tip: Top employers typically look to hire people whom have a strong personal interest in aerodynamics; those who read around the subject over and above what they’ve been taught in university.





Aerodynamicist Job Description

The job description of an aerodynamicist can vary depending on the industry they work within, and what specific projects they work on. In general however, aerodynamicists are responsible for performing engineering duties in the design, development, and testing of airplanes, spacecraft and other vehicles, such as race cars, in order to assist with maximizing the vehicle’s performance.


For example, when working with race cars, their job is to maximize a vehicle’s performance through shaping their bodywork in such a way as to create the most downward force with the least amount of drag. They may also be responsible for overseeing other aspects of the design, such as wind-tunnel testing, or computer simulations with CFD (computational fluid dynamics).


Aerodynamicists may be responsible for conducting basic and applied research to evaluate the adaptability of materials and equipment to the design and manufacture of certain vehicles and aerospace products. Aerodynamicists often work in teams, composed of other professionals, such as aerospace engineers, automotive engineers, project managers, engineering technicians, and others. 



General Job Duties

• Establish computational methods for analyzing problems

• Formulate conceptual design of aeronautical or aerospace products or systems

• Analyze, design and develop configurations in order to ensure satisfactory static and dynamic stability and control characteristics for vehicles

• Formulate and evaluate laboratory, wind tunnel and flight test programs

• Prepare reports based on tests for use by other engineering and design personnel

• Ensure required configuration for wind tunnel models

• May confer with customer regarding performance problems during operational life of vehicle



Who Creates Jobs for Aerodynamicists?

Aerodynamicists are hired by organizations involved in studying or applying the principles of aerodynamics, for the ultimate purpose of developing aircraft, spacecraft, vehicles and aerospace products.


Organizations that employ aerodynamicists include:


• Companies that design, manufacture and sell airplanes

• Companies that design, manufacture and sell spacecraft and aerospace products

• Commercial and private airlines

• Space agencies

• Companies that design, manufacture and sell cars and other vehicles

• Formula 1 racing companies

• The Air Force, and other national defense agencies

• Government departments, such as the Department of Transportation

• Private and public research laboratories

• Colleges and universities (in research and/or teaching capacities)





Skills and Traits Needed

In order to become effective as an aerodynamicist, you need to posses a certain set of skills and personality traits. These skills and traits will not only allow you to perform your job with competence; they will allow you to overcome the challenges of this career.


• An excellent aptitude for science and mathematics

• A passion for aircraft and electro-mechanical structures, vehicles and equipment

• Must be patient and meticulous in work activities

• Must have the mental and emotional strength to work through complex problems

• Willing to stay abreast of developments in the field

• Ability to work extremely accurately with extreme attention to detail

• Responsible and accountable when conducting work activities

• Able to perform test result analysis to validate aerodynamic predictions

• Enjoy innovating

• Able to work effectively with a variety of personality types 



Career Advancement Opportunities

An aerodynamicist typically begins their career in an entry-level position, such as wind-tunnel engineer. Working in entry-level engineering positions is common for new recruits, as it is the best way for them to gain exposure to the different facets of the job of an aerodynamicist.


Working in a wind tunnel, for example, gives junior aerodynamicists the opportunity to see a large number of parts coming through, and allows them to rapidly get a feel for how things work on the car.


After a period of time in the wind tunnel, or other entry-level positions, a junior-level aerodynamicist will be gradually integrated into the design office. As the aerodynamicist becomes more senior, they typically specialize more on the design side of projects, and only occasionally spend time doing wind tunnel testing and other such functions.


As they gain even more responsibility, aerodynamicists then move into senior-level positions, and eventually supervisory or management positions, should they so choose.



How Much Do Aerodynamicists Earn?

The salary level of aerodynamicists can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, and many others.


Aerodynamicist Salary - Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Aerospace Engineers occupational group earn an average wage of between $37.34 and $45.16 per hour. The mean wage for this group is $44.34 per hour.


Aerodynamicist 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.



Aerodynamicist Jobs

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





Similar Careers in Our Database

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


Aeronautical Engineer

Aerospace Engineer

Automotive Engineer

Mechanical Engineer




References for This Career Guide

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as an aerodynamicist.


Occupations in Alberta:Aerospace Engineer.” (March 14, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 20, 2019.

Occupational Outlook Handbook - Architecture and Engineering:Aerospace Engineers.” (September 4, 2019). United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 20, 2019.

Careers:Automotive Career: Become An Aerodynamicist.” authors (February 21, 2012). Retrieved October 20, 2019.



Scholarships for Relevant Fields of Study

The scholarships in our system that are relevant for becoming an Aerodynamicist are all of those can be found on our Physics Scholarships and Mechanical Engineering Scholarships pages.


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!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this line of work. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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