Aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles.
Aeronautical Engineer, Aerospace Engineer, Aerospace Stress Engineer, Avionics Engineer, Design Engineer, Flight Controls Engineer, Flight Test Engineer, Structural Analysis Engineer, Systems Engineer, Test Engineer
Aerospace engineers typically do the following:
- 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 may develop new technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and spacecraft. They often specialize in areas such as aerodynamic fluid flow; structural design; guidance, navigation, and control; instrumentation and communication; robotics; and propulsion and combustion.
Aerospace engineers can specialize in designing different types of aerospace products, such as commercial and military airplanes and helicopters; remotely piloted aircraft and rotorcraft; spacecraft, including launch vehicles and satellites; and military missiles and rockets.
Aerospace engineers often become experts in one or more related fields: aerodynamics, thermodynamics, materials, celestial mechanics, flight mechanics, propulsion, acoustics, and guidance and control systems.
Aerospace engineers typically specialize in one of two types of engineering: aeronautical or astronautical.
Aeronautical engineers work with aircraft. They are involved primarily in designing aircraft and propulsion systems and in studying the aerodynamic performance of aircraft and construction materials. They work with the theory, technology, and practice of flight within the Earth’s atmosphere.
Astronautical engineers work with the science and technology of spacecraft and how they perform inside and outside the Earth’s atmosphere. This includes work on small satellites such as CubeSats, and traditional large satellites.
Aeronautical and astronautical engineers face different environmental and operational issues in designing aircraft and spacecraft. However, the two fields overlap a great deal because they both depend on the basic principles of physics.
Analytical skills. 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.
Business skills. 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.
Critical-thinking skills. Aerospace engineers must be able to produce designs that meet governmental standards and figure out why a particular design does not work. They must be able to ask the right question, then find an acceptable answer.
Math skills. Aerospace engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Problem-solving skills. 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.
Writing skills. Aerospace engineers must be able both to write papers that explain their designs clearly and to create documentation for future reference.
- Aerospace product and parts manufacturing
- Engineering services
- Federal government, excluding the postal service
- Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing
- Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences
Aerospace engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field. High school students interested in studying aerospace engineering should take courses in chemistry, physics, advanced math, computer programming and computer languages.
Bachelor’s degree programs include classroom, laboratory, and field studies in subjects such as general engineering principles, propulsion, stability and control, structures, mechanics, and aerodynamics, which is the study of how air interacts with moving objects.
Some colleges and universities offer cooperative programs in partnership with regional businesses, which give students practical experience while they complete their education. Cooperative programs and internships enable students to gain valuable experience and finance part of their education.
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. A graduate degree will allow an engineer to work as an instructor at a university or to do research and development. Programs in aerospace engineering are accredited by ABET