How to Become an Aerospace Engineer
Essential Education, Skills, and Job Interview Prep
Aerospace engineering is the field of engineering that focuses on developing aircraft, satellites, missiles, and spacecraft. Professionals working directly in this field include aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineers.
An aerospace engineer designs aircraft and spacecraft. They are also involved in the research and development of related projects concerning national defense. You can learn how to become an aerospace engineer by checking out the important information covered in this guide, including the career outlook, educational requirements, and average salary.
What Is an Aerospace Engineer?
Aerospace engineers are primarily concerned with designing, developing, and testing aircraft, spacecraft, and related equipment.
These professionals play an integral role in developing cutting-edge technologies that are integrated into aerospace vehicle systems. Most of these engineers offer research and development help to the federal government’s aerospace activities.
Aerospace Engineer Salary and Job Outlook
According to the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), aerospace engineers earn an annual average salary of $118,610.
The job market for these professionals is slowly growing. The BLS estimates that the market for aerospace engineers will grow by up to three percent over the next decade.
Entry-Level Aerospace Engineer Job Requirements
A bachelor’s degree is the typical level of education that most workers need to enter this profession. Aerospace engineers must have a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering or a related field.
How to Ace Your Aerospace Engineer Job Interview
The best way to ace your job interview is by reviewing potential interview questions. Below are some common questions that you may be asked.
Common Aerospace Engineer Job Interview Questions
- What types of turbine engines are you familiar with?
- What is the inclination of an airfoil? How does it affect the lift of an aircraft?
- How do you stay up to date with the latest trends in aerospace technology?
- What role does artificial intelligence have to play in the aerospace industry in the years to come?
- Describe a time you encountered a conflict or issue at work and how you were able to resolve it.
What Degree Should I Get to Become a Paralegal?
A degree in aerospace engineering is the best way to become an aerospace engineer. If that’s not an option, consider a related STEM degree. Below are degrees that you should consider earning to become successful in this industry.
Associate Degree in Aerospace Engineering
Associate degrees are often designed to prepare students for a four-year bachelor’s degree program in a related field. Such programs provide an ideal opportunity for students to learn more about aerospace engineering as they prepare for entry-level positions.
However, if you do not plan on attending university to complete the four-year program, you might want to consider other career options. The vast majority of entry-level positions for aerospace engineers require a bachelor’s degree.
Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering
A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering takes an average of four years to complete. During this time, you will learn various concepts in mathematics, physics, chemistry, and engineering. You must earn this degree from an institution accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) in the United States.
However, only a handful of such institutions offer programs in aerospace engineering, such as the University of Arizona and West Virginia University. Consider online colleges or universities, which offer flexibility and subsidized tuition costs.
Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering
This program is an advanced degree designed to expand your knowledge of aerospace engineering. Many benefits come with earning a master’s degree. For instance, you get to work with industry leaders during your program.
Not only does this program open more employment opportunities, but it also allows you to teach in a college setting. A master’s degree is also necessary if you want to pursue a Ph.D.
Aerospace Engineer Doctoral Degree
A doctoral degree, also known as a Ph.D., is the highest degree that a student can earn. A Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering allows students to conduct original research on specific aerospace structures and systems.
These programs are reserved for students who have demonstrated high academic achievement. The coursework focuses on research and a dissertation.
What Does an Aerospace Engineer Do?
Aerospace engineers work in several industries to design, develop, and test aircraft and spacecraft. They are involved in other organizational activities as well. Below are common job duties, responsibilities, and activities undertaken by these engineers.
Designs, Develops, and Tests Aerospace Products
The primary role of these professionals is to coordinate or direct the design, development, and testing of aerospace products. Such products include aircraft engines, aircraft gearboxes, landing gears, and flight control systems.
Evaluates Projects to Determine Their Feasibility
These professionals are also expected to evaluate proposals for future projects and determine if they are financially and technically feasible. They should also determine if such projects are safe and meet industry standards. These projects are expected to meet customer requirements without having a negative environmental impact.
Troubleshoots Malfunctioning Products
Part of testing aerospace products includes inspection of malfunctioning or damaged products. These professionals proceed to identify sources of such problems while giving possible solutions to senior management and other stakeholders.
Essential Aerospace Engineer Skills
Aerospace engineers require specific technical skills to complement soft skills. Such skills come in handy as these professionals go about their day-to-day activities.
Below are essential skills that all aerospace engineers should have.
Physics and Math Skills
These professionals are required to be competent in math and physics. This is because most courses taught at the university level require a high comprehension of these subjects. You have to be comfortable with numbers and mathematical operations and have the necessary skills to communicate technical information to others.
Having basic programming or coding skills can help make your job easier, as you’ll be doing most of your work using computer software. You can learn programming languages such as C++ or Python from coding boot camps.
These programming languages are widely used in aerospace engineering. There are a host of resources designed to help students with this, such as Python for Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a book by Alex Kenan.
Basic Computer and IT Skills
Computer skills refer to those skills that enable students to manage or manipulate computer files. They include word and data processing. To become a professional, you must be competent in computer hardware and software.
How to Become an Aerospace
Engineer: A Step-by-Step Guide
The best way to become an aerospace engineer is by graduating with a BS in Aerospace Engineering. However, practical experience matters just as much as academic qualifications in this field. Completing internship programs, especially from the government or national agencies, can lead you to a successful career.
Below are steps that you should consider following to become a successful aerospace engineer.
Earn Good Grades While in High School
Grades matter, especially at the high school level where your GPA can determine what you’re allowed to study in college. You must perform exceptionally well in technically challenging subjects such as math and physics.
It would also be great to build some STEM experience during your time in high school. Consider attending robotics competitions and science fairs. You could find more about aerospace engineering while still in high school.
Earn a STEM Degree
Most government and national bodies prefer hiring professionals with a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering or related fields. Most of these programs take about four to five years to complete depending on the college or university.
Some government bodies prefer hiring candidates with a STEM degree. The four traditional STEM subjects are science, technology, engineering, and math.
Learn Programming Languages
Coding is an added advantage for an aerospace engineer. This is because so much is done with a computer in this field. Any additional skills can give you a great advantage over your competition.
The popular programming languages used in aero engineering include MATLAB, C/C++, and Python. MATLAB is widely taught in universities and colleges. However, you could learn other programming languages by attending a coding boot camp.
Gain Valuable Work Experience
Aerospace engineering requires hands-on work experience. One way to get hands-on experience is by working on personal side projects. Such projects showcase your troubleshooting skills. They also help in building a unique scientific resume.
You should consider completing an internship program during your four-year university program. Completing an internship program can be the key to landing a job shortly after graduating.
Earn Extra Certifications
Most entry-level positions do not require extra certification or academic honors. However, you should consider such credentials if you want to climb up the management hierarchy.
Completing a two-year master’s degree program can open up more employment opportunities and responsibilities. Alternatively, you could enroll for extra certification courses in aerospace engineering or a related field.
How Long Does It Take to Become an Aerospace Engineer?
Becoming an aerospace engineer takes four to seven years of post-secondary school education. The minimum requirement for working in an entry-level position is a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering.
Just like most engineering fields, aerospace engineering takes about four years of learning at the university level. However, some schools allow students to take a five-year program that leads to the attainment of both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at the same time.
Should You Become an Aerospace Engineer in 2021?
There are many reasons why becoming an aerospace engineer in 2021 is a great idea. According to the BLS, you’re practically guaranteed a higher-than-average salary. The job market for aerospace engineers is growing just as fast as any profession.
It might take a lot of time and hard work, but if you have a passion for aircraft, satellites, missiles, and spacecraft, you should consider a career in this field.
Aerospace Engineer FAQ
Is aerospace engineering a good career?
Yes, a career as an aerospace engineer is a great choice. If you have the talent for it, working for government agencies like NASA or the Navy presents numerous opportunities for learning and growth.
Do aerospace engineers make good money?
Yes, aerospace engineers attract high incomes, especially when compared to most professions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these professionals make an average salary of $118,610 per year, which is equivalent to $57.02 per hour.
Why is aerospace engineering difficult?
Not all aspects of aerospace engineering are difficult. However, most students find certain topics challenging, including scientific concepts such as fluid dynamics. Outside the classroom, it involves interacting with flying things, which poses a risk to human life. There is a small margin for error, making a career in this field reasonably challenging.
Can I join ISRO or NASA?
Yes, you can. Both the Indian Space Research Organization and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration conduct all-purpose research in the aerospace field. After completing your coursework in aerospace engineering, you should consider obtaining extra certifications to boost your chances of employment with these organizations.