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Aerospace Engineer

Aerospace Engineering Description

If you are interested in pursuing a career in aviation or in aircraft design and construction, you might be considering the position of an aerospace engineer. But, what is an aerospace engineer?  Better yet, what does an aerospace engineer do? Here you’ll discover what the career path entails, as well as the skills necessary to be a successful aerospace engineer. The article also explores the potential salary you can earn and the education you’ll require to qualify for such a position.

What does Aerospace Engineer do?

Aerospace Engineering

When asking the question what is an aerospace engineer, you’ll discover the answer consists of several possible job titles. Some of the most common titles include System Engineer, Test Engineer, and Structural Analysis Engineer. An Aerospace Engineer might carry the job title of Flight Test or Flight Control Engineer, Avionics of Design Engineer, or Aerospace Stress Engineer. Aeronautical Engineer is another reference for the career path.

The answer to what does an aerospace engineer do is a bit more complex. An Aerospace Engineer works in the aeronautical field. The individual is responsible for the design, construction, construction and testing of spacecrafts, aircrafts, and missiles.  Part of the responsibility of the professional aerospace engineer is to study and assess equipment and materials to determine if they are good for use in the manufacturing or designing of aircrafts.  Some aerospace engineers make a recommendation on how to improve design and construction techniques or the equipment for testing the aircraft and missiles created.

Aerospace engineers make certain that any construction technique or equipment design adheres to specific principles of engineering.  The job entails the design of missiles, spacecraft, and aircraft as previously mentioned. But, the aerospace engineer will also design satellites, and run tests on prototypes to ensure adequate and safe functionality.

In the role of an aeronautical engineer, the individual might be responsible for defence systems development. The job requires a specialization in aerodynamic control, navigation, guidance, structural creation, and fluid flow. Additional specializations include the areas of propulsion and combustion, robotics, communications, and instrumentation.

The types of things an aerospace engineer might design includes things like rockets and missiles for the military.  The job might entail the launch of satellites and vehicles.  The engineer might pilot rotorcraft or aircraft using remote control equipment.  The individual can end up working on military or commercial helicopters or planes as well.

The engineer might focus on a specific field or several fields during their career.  The fields of expertise includes control systems and guidance, acoustics, and propulsion. In addition to the latter-mentioned fields, the engineer can specialize in flight or celestial mechanise, thermodynamics and aerodynamics.

There are two types of engineering including Astronautical and aeronautical. The aeronautical engineer focuses on the design, construction, and testing of aircraft. When working in the field of aeronautics, the engineer will create propulsion systems.  They will also study the aerodynamic construction materials and the performance of aircrafts constructed. The aerospace engineer will have duties involving work with technology, theories, and flight practice, all within the atmosphere surrounding the earth.

It is clear there are tremendous differences between the tasks and duties of the aerospace engineer dealing with aeronautical responsibilities versus astronautical pursuits.  The main differences include issues relating to equipment operation and the environment in which such equipment is operated in when it is designed. Nevertheless, a closer look at both forms of aerospace engineering paths and one will see some overlap and similarities in the tasks and duties the engineer performs.  The reason for such similarities is that the engineer must have an educational background in physics and its fundamental principles.

Who is Aerospace Engineer?

So, who is an aerospace engineer really? What kind of person chooses this type of career path?  The person who becomes an aerospace engineer is likely to have a fascination with flight, airplanes, or spacecraft and visiting outer space.  The aerospace engineer is someone who makes it possible for humans to travel with safety from one country to another or they make it safe to explore other planets, galaxies, and space.

The aerospace engineer might be the person who determines the safety of an aircraft to ensure passenger safety.  They have various responsibilities depending on the project at hand.  If specializing in aeronautical pursuits, they can take on any role from the design to creation to testing of equipment.  If pursuing Astronautical pursuits, they might create designs for spacecrafts and/or build those crafts. Testing of prototypes is part of the aerospace engineer.  Some engineers also design missiles for the military or they produce and launch satellites.  Any materials are reviewed and examined to ensure durability and the quality of the material.

If a person pursues the path to become an aerospace engineer they require a variety of skills to fill the role with success. The suitable candidate for an aerospace engineer career is one who has exceptional skills in mathematics, English, and communication. They must maintain detailed records on the design, construction, and testing of any equipment they take part in creating.  The ideal candidate has superior analytical skills, exceptional decision-making processes, and the ability to complete necessary tasking is an appropriate, but timely fashion.  The engineer will play a big role in curbing the cost of any project undertaken.

Every design the aerospace engineer is responsible for will need to meet all legal requirements.  The job is a fulltime endeavor.  At minimum, the engineer will need a bachelor’s degree with a focus on aerospace engineering. For positions higher up on the scale, special professional licensing and certifications are a prerequisite to filling such positions.  The aerospace engineer is a person who is impeccable when it comes to detail and an individual who takes on tremendous responsibilities when performing their job.  They end up having the lives of others in their hands so an alert, intelligent, and highly conscionable person must fill the role.

Aerospace Engineer Job Description

Aerospace job description

When exploring the aerospace engineer job description, one will find the job has a number of important duties. The responsibilities change a bit when pursuing the path of aeronautical jobs versus Astronautical jobs.  Still, there is a notable overlap in the main responsibilities the aerospace engineer has, no matter which type of engineer they decide to pursue.

The aerospace engineer pursuing aeronautical pursuits is one responsible for designing, creating or overseeing the creation of airplanes and helicopters. The engineer takes part in the project from beginning to end, so testing prototypes and safety features is also part of the individual’s responsibilities.  These same tasks are something the engineer has, even when pursuing Astronautical pursuits.  This means the individual helps design, build, test, and monitor the creation of spacecrafts for outer space exploration.

About 38 percent of all aerospace engineers work in the area of parts and product manufacturing. Another 14 percent in the field ae those who participate in positions involving engineering services.  About 13 percent of aerospace engineers work for the federal government. Another 12 percent perform research in life sciences and engineering.  There is about five percent of all aerospace engineers work in the field of manufacturing control, electromedical, measuring, and navigational instruments.  The aerospace engineer works for the government or another firm responsible for making, testings, researching, and developing materials and equipment for the government.

Aerospace Engineer Duties and Tasks

The aerospace engineer is one who gets project proposals. The proposals undergo evaluation to determine necessary materials, newer technologies or if a new technology needs development in order to complete the project request.  Every consideration goes into how a project is completed, and how the design of the project will be accomplished.  A proposal needs evaluation to assess whether it’s feasible or not and if the engineer has everything necessary to build a safe end product.  There are a number of duties the aerospace engineer must attend to fulfill work duties.  Additional work duties include, but are not limited to:

  • Meeting the customer’s demand in terms of project design.
  • Willing to overcome any environmental obstacles
  • Meeting all demands when it comes to engineering principles.
  • Evaluating the project to ensure quality standards are met.
  • Identifying issues during the creation of the project. Repairs any existing issues once the project is completed.
  • Specializes in one more fields including aeronautical and Astronautical pursuits.
  • Receiving certificates and licensing when focusing in specific engineering fields.
  • Specializing in things like rockets, launch vehicles, remote-controlled aircrafts, and spacecrafts.
  • Working with professional team mates to ensure project completion.
  • Formulating models based on mathematical principles.
  • Using computer analysis methods for evaluating, changing, tweaking, and deploying a plan for project completion.
  • Coming up with designs that are safe and adhere to the laws of physics.
  • Coordinating the project and delegating tasks to team members.
  • Overseeing the project and tracking every stage.
  • Monitoring team members and ensuring high quality output.


Skills Required

The aerospace engineer has important responsibilities.  A number of skills are necessary to ensure top job performance. The engineer should have the following skills to help in the evaluation, creation, and testing of airplanes or spacecrafts and missiles.

  • Systems Engineering
  • Project Management
  • Team Leadership
  • Group Dynamics
  • Technical Writing
  • Technical Analysis
  • Record Keeping
  • System Engineering
  • Engineering Design
  • Software Application Knowledge
  • Matlab
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • SolidWorks
  • C++
  • AutoCAD
  • ANSYS Simulation Software

Working Conditions

aerospace engineering working condition

The aerospace engineer works in an office environment much of the time.  The reason they spend so much time in office is that the creation of planes and spaceships requires access to the latest and best technologies available.  The engineer receives training in modeling, design tools, software operation, and equipment test methods. The candidate serving as an engineer is one who tests, examines, and evaluates equipment or created crafts. The individual might also assist in training others in its safe and productive use.

The aerospace engineer will work with others. The design effort of air and spacecrafts is a project involving a team of people contributing all of their professional skills. To that end, the engineer will need impeccable communication skills. An understanding of group dynamics is also a good asset to have as it will help in getting the team to work together.

The position of an engineer is a fulltime job.  When the engineer is the director of any project, whether aircraft or spacecraft, the individual is likely to face additional hours and overtime.  The engineer must be accessible for checking every part of the project as it gets completed. The engineer also needs to be available to watch over those who are working the project.  The continual observation through craft creation allows for the engineer to monitor and record everything with superior detail.  The engineer will have to ensure the project is done in a timely manner and that deadlines are something the team will meet, all while ensuring that on one compromises the integrity of the craft and its safety.

Aerospace Engineer Salary Brief introduction

What about aerospace engineer salary? The salary the aerospace engineer makes will vary a great deal. There are many factors that go into deciding how much the engineer makes annually.  The location of the position and whether the engineer works for the government or outside firm have a role in salary.

How Much do Aerospace Engineer Make?

The focus of the engineer’s profession also plays a role.  The length of time at a position and even the state where the job is available influences the total income for the year. If the engineer has any special licensing, or an extensive education beyond a bachelor’s degree, this contributes to a higher salary.  Length of time of the job will also contribute to an increase in pay. The engineer’s skills and knowledge of specific software applications is key to getting a higher payrate as well.

Engineers offering engineering services as well as those who are into the fields where the research and develop parts and products are among those who make the least amount money each year.  The yearly income bracket is greater than $106,000.   Engineers who conduct research or help in the development of engineering make a bit more with a yearly salary over $111,000.  Those engineers in positions with a focus on the manufacturing of control, electromedical, measuring, and navigational equipment make over $112,500 a year. Then those work for the government make $115,000 a year or greater.



The answer to the question how much does aerospace engineer make is tricky to answer. While the numbers above seem promising, more realistic surveys success the yearly average income for an aerospace engineer is about $83,000 each year.  A cash allowance might come included with the job that tacks on another $10,000 in bonuses. Some positions offer profit sharing benefits equalling as much as $20,000 more every year.  The later perks bring the pay range between $83,000 and more than $136,000 every year. When having a specialty, the salary is more. An aerospace engineer who takes an upper level position like Design Engineering manager can end up bring an income of $103,000 a year home.

The national average salary for the aerospace engineering position is $85,000.  When entering the career path at entry level, the salary can be as low as 14 percent less than the national average. When moving to the mid-career level, the engineer sees an average increase of income that’s about 6 percent.  With greater experience, anywhere from 10-15 years, the pay is increases up to 26 percent.  Those in the industry for 20 years or more will witness an annual income of 59 percent.  With 20 years of experience, the aerospace engineer can be making as much as $135,000.

Aerospace Engineer Employment

The aerospace engineer is a position that promises quite a bit of job satisfaction. In addition to a decent salary with room to grow if one starts at entry level, there are plenty of job perks.  About five out of every five engineers questioned via survey have indicated full job satisfaction.

The number of aerospace engineers working in the field with less than a year’s experience is about 13 percent.  The number of engineers with one to four years of experience working in the field increases to 36%.  The number of engineers who maintain a position for five to nine years is about 23 percent. Of those who are currently employed and who have 10 to 19 years the number is 16 percent. Around 12 percent of existing engineers in the field have 20 years or more experience.

Some perks that come with the job of aerospace engineer include room for growth and advancement as well as sizeable salary increases.

The job also comes with spending accounts or expense accounts, in some cases. Some aerospace engineer jobs also come with profit sharing opportunities.  Steady work at a fulltime position with 40 or more hours weekly ensure a good source of income.

The engineer receives benefits for working in the field of aeronautics or Astronautics. About 90 percent of those engineers working now have medical coverage. Just over 75 percent of engineers have dental insurance. Nearly 70 percent of engineers have vision insurance. Under ten percent have no coverage whatsoever.  For instance, an aerospace engineer might decide to advance by taking on a job like Manager of Design Engineering. Doing so grants the candidate a sizeable pay increase. The salary for the position is about $103,000.




The number of aerospace engineers holding positions between 2010 and 2014 varies considerably.  From 2010 to 2012, there is an increase in positions, no matter how slight. But, there is also a dramatic decline in positions from 2012 to 2013 and again, another less dramatic decline in job availability between 2013 and 2014.

From 2010 t0 2011, job availability increases by 950 positions.  From 2011 to 2012, availability increases again from 1,020 positions. From 2012 to 2013, the positions drop nearly 9,000 jobs. The actual decline goes from 80,420 jobs in 2012 to 71,500 positions in 2013. The drop equals 8,920 positions in a single year.  Then from 2013 to 2014, the decline is still dramatic, but more reasonable with a loss of 2,420 positions.

Gender Distribution

Those interested in pursuing an aerospace engineer career will soon find there is a clear and evident bias when it comes to gender distribution within the field. While there are many opportunities for females in the fields of aeronautics and Astronautics, only 10 percent of all aerospace engineers are women.  The latter percentages have been fairly the same for the last two decades. The woman who work in the field tend to work in non-technical areas of the field.  They also fill some of the non-executive positions. You will find women working in finance, program management, and in administrative positions.



Several things will have to happen if this gender bias is something that will be eradicated. Women need to develop a greater interest in the field. The lack in interest is due to uncertainty. Women have few if any role models at all working in the field today or who have worked in the field in the past. Gender biases of the past have contributed and continue to contribute to the gender distribution discrepancy.  An increase in the awareness that such roles are open to women and that women are capable of filling higher roles in aerospace fields is necessary if change is to occur. Women remain underrepresented in the aeronautical and Astronautical fields now.

How to Become Aerospace Engineer?

The answer to how to become an aerospace engineer is multifaceted. There are several steps one must pursue to qualify for aerospace engineering positions. The interested candidate must undertake specific studies. The student will need familiarity with advanced mathematics which are used in the design and construction phases of any project under creation. Knowledge of trigonometry and calculus as well as physics is necessary to ensure structure safety.

Some of the aerospace engineer education requirements will demand the student develop business skills and the ability to think critically. The ideal candidate for a career in the aeronautical field is one who has problem-solving abilities, strong match skills, and exceptional writing abilities.

Aerospace Engineer Education Requirements

The candidate will need to pursue a bachelor’s degree in engineering. As an alternative, a degree in engineering or another program relating to aerospace will also serve as a launching pad for a career in this coveted field.  Security clearance is something a candidate will need if working in the field of national defence.  United States Citizenship is necessary for certain government related positions and any necessary clearances.

High school students can get a jump start on studies by taking science and math courses.  The pursuit then involves getting the coveted bachelor’s degree. There are universities and some colleges work in unison with local businesses to offer cooperative programs.  The programs are excellent for offering the student a chance to gain some practical experience while in school pursuing a degree. An internship might prove beneficial to the student as well, who seeks hands on experience.

There are also five-year long programs available. This allows the student to gain a Master’s in addition to the bachelor’s education.  With the Masters, the student has more opportunities in the job market. One such position allows the student to become a university instructor or to conduct research and development tasks at a hosting university.  Any aerospace engineering program must be accredited by ABET.


Aerospace Engineer Colleges

There are many aerospace engineer colleges in the United States offering exceptional programs.  Some have a bachelor’s program, while others offer the Master’s program in aerospace engineering. Below is a list of the leading undergraduate aerospace colleges in the nation for student candidate consideration.

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
  2. Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA
  3. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
  4. Stanford University, Stanford, CA
  5. California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA
  6. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN
  7. University of Illinois, Champaign, IL
  8. University of Texas, Austin, TX
  9. University of Maryland, College Park, MD
  10. Texas A&M University, College Station, TX

Major Subjects

Necessary coursework includes calculus, trigonometry, algebra, math, trigonometry, physics, and chemistry starting in High School.  When pursuing a bachelor’s degree, the candidate will undertake laboratory research, classroom instruction, and subjects revealing the principles of engineering.  During college, the student will learn about moving objects and how the air influence’s an object’s ability to move.  Aerodynamics, mechanics, structures, control and stability, and propulsion is also part of one’s coursework.

Math coursework will include classes in algebra as well as statistics. Design elements are something the student will study as well. They will gain knowledge about models, drawings, blueprints, technical plans, production principles, tools, and design techniques. Physics is another educational undertaking where the student masters understanding about sub-atomic structures, and electrical and mechanical processes. An understanding of computers, electronics, processors, applications and programming is also required.

Aerospace Engineer Specializations

Special licensing is not a necessity when it comes time to become an aerospace engineer. However, getting a professional engineering license will give the candidate an edge on moving up into positions of greater independence and leadership. When one receives a license, they are often called a PE.  This license allows the engineer to monitor others, track projects and sign off on them, and to deal with the public.  To get a license however, there are certain measures that must be met.

The candidate will need to have a degree. At minimum, a bachelor’s degree is required. The degree must be obtained from an ABET accredited program. The candidate must also take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. The candidate must earn a passing grade to qualify, but can take the FE during bachelor’s degree studies. Four years of work experience is necessary before one can apply for professional engineer licensing.  The Professional Engineer exam is the second test a person must take to gain licensure.  The Fundamentals of Engineering exam, once passed, earns the candidate the tile of Engineer Intern or Engineer in Training.  Once work experience is filled, the individual takes another test known as the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Professional Associations of Aerospace Engineer

Among the many associations of aerospace engineer groups is the American Society for Engineering Education. The organization was established in the early 1890s. It is a non-profit organization consisting of institutions and individuals who want to promote engineering technology and education in engineering. The means of meeting its mission includes promoting practice, public research and instruction. The group fosters the act of educating society about technological advances in the field and aims for leadership on a global scale. The organization offers quality services and products to all its existing members as well.  The ASEE creates programs and regulations that lead to the improvement of opportunities for professional engineers and faculty members.  The group backs universities and colleges offering education in engineering technology.

The group works toward increasing interest in the field in an in improving student enrolment in colleges offering aerospace engineering study opportunities. There is over 12,000 members in the organization including members of the government, industry professionals, students, faculty members, and department heads. The organizational members consist of around 400 colleges and affiliates, over 50 corporations, and many professional associations and government agencies.

Famous Aerospace Engineers

There are many famous aerospace engineers serving as role models for future engineers. Once such engineer is Neil Alden Armstrong. He was born in the summer of 1930 in Ohio.  He grew up to become a naval aviator and a test pilot before his space exploration days. He was at one time a university professor as well. He attended Purdue University and the University of Southern California. He was a junior grade lieutenant in the US Navy and he was in the Korean War. He spent over eight days in space. His missions include Gemini 8 and Apollo 11.  In addition to becoming an astronaut, he was a naval officer and voice actor. He is considered among the most trustworthy celebrities worldwide. He ranks number 20 on the all-time greatest historical figures, and number 27 on the list of the most influential people of the Cold War.

Guion Bluford is the first African American in outer space. Nicknamed “Guy,” Bluford Jr. was an astronaut and engineer. He was a colonel in the United States Air Force before becoming an astronaut as well. Native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Guy was in four flights on the space shuttle between the early 1980s and early 1990s. Guy spent more than 28 days in space. His missions include STS-8, STSS-61-A, STS-39, and STS-53.


Aerospace Engineers FAQ

 What is the outlook for aerospace engineer positions in the near future?

The job outlook is competitive in the aerospace field. This competition is driven by the anticipated decline in available positions between now and 2024. The decline expected is as much as two percent over the course of the next seven years or so. Modern aerospace projects involve sophisticate designs with limiting noise pollution and a cut down on fuel usage. The changes in design will lessen the need for future development or research. The manufacturing positions are expected to decline as technological advances change the needs of the of the engineer field entirely.

 What is the outlook for aerospace engineer positions in the distant future?

While there’s been a decline in available positions in the aeronautical field, and competition is heavy, as the existing professionals in the field age, new openings will occur.  This will allow for a mild increase in position availability, although competition will remain strong. With the spread of awareness that women can also fill such roles, competition will increase even further, but only if women develop a true interest in the field.  New openings will appear over the course of the next ten years.


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