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Aerospace Engineer Careers

An Aerospace Engineer mainly designs, develops, and tests aircraft and spacecraft, such as satellites, rockets, airplanes, and similar vehicles and machines, and often the simulations that teach and replicate these objects' flying.

More specifically, the Aerospace Engineer must figure out how and what a craft must be made out of and how it must look and act to both function optimally while also surviving the harsh elements that one encounters further away from the surface of Earth. This is a field of science that combines maths, manufacturing, biology, chemistry, material and structural analysis, and other specialized subjects all into one.

Generally, a candidate for this position must have at least a Bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or a similar scientific or space-related field of study. Those hoping to work for government organizations must have a security clearance.

What Does an Aerospace Engineer Do

Aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.

Duties

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 aircraft and parts
  • Evaluate designs to see that the products meet engineering principles, customer requirements, and environmental challenges
  • 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, 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.

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.

How To Become an Aerospace Engineer

Aerospace engineers must have a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or another field of engineering or science related to aerospace systems. Aerospace engineers who work on projects that are related to national defense may need a security clearance. U.S. citizenship may be required for certain types and levels of clearances.

Education

Entry-level aerospace engineers usually need a bachelor’s degree. High school students interested in studying aerospace engineering should take courses in chemistry, physics, and math, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus.

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 to 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.

Important Qualities

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.

Critical-thinking skills. Aerospace engineers must be able to translate a set of issues into requirements and to 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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level positions as an aerospace engineer. A Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows for higher levels of leadership and independence, can be acquired later in one’s career. Licensed engineers are called professional engineers (PEs). A PE can oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public. State licensure generally requires:

  • A degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program
  • A passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam
  • Relevant work experience, typically at least 4 years
  • A passing score on the Professional Engineering (PE) exam

The initial FE exam can be taken after one earns a bachelor’s degree. Engineers who pass this exam are commonly called engineers in training (EITs) or engineer interns (EIs). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering.

Advancement

Eventually, aerospace engineers may advance to become technical specialists or to supervise a team of engineers and technicians. Some may even become engineering managers or move into executive positions, such as program managers.

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Average Salary
$90,514
Average Salary
Job Growth Rate
2%
Job Growth Rate
Job Openings
14,940
Job Openings

Aerospace Engineer Career Paths

Top Careers Before Aerospace Engineer

Top Careers After Aerospace Engineer

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Average Salary for an Aerospace Engineer

Aerospace Engineers in America make an average salary of $90,514 per year or $44 per hour. The top 10 percent makes over $122,000 per year, while the bottom 10 percent under $66,000 per year.
Average Salary
$90,514

Best Paying Cities

City
ascdesc
Average Salarydesc
Seattle, WA
Salary Range92k - 139k$114k$113,825
San Francisco, CA
Salary Range90k - 137k$112k$111,607
Washington, DC
Salary Range86k - 132k$107k$107,184
Hampton, VA
Salary Range80k - 122k$99k$99,373
Scottsdale, AZ
Salary Range73k - 112k$91k$90,800
Rockford, IL
Salary Range71k - 103k$86k$85,909
$56k
$139k

Recently Added Salaries

Job TitleCompanyascdescCompanyascdescStart DateascdescSalaryascdesc
Aerospace Engineer II
Aerospace Engineer II
Perspecta Inc.
Perspecta Inc.
01/15/2021
01/15/2021
$55,95201/15/2021
$55,952
Aerospace Engineer II
Aerospace Engineer II
Perspecta
Perspecta
01/13/2021
01/13/2021
$55,95201/13/2021
$55,952
Aerospace Engineer (Propulsion)
Aerospace Engineer (Propulsion)
Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration
11/22/2020
11/22/2020
$107,81811/22/2020
$107,818
Aerospace Engineer (Electric & Hybrid-Electric Propulsion Systems)
Aerospace Engineer (Electric & Hybrid-Electric Propulsion Systems)
Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Aviation Administration
10/29/2020
10/29/2020
$107,81810/29/2020
$107,818
Supervisory Aerospace Engineer
Supervisory Aerospace Engineer
Department of Defense
Department of Defense
08/27/2020
08/27/2020
$121,31608/27/2020
$121,316
See More Recent Salaries

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Aerospace Engineer Demographics

Gender

male

82.7 %

female

12.5 %

unknown

4.8 %

Ethnicity

White

71.0 %

Asian

12.3 %

Hispanic or Latino

10.3 %

Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

27.5 %

French

20.0 %

Russian

7.5 %
See More Demographics

Aerospace Engineer Education

Degrees

Masters

43.1 %

Bachelors

42.5 %

Doctorate

8.5 %

Top Colleges for Aerospace Engineers

1. Georgia Institute of Technology

Atlanta, GA • Public

In-State Tuition
$12,424
Enrollment
15,201

2. Cornell University

Ithaca, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$55,188
Enrollment
15,105

3. Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,740
Enrollment
5,567

4. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Cambridge, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,832
Enrollment
4,550

5. Stanford University

Stanford, CA • Private

In-State Tuition
$51,354
Enrollment
7,083

6. University of Texas at Austin

Austin, TX • Public

In-State Tuition
$10,610
Enrollment
40,329

7. Boston University

Boston, MA • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,948
Enrollment
17,238

8. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Troy, NY • Private

In-State Tuition
$53,880
Enrollment
6,590

9. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Champaign, IL • Public

In-State Tuition
$15,094
Enrollment
32,974

10. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Blacksburg, VA • Public

In-State Tuition
$13,620
Enrollment
27,730
See More Education Info
Job type you want
Full Time
Part Time
Internship
Temporary

Top Skills For an Aerospace Engineer

The skills section on your resume can be almost as important as the experience section, so you want it to be an accurate portrayal of what you can do. Luckily, we've found all of the skills you'll need so even if you don't have these skills yet, you know what you need to work on. Out of all the resumes we looked through, 16.2% of aerospace engineers listed clearance on their resume, but soft skills such as analytical skills and business skills are important as well.

Best States For an Aerospace Engineer

Some places are better than others when it comes to starting a career as an aerospace engineer. The best states for people in this position are Washington, Maryland, California, and Virginia. Aerospace engineers make the most in Washington with an average salary of $112,658. Whereas in Maryland and California, they would average $100,590 and $100,573, respectively. While aerospace engineers would only make an average of $98,683 in Virginia, you would still make more there than in the rest of the country. We determined these as the best states based on job availability and pay. By finding the median salary, cost of living, and using the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Location Quotient, we narrowed down our list of states to these four.

1. Washington

Total Aerospace Engineer Jobs:
606
Highest 10% Earn:
$165,000
Location Quotient:
1.38
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

2. Virginia

Total Aerospace Engineer Jobs:
1,037
Highest 10% Earn:
$146,000
Location Quotient:
1.83
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here

3. District of Columbia

Total Aerospace Engineer Jobs:
240
Highest 10% Earn:
$158,000
Location Quotient:
2.38
Location Quotient is a measure used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to determine how concentrated a certain industry is in a single state compared to the nation as a whole. You can read more about how BLS calculates location quotients here
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Top Aerospace Engineer Employers

1. CTS Corporation
4.6
Avg. Salary: 
$126,779
Aerospace Engineers Hired: 
211+
2. Gulfstream Aerospace
4.5
Avg. Salary: 
$89,436
Aerospace Engineers Hired: 
85+
3. NASA
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$96,798
Aerospace Engineers Hired: 
68+
4. Lockheed Martin
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$90,619
Aerospace Engineers Hired: 
45+
5. Boeing
4.9
Avg. Salary: 
$93,635
Aerospace Engineers Hired: 
39+
6. Volt Information Sciences
4.4
Avg. Salary: 
$92,087
Aerospace Engineers Hired: 
30+

What are the best companies to work for?

Shem Malmquist

Visiting Professor of Aeronautics, Florida Institute of Technology

The freight operators are the best choice as they are all expanding and hiring-FedEx, UPS, Atlas, Southern Air, etc. Someone who has just graduated will probably not have the flight experience yet to be hired as a pilot (unless they had considerable experience and returned to finish college). Still, there are many opportunities in non-flight positions. There are also job opportunities for the feeder aircraft for the larger operators.

For those who are in non-flight positions, there are also opportunities. Both FedEx and UPS employ many engineers, for example. Also, there are defense industry job positions that graduates should consider.
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Aerospace Engineer Videos

Updated October 2, 2020