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Become A Propulsion Engineer

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Working As A Propulsion Engineer

  • Interacting With Computers
  • Processing Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Getting Information
  • Deal with People

  • Mostly Sitting

  • $111,692

    Average Salary

What Does A Propulsion 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.

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How To Become A Propulsion 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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Propulsion Engineer Demographics

Gender

Male

91.8%

Female

5.1%

Unknown

3.1%
Ethnicity

White

60.3%

Hispanic or Latino

18.0%

Black or African American

10.8%

Asian

7.1%

Unknown

3.8%
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Languages Spoken

Spanish

42.9%

Russian

14.3%

German

14.3%

Romanian

14.3%

French

14.3%
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Propulsion Engineer Education

Schools

Purdue University

12.2%

University of Alabama

8.2%

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University - Daytona Beach

8.2%

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

6.1%

Syracuse University

4.1%

Saint Mary's University

4.1%

Arizona State University

4.1%

University of Washington

4.1%

Concordia University (California)

4.1%

Florida Institute of Technology-Melbourne

4.1%

Barry University

4.1%

University of California - San Diego

4.1%

University of West Florida

4.1%

University of Central Florida

4.1%

University of New Orleans

4.1%

University of Texas at El Paso

4.1%

Tennessee Technological University

4.1%

Montana Tech of the University of Montana

4.1%

University of Arizona

4.1%

University of Dayton

4.1%
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Majors

Mechanical Engineering

25.4%

Aerospace Engineering

19.7%

Business

13.9%

Management

7.4%

Finance

4.1%

Chemical Engineering

3.3%

Industrial Engineering

3.3%

Engineering

3.3%

Aviation

2.5%

Environmental Control Technologies/Technicians

2.5%

Project Management

2.5%

Mathematics

1.6%

Theology

1.6%

Engineering And Industrial Management

1.6%

Computer Information Systems

1.6%

Electrical Engineering

1.6%

Education

1.6%

Systems Engineering

0.8%

Science, Technology, And Society

0.8%

Statistics

0.8%
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Degrees

Bachelors

43.7%

Masters

31.0%

Other

15.8%

Certificate

3.2%

Associate

3.2%

Doctorate

2.5%

License

0.6%
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Real Propulsion Engineer Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Propulsion Engineer Chipton Ross, Incorporated Everett, WA Oct 15, 2010 $133,568
Propulsion Engineer Chipton Ross, Incorporated Everett, WA Oct 01, 2010 $133,568
Propulsion Engineer California Institute of Technology/Jet Propulsion Laboratory Pasadena, CA Nov 01, 2016 $102,400
Propulsion Engineer California Institute of Technology/Jet Propulsion Laboratory Pasadena, CA Jan 11, 2016 $102,400
Propulsion Engineer Senior California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA May 28, 2015 $87,464
Propulsion Engineer California Institute of Technology/Jet Propulsion Pasadena, CA Oct 01, 2014 $87,464
Propulsion Engineer United Airlines, Inc. Chicago, IL Sep 21, 2015 $83,920
Propulsion Engineer United Airlines, Inc. Chicago, IL Jul 15, 2015 $83,750 -
$97,400

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Top Skills for A Propulsion Engineer

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  1. Safety
  2. Nasa
  3. Test Plans
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Demonstrated strong leadership and team capability while working diverse and significant program activities supporting flight schedule and safety of flight issues.
  • Developed thrust vectoring technologies specific to low observable effectiveness for NASAInnovative Controls and Technology contract.
  • Generated program test plans, test requests, data analysis results, and post-test data packages.
  • Developed hybrid motor sizing tools used in performing hybrid based booster-to-launch vehicle synthesis and in launch vehicle optimization studies.
  • Provided subsystem product concept evaluations and assembly design suggestions to support new product development for missile subsystems energy management.

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