An aerospace engineer designs and make prototypes of rockets, missiles and satellites. In order to come up with fresh technologies for defense systems, aviation and spacecraft, you can choose to focus in structural design; instrumentation and communication; propulsion and combustion; aerodynamic fluid flow; guidance, navigation and control and robotics.
You can choose to become an aeronautical engineer or an astronautical engineer. Aeronautical engineers are mainly concerned with the design of aircraft and propulsion systems. They also look into the aerodynamic performance of aircraft and the materials used to make them. To be able to do their job well, they have to be knowledgeable about flight theory and technology as well as flight practice in the earth’s atmosphere. Astronautical engineers, meanwhile, focus on spacecraft. They look at the science and technology behind it and their performance both in and out of the earth’s atmosphere. They evaluate the environmental and operational issues that come with the design of these kinds of crafts.
Part of your responsibilities as an aerospace engineer is evaluating project proposals to check if these are feasible in its technical and financial aspects. You will make sure that the products that will be produced from these proposed projects will pose no danger to the people who will be using it. In order to ensure the safety of the aerospace products, you will have to see to it that it complies with engineering principles and standards as well as be able to withstand environmental challenges. Because aerospace engineering firms are big business, aerospace engineers must meet customer requirements, quality standards and deliver project on time.
You must first love this field of engineering in order to succeed because it is quite difficult. You must be analytical, particularly in identifying elements of the design that are causing the work to stall and then come up with solutions for these. This must be combined with keen critical thinking skills since asking the right questions and determining the right answer is necessary to do the work correctly. Most, if not all, of the work you will be doing requires advanced knowledge of math. Thus, you should be comfortable using the principles of calculus, trigonometry and others. Finally, you must also have business savvy since you will be working in companies that have to meet federal government standards on business practices.
Why Become An Aerospace Engineer
One reason to become an aerospace engineer is that it allows you to pursue your passion of all things that fly. If you have always been fascinated with the design of aerospace, aircrafts, rockets and similar products and want to play a role in their design and invention, then this career will certainly be very fulfilling. It also provides the chance to let your inventive spirit in the field of air and space travel flourish.
Another reason why this career is worth striving for lies in the lucrative pay that aerospace engineers stand to get. With the right experience, a six-figure salary is common in this career. The prestige of being called an aerospace engineer is also unparalleled.
Aerospace Engineer Work Environment
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 38 percent of aerospace engineers were employed in the aerospace product and parts manufacturing industry in 2012. Sixteen percent were hired by companies engaged in scientific research and development services, 12 percent worked for architectural, engineering and related services firms, 12 percent were hired by the federal government while 6 percent were employed by companies working in the navigational, measuring, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing industries.
Compared to the past, aerospace engineers now do most of their work in the office where they have access to computer equipment and software design tools. They usually use these sophisticated products to be able to model, simulate tests and evaluate projects. They often work together with other engineering professionals so being a team player and having excellent communication skills are musts. Work is often fulltime with those in supervisory positions logging in more hours to ensure that projects proceed on schedule.
Aerospace Engineer Salary
Aerospace engineers are among the highest paid engineers in the United States. The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that their mean annual wage is $105,450. This is higher than the $85,640 paid to received by civil engineers and the $95,380 paid to electrical and electronics engineers. Computer hardware engineers, nuclear engineers and petroleum engineers, however, received higher pay at $106,930, $106,860 and $149,180, respectively.
In 2012, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that aerospace engineers working in the federal government received the highest pay at $110,860. This was closely followed by those in the scientific research and development services industry who were paid $109,740; the navigational, measuring, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing who got $107,510 and the architectural, engineering and related services firms who got $102,720.
Aerospace Engineer Career Outlook
Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the employment outlook of aerospace engineers is expected to grow 7 percent in the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022. This rate is slower than the average for all job types. Because most of the work of aerospace engineers will be on projects that have to do with the design and development of aircrafts pertaining to national defense, security clearances will be required. This will be good because it will help prevent the outsourcing of jobs. However, the slow growth of the manufacturing industry will temper growth.
The best opportunities will go to aerospace engineers who know modeling, robotics and simulation. Another important area that aerospace engineers should have knowledge of that would increase their chances of employment is in computational fluid dynamics software. Companies use this software to test designs digitally which would result to the reduction of expenses related to prototype testing.
Aerospace Engineer Degree
A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or related field is required for entry-level jobs. This usually takes four years to complete. However, there are five-year programs in some universities that allow students to get both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Those who wish teach at university or do research and development work must obtain postgraduate degrees.
Although entry level jobs don’t require aerospace engineers to be licensed, those who go up the career ladder and hold positions of responsibility need one. To get their license, they must obtain their degree in an ABET-accredited program, pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam after getting their degree, get relevant work experience and pass the Professional Engineering exam.