- I want to know the careers in aerospace/aeronautical industry?
- question from name withheld
What type of job can you get with this career?
- question from Aaron
This previous question gives a pretty good overview of the types
of jobs available in aerospace engineering. In particular, check out the links towards the bottom
of the page that provide several general overviews and examples of particular careers.
In addition to aeronautical and aerospace engineers, the industry also employs other kinds of
engineers (especially mechanical, electrical, computer, chemical, materials, and manufacturing
engineers), technicians and machinists, and of course pilots, to name a few. We're not experts
on most of these careers, so we focus primarily on aerospace engineering in the career questions on
- What is a job description for an aerospace engineer?
- question from rrgffdgtrst
Since aerospace engineers may be needed to do a variety of different kinds of tasks, there is
no single all-inclusive job description. Below are a few sample want ads pulled off of various
job search sites. They present a fairly representative selection of some more common types of
positions in the field.
Conduct aerodynamics/performance analysis for military programs. Responsibilities include
analyzing aerodynamics impacts due to external modifications, developing mission profiles based on
customer requirements; mission performance data including takeoff and landing data, enroute; and
mission performance data. Analyze configurations using computational fluid dynamics. Additional
tasks may include support for wind tunnel and flight test planning, test support, data analysis &
documentation; aerodynamics coordination with multi-discipline teams; and providing aerodynamics
data to support flight management system and/or mission planning software.
Candidates will have strong knowledge and practical experience in spacecraft operations,
dynamics, and controls; familiarity with MATLAB, modeling of flexible dynamics (NASTRAN
exposure preferred), and the space environment. Candidates will use their background in dynamics,
control, and spacecraft operations to contribute to a number of projects in the areas of structural
control, momentum control, line-of-sight (LOS) pointing control of spaceborne payloads, spacecraft
mission design, and operational engineering. You will be expected to participate in the engineering
development and support of new products within our proven phased development process, including
diagnostics, proof of concept, and implementation.
Perform stress analysis on aircraft (metallic and composite) structures. Duties would
include stress analysis using both classical and FEM analysis tools, static and fatigue test
predictions and regressions, and certification report preparation. Candidate must have complete
familiarity with typical aerospace program stress analysis requirements and procedures. Candidate
must be able to conduct stress analysis on metallic and composite structures. Proficiency with
NASTRAN, PATRAN, IDEAS, and ORACLE is required. Bachelor's degree in Mechanical, Aeronautical,
Aerospace, or Civil Engineering desired. A background in aircraft structural analysis (metallic and
composite) including an understanding of control surface stiffness loop calculations, static and
fatigue testing requirements and analysis, and finite element modeling (FEM) is desired.
Participate in research projects which entail development and testing of small rocket
engines. Candidate will perform experimental work in dedicated laboratory facility. Must be
capable of applying knowledge toward solving problems of a research nature, and be capable of
working alone or with a technical team of researchers.
- What is the difference between an aerospace and aeronautical engineer?
- question from Abdullah Ally
Most engineers in this field are actually aeronautical engineers (those who work on the design,
manufacture, and use of aircraft) or astronautical engineers (those who work on the design,
manufacture, and use of spacecraft). Aerospace engineering is just a generic term that includes
both disciplines. For example, our staff includes engineers whose education and career focus on
aeronautical engineering while another specializes in astronautical engineering, but each of us
has the same job title--aerospace engineer.
- I'm doing a report on aeronauntical and aerospace engineering and I need some information on what
kind of education is needed to become an aeronautical engineer. Also, how can I get involved in
the field of aeronautical engineering? And how can I get into designing military jets?
- question from Cameron Garrett
An aerospace engineer needs to obtain at least a bachelor of science degree (BS) from a school
that has been properly accredited by some official group, such as the
ABET. All of the major schools in the US have
this accredidation. Program names vary across the nation, but most are called Aerospace
Engineering, Aeronautics and Astronautics, or Aeronatical and Astronautical Engineering.
Probably the best way for you to get involved in aerospace is to take up a hobby that others
interested in the field also participate in. For example, radio controlled aircraft and
model rocketry clubs exist around the world and are a good way to meet people with similar
interests. There are also many aerospace museums with special organizations that meet regularly to
discuss history or new developments in aviation and space. Depending on where you live, there may
be a local chapter of the American Insitute of Aeronautics & Astronautics (AIAA) that offers
regular meetings and other programs that may be of interest to you. Some colleges and universities
also offer summer youth programs that allow junior high and high school students to learn more
about aerospace careers and participate in engineering projects.
As for your final question, I'm not sure what exactly you mean by getting into the design of
military jets. Once you are in college, I'd recommend emphasizing classes on conceptual design,
propulsion, performance, and aerodynamics or perhaps structures. In the meantime, try reading
books on different types of planes and types of combat to get an understanding of why planes
are shaped in different ways to make them suited to the job they do. There are also some good
books on how specific aircraft were designed that give an appreciation for the kinds of trade-offs
that have to be made to come up with something that actually works.
- I am not very good in mathmatics but I am excellent in science. Do you think that I would be a good
candidate for being an aerospace engineer?
- question from WESJR
While engineers need to take quite a few math courses in school, I can't say that I really use math
all that much in my job. It is important to have a basic understanding of mathematical
definitions, but for the most part we let computers do the detailed number crunching for us. What
is important is to have an understanding of what the computer programs are doing and to be able to
perform some simple calculations to verify that the results are reasonable. Even though I had to
take 2½ years of calculus courses in college, I've found that I rarely need to know more than
relatively simple geometry, trigonometry, and algebra to do my job!
As for science, I'd say it's important to have a good understanding of physics subjects, especially
mechanics and dynamics. Some aerospace engineers also need a strong emphasis on chemistry or
electromagnetics, but understanding the basic laws of how forces make things go is really key to
being a good engineer. If you are good at those physical sciences, as opposed to life sciences
like biology, I'd say that you probably would be a good candidate for aerospace engineering.
- What are the basic courses to be taken in college for aerospace engineering? Which is the best
university to transfer to?
- question from Mariam
The first two years of most engineering programs (whether it be aerospace, mechanical, electrical,
chemical, civil, etc.) are pretty much the same across all universities. In addition to meeting
general education requirements (humanities and social science courses), most aerospace engineering
students are expected to take a number of classes in mathematics, physics, and chemistry. In
particular, students typically take 4 semesters of calculus and differential equations, 3 or 4
semesters of physics (covering Newtonian mechanics, electromagnetics, and relativity), 2 semesters
of statics and dynamics, and 2 semesters of general chemistry. Other courses may include
statistics, linear algebra, thermodynamics, and basic circuit design, depending on the university.
I can't really recommend any particular school to complete your education at. As was stated in
Part 1, it really comes down to a question of economics and where
can you get the best education for the lowest cost. If you've got a big wad of cash to spend, you
can always go to MIT or Stanford, but a state school would probably be far more cost effective.
- I am looking into possibly becoming an aerospace engineer. I would like to know what universities
offer the best programs and if there are any universities on an international scale (outside the
US) that offer a good degree in Aerospace engineering.
- question from Brandon Brooks
See the previous point on selecting a good school within the US. However, none of us are terribly
qualified to comment on foreign schools. A few we've heard some good things about include
Delft University in the Netherlands, Imperial College in England, and the University of Bristol,
also in England. There must be other good schools throughout Europe and the Far East as well,
but we just don't know enough about them.
- I am currenty doing my HND in aerospace engineering and will be going to the UK for further
studies. Can anyone advise me on which course to take for my BSc in terms of job oppurtunities,
pay, and future of the selected field? I have three choices:
1. aerospace engineering design
2. air transport engineering
3. aerospace engineering technology with management
- question from Faisal M.
I believe these types of course selections are becoming more common in European aerospace
programs, particularly in Britain, as they allow a student to emphasize different areas of the
industry. Such distinctions are not as common in the US, so we don't feel qualified to give much
advice on the matter. In fact, we're not entirely sure what the distinction between these areas
is. The first sounds like a typical American aerospace program emphasizing the general technical
areas of aircraft and spacecraft design and analysis. The second sounds like it focuses more on
commercial airline travel while the third sounds more business and management oriented. So your
decision will likely depend on what part of the industry you want to work in--general aerospace
engineering, commercial aviation, or management.
- Ever since I was little I've wanted to fly the shuttle and walk on the moon. Now I figure that if
I can't fly the shuttle, I can at least help design it. Everyone thinks I'm crazy, but I think I
can do it. I'm really smart and have a great imagination. I just want to know if I'm crazy for
trying. Is it too hard for me to even try? And what is the stress level like?
- question from Holly Welles
No, you aren't at all crazy. At the risk of sounding like one of those cheesy After-School
Specials, you can do anything you set your mind to! However, I will point out that there isn't
really that much design work going on for the Space Shuttle right now since it's been around for
over 20 years and no more are being built. There will be continuing efforts to upgrade the Shuttle
fleet and keep it in service for a few more years, but this isn't a rapidly growing area of the
aerospace industry. Where you might find more employment possibilities is in the rocket field
where Boeing, Lockheed, and foreign companies are developing several next-generation launch
vehicles. There are also efforts to develop a new manned vehicle to take the place of the
Shuttle, but these projects don't tend to provide a stable, long-term career. Regardless, there
are many possible career paths for engineers interested in the space program, and I'm sure you
wouldn't have any difficulty finding something of interest to you.
I can't really say what the stress level is like in that particular type of job, but I don't think
it's all that much higher in the engineering world than in most other careers. While the stress
would vary quite a bit depending on your specific job, most engineers I know really enjoy what
they do and have a lot of fun in the process, so stress isn't much of a problem.