Aerospace Engineering 7

  1. What exactly is the training necessary to enter the field of aerospace engineering? How would someone go about getting a license, an apprenticeship, or become an intern in this field?
    - question from Stephen
    A bachelor of science degree from an accredited university is the only training required to enter the aerospace field. This degree normally takes four to five years to complete for a full-time student. Aerospace engineers do not need any kind of license or apprenticeship although some do go on to obtain a Professional Engineer (PE) license. This license is not typically required by aerospace engineers but is common in fields like civil engineering. The process to become a PE includes passing a Fundamentals of Engineering exam, working under a PE for four years, and passing the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. You can learn more about these requirements at the National Society of Professional Engineers. An internship is not required to become an engineer either, though it is a helpful method of improving one's resume. Finding internships can be challenging, but many companies and government labs offer summer positions to students.
  2. What high school courses are needed to be an astronaut?
    - question from Landon Slone
    Astronauts are typically pilots, engineers, or scientists, and the classes one should take in high school to enter any of these fields are generally the same. The following is a typical list of high school coursework recommended for entering a technical career:
    • English - 4 Years
    • Algebra - 1 Year
    • Calculus - 1/2 Year
    • Geometry - 1/2 Year
    • Pre-calculus - 1 Year
    • Trigonometry - 1/2 Year
    • Biology - 1 Year
    • Chemistry - 1 Year
    • Physics - 1 Year
    • Economics - 1/2 Year
    • History / Social Studies - 2 Years
    • Foreign Language - 2 Years
    • Computer Science - 1/2 to 1 Year
  3. Do aerospace engineers in the US use the metric system when doing the work or do they still use the imperial system?
    - question from Collin O'Brien
    Although most universities are trying to enforce the metric system in their coursework, much of the industry still works in the English (or Imperial) system. The spacecraft portion of aerospace, including NASA and satellite manufacturers, generally uses the metric system of meters, Newtons, and liters exclusively. Those in aircraft, aviation, and weapon-related careers, on the other hand, still predominantly use English units like pounds, feet, and gallons. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, and most engineers I know are comfortable working in either one.
  4. I know this is a hard question because it varies. I was wondering how much someone in the aeronautical engineering field makes yearly?
    - question from Mark
    This is a difficult question to answer since it does vary so much depending on factors like education, experience, and job location. According to the US Department of Labor, the median annual earnings of aerospace engineers in 2002 were $72,750. The middle 50 percent earned between $59,520 and $88,310. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $105,060.
  5. How much money does a first-year aerospace engineer earn in this occupation?
    - question from Esmerelda
    Like the previous question, this one is difficult to answer because it varies so much. Starting salaries, in particular, typically vary by the level of education. A 2003 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that new graduates with bachelor's degrees received starting salary offers averaging $48,028 a year. Those with master's degrees were given an average offer of $61,162 while doctorate candidates were offered $68,406.
  6. I am 15 years old, and I hope to fly the F-22 after joining the Air Force. Will this be possible? Will I have to fly the JSF or will I have a choice?
    - question from name withheld
    Well...I didn't realize becoming a Joint Strike Fighter pilot would be such a curse! Regardless, Air Force officers generally have very little choice in the aircraft they will be trained to fly aboard. In any given flight school class, usually only a few students will get the opportunity to choose the type of plane they will fly. The rest will be assigned to the types for which new pilots or crewmembers are needed. The top students in some classes are allowed to pick their future aircraft while the bottom students in other classes are given the same opportunity. This method helps ensure that a good mix of talent and skill level is distributed across the service and that some less-popular aircraft types are not neglected at the expense of others.
  7. Are there any aspects of aerospace engineering that are unexpected?
    - question from Orie Hoffman
    Perhaps the one thing I quickly discovered in my job, and other places I have visited, that I hadn't expected when I finished college is the importance of politics in the workplace. I'm not talking about winning elections or passing laws, but the ability to sell yourself and your ideas in order to get anything accomplished. By now, I'm wise enough to have learned that these same traits are required in virtually any job, but they may be even more important in engineering since large amounts of money are often at stake when decision makers choose which direction to go. Because the ability to convince others that your ideas are worth pursuing is so important, skills like writing and public speaking are far more vital to being a successful engineer than I had expected when I was still a student. Many neglect these skills in school since engineering classes so often stress mathematics and other technical disciplines. However, I recommend taking a class like speech or volunteering for a leadership position in a college organization to get practice in expressing yourself and learning the art of personal interaction.
  8. What are the advantages of being an aerospace engineer?
    - question from Ghandi Ohema
    There are many advantages to this field, many of which are common to any professional field like good salaries, retirement plans, and medical benefits. Some of the advantages more unique to aerospace engineering include the opportunity to work on exciting new technologies and projects that amaze the general public. Many of us at this site have worked on projects like commercial aircraft that we fly aboard regularly, spacecraft that circle the Earth or travel to distant worlds, and military weapons used to defend our nation. Not many other jobs offer the thrill of working on something that zooms across the sky or is blasted into space. Even those projects that never leave the drawing board can still be quite exciting and provide the opportunity to work on something different and ususual.

- answer by Joe Yoon
- answer by Molly Swanson
- answer by Jeff Scott, 7 May 2006

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