- I am in high school and want to go into the aerospace field. I am curious about the grades needed
to be accepted into college. Some nights I just cannot sleep thinking that I will not be able to
pursue my dream when I get older. My grades are mostly in the 80s and low 90s.
- question from Pavel R.
College admission policies vary considerably from country to country and college to college. Among
the most important factors colleges and universities consider when evaluating an application are
high school grades, difficulty of the high school courses selected, and scores on major
standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Other factors that may play a role include the reputation
of the high school, teacher recommendations, the student expressing a strong interest in attending
that college, and being the child of an alumnus of that college. Participation in extracurricular
activities is also considered but usually does not have that large an effect. In general, grades
in the 80s or higher are good enough for most colleges. Many colleges and universities require a
grade point average of at least 2.5 out of 4 for admission.
- How many years of school did you attend and what degrees did you get? How heavy was the workload
for your degree and what classes are the hardest?
- question from Eric Steen & Spencer
Most of our staff members took four years to get a bachelor of science degree that is required to
obtain a career in most engineering and scientific fields. Several have also taken another two
years or so getting a masters of science degree, and a few have spent much longer working on a
doctorate. Though generally not required to enter an engineering field, a more advanced degree
often improves the quality of positions and salaries offered to an employee.
The course load required for engineering fields in general and aerospace engineering in particular
tends to be one of the most difficult at any university. Engineers generally have to take more
credit hours per semester than any other field, and this is one of the primary reasons why
engineering students are increasingly needing more than four years to complete a bachelors degree.
The hardest classes will vary for each person depending on his/her talents, the quality of the
teaching, and the specific branch of engineering. High level mathematics classes tend to be some
of the most difficult, such as Differential Equations or Advanced Calculus. Among classes specific
to aerospace engineering, theoretical aerodynamics and structural dynamics courses are some
students often have the most difficulty with.
- How long would it take for a full time student to get his masters degree and PhD?
- question from Angel
A masters degree in engineering typically takes one to three years to complete. A doctorate
generally requires three to six years. Programs that go directly to a PhD without a masters degree
are becoming more common and may shave a year or so off the time.
- I've always been interested in aircraft and want to design planes for the military. The problem is
that I am disabled due to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I can still can use the computer and write
even though my hands are weak. Can I be an aerospace engineer even though I am disabled?
- question from Joshua David
You should not be concerned about your situation interfering with a career as an engineer. I've
worked with several engineers who have a variety of disabilities and are still very productive,
highly qualified engineers. One of the brightest, hardest working engineers I know is confined to
a wheelchair because of Muscular Dystrophy but this has not prevented him from becoming a senior
aerodynamicist at a major aerospace company. I've worked with other engineers who are paralyzed
because of accidents, legally blind, deaf, or missing limbs but they all have become successful
engineers. Most aerospace companies and research facilities are equipped with facilities to
support handicapped employees.
- I am thinking about majoring in engineering. I like learning about space, but do aeronautical
engineers have much to do with space besides designing spacecraft? Should I study engineering or
- question from Jimmy Mejia
Depending on what it is you enjoy learning about space, I suspect you may prefer a career in
science over one in engineering. Scientists like astronomers and astrophysicists study the
structure of the universe and the objects within it. These studies often depend on the development
and use of new technologies that make observations of distant objects possible. Engineers are the
designers who take the requirements specified by scientists, solve the technical problems involved,
and create devices to collect the information scientists need.
If you are more interested in designing spacecraft and scientific instruments or calculating
trajectories that bring spacecraft to their destinations, you will probably be happy as an
engineer. If you prefer studying stars, planets, galaxies, and other celestial objects, you would
be better off choosing a career in science. Some possible options include astronomy (the study of
celestial objects), astrophysics (the study of the physics of the universe), astrobiology (the
study of life in the universe), planetary science (the study of planets and solar systems), and
astrochemistry (the study of chemicals in space).
- I am an aeronautical engineering student and want to be a rocket scientist. How can I become
- question from Vinayak
The term "rocket scientist" is actually rather vague and its meaning can vary depending on the
context. Rocket scientist is often considered a slang term for anyone with an aerospace
engineering degree whether that person actually works on rockets or not. Once you complete your
aeronautical engineering degree, you would already be considered a rocket scientist by this
broad definition of the term.
Another meaning applies only to people who work on rockets, usually specifically to those working
on rocket propulsion systems. These experts analyze propellants and the combustion process or
design the components of a rocket propulsion system for use in vehicles like space launchers or
military weapons. To specialize in this field as an aeronautical engineering student, you should
emphasize your coursework in subjects like fluid dynamics, combustion science, or electrical
propulsion. Even this meaning of the term rocket scientist can become broad since not only
aerospace engineers work on rocket propulsion technologies. Other types of engineers and
scientists can also be considered rocket scientists such as chemists or chemical engineers,
material scientists, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and physicists.
The important thing to remember is that there is no rocket science degree that a student can earn
in college. The term rocket science applies to a variety of different fields required to make
advanced vehicles like aircraft and rockets possible.
- I'm confused about becoming an aerospace engineer or a commercial pilot. I want to know what do
aerospace engineers do compared with pilots?
- question from Moh'd Ali
There is very little in common between aerospace engineers and commercial pilots. More detailed
overviews of the things aerospace engineers tend to do are described in past articles about
aerospace engineering and sample job
descriptions. Engineers design vehicles, write software, conduct testing of vehicles and their
components, and otherwise develop the technologies needed for air and space travel. Pilots fly the
vehicles that engineers create. Both careers require highly skilled and trained professionals but
the work environment is considerably different.
- How much does an engineer have to work in a typical week? Is it hard to balance work and
- question from Nicole Eiben
Most engineers work a 40-hour week comparable to any other office career. Overtime can be common
when deadlines approach and time to complete a task is limited. Working 60 hours or more per week
can be a problem at times like these. Most engineers I know seldom have to work more than a
normal 40-hour week and they also say one of the best things about their career is the flexibility
to customize their work schedule. Some people prefer to start work very early and complete their
work day in time to pick up their children from school. Others prefer to stay home with their
families during the day and do most of their work later in the evening and at night. So long as
their tasks are completed, most employers are willing to let their employees customize their
schedule depending on preference or family situation. There are times when an engineer's job and
family commitments interfere with each other, but these instances are probably less frequent than
in many other careers.