Aerospace Science Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Learn how a major in aerospace science can prepare you for a career in aircraft design and testing, or serve as the first step in becoming a pilot. Read on for more information about aerospace programs, employment, and salary. Schools offering Aviation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can I Do With an Aerospace Science Major?

An aerospace science major can typically be found at the bachelor's level, educating students on the principles of aerodynamics, thermodynamics, flight safety, aviation laws, and other fundamentals related to flight. Graduates can qualify for jobs like aerospace engineers, airline and commercial pilots, and even astronauts. Aerospace engineers design and test air and spacecrafts, researching new technology to try and create more efficient designs. Pilots require a license, verifying their skills at piloting an aircraft for transporting cargo and passengers to different locations through the sky. Astronauts pilot shuttles and research outer space and our planet in relation to the known universe. Below, you can learn some important information about these possible career choices:

Aerospace EngineersAirline and Commercial PilotsAstronauts
Degree Required Bachelor'sBachelor's for airline pilots; high school diploma at minimum for commercial pilotsBachelor's at minimum; advanced degrees are desirable
Key Responsibilities Design aerospace products, make sure designs meet various customer and environmental requirementsMake sure aircraft is ready for flight, monitor aircraft while in flight, communicate with air traffic control, respond to changing conditions, transport cargo and passengersOperate spacecraft, conduct research, repair parts, organize missions
Licensure Requirements Not required for entry-level positions, licensure available for career advancementRequiredVarious governmental requirements
Job Growth (2014-2024)* -2%5%7% (for physicists and astronomers)
Median Salary (2015)* $107,830$102,520$65,140 - $100,701**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **NASA.gov

How Can I Earn A Degree in Aerospace Science?

Some schools refer to a degree in aerospace science as a degree in aeronautics, aeronautical science and engineering, or aerospace science engineering. Whichever variation, the degree program typically includes study of engineering. You could have opportunities early in your education to design, build, and test projects that demonstrate engineering principles, like interactive pieces for children or technological projects for developing nations. You might also learn to design air and spacecraft as your education progresses.

You can expect to complete courses in thermodynamics, heat transfer, and aerodynamics, instrumental and commercial flight operations, flight safety, and aviation law in these programs. Some schools include flight training within the aerospace science curriculum, and students can obtain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot licensure when they earn their degrees.

What Jobs Can I Do?

As an aerospace engineer, you could be involved in the design and testing of aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Your job would also likely include researching the adaptability of various materials during design and manufacturing.

With licensure from the FAA, your aerospace science degree may be a step toward qualifying for employment as a pilot, according to the BLS (www.bls.gov). You would be responsible for transporting cargo and people from one point to another and keeping the airplane safe.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), educational requirements for a professional astronaut include a bachelor's degree and related professional experience, like experience as a military pilot (www.nasa.gov).

How Much Can I Earn?

In 2015, aerospace engineers reported earning an average of $53.16 an hour, or $110,570 in a year, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported that the industry with the highest employment of aerospace engineers in 2015 was the aerospace products and parts manufacturing industry, with 26,840 hired and average hourly pay of $51.90. The BLS reports that the federal government employed 9,070 aerospace engineers, and paid them an average of $55.04 an hour in the same year.

Commercial pilots reported earnings of $30,131-$149,721 in October 2016, according to PayScale.com. Factors like experience can affect the rate of a pilot's pay, as well. For example, PayScale.com data in 2016 indicated that a commercial pilot with 0-5 years of experience could have earned a median pay of $51,000 per year, while a pilot with 20 or more years of experience could have earned a median salary of $127,000. Meanwhile, the BLS reported that airline pilots, combined with copilots and flight engineers, earned a median of $117,290 as of 2015.

NASA states that an astronaut's pay is based on academic achievements and experience, and starts at grade GS-12. GS-12 stands for General Schedule level 12. The General Schedule is the pay scale that is used for most U.S. federal government employees. A GS-12 level astronaut can earn $65,140 annually, and a GS-13 level astronaut can earn up to $100,701 per year, according to NASA.

What Are Some Related Careers?

As a field of engineering, aerospace engineers have many similarities with other engineers. For example, materials engineers are responsible for testing and designing different kinds of products by studying their physical properties, similar to how aerospace engineers do this for a specific type of product. Those who are interested in planes and flight but not in flying themselves might look into becoming air traffic controllers. These controllers typically need a bachelor's degree (or an associate's degree plus relevant experience), and they have rigorous training and licensure requirements. Air traffic controllers monitor aircraft both on the ground and in the air, telling pilots when and where to takeoff, giving pilots info about weather and runways, and directing aircraft through the skies both safely and efficiently.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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