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How to Become an Aeronautical Engineer in 5 Steps

Research how to become an aeronautical engineer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, average salary, and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

What Does an Aeronautical Engineer Do?

Aeronautical engineers use the procedures, technologies, and theories involved with air travel to create aircraft and propulsion systems. They study the aerodynamic functioning of construction materials and aircraft. They also assess proposals for new products to determine if they are possible to build, and they may create their own designs for new products. They also look at products that have been damaged or have malfunctioned to understand why. The following table provides information about aerospace engineers, which include this occupation.

Degree Required Bachelor's
Key Skills Analytical, critical thinking, math, writing
Licensure Licensure is available
Job Outlook (2018-2028) 2% (for aerospace engineers)*
Median Salary (2018)$115,220 (for aerospace engineers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is an Aeronautical Engineer?

Aeronautical engineering includes the design, development, and testing of aircraft for commercial airlines, the military, and businesses. Engineers confer with clients about their needs, and they collaborate with other engineers on initial design concepts and sketches. Their duties also involve making revisions to factor in feasibility, production time and cost, and constructing prototypes to determine if the proposed design specifications are safe. After planes are built and in operation, aeronautical engineers write technical reports, manuals, and bulletins, as well as review performance reports. They also receive customer feedback and inspect damaged or malfunctioning planes to locate the source of a problem.

How Much Do Aeronautical Engineers Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, aerospace engineers make a median annual salary of $115,200. Payscale.com reports that aeronautical engineers at the beginning of their career make an average of about $69,000, while those who are late in their career make an average of about $123,000.

How to Become an Aerospace Engineer

Step 1: Graduate From High School

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that you'll most likely need a bachelor's degree to qualify for entry-level engineering jobs. Having a high school diploma or equivalent will help qualify you for bachelor's degree programs. Because aeronautical engineering is math-intensive, you might want to take algebra, geometry, trigonometry and calculus while still in high school. Courses in physics, chemistry and computers are relevant as well. Additionally, English, social studies and humanities courses can help prepare you for general education courses in college.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace Engineering

According to O*Net Online, almost 60% of aerospace engineers have a bachelor's degree. You may consider such majors as aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering, since the BLS indicates that engineers may be trained in one branch and work in related ones. Many bachelor's programs in aerospace engineering provide a broad education in the sciences and engineering during the first two years, and they examine specific instruction in aerospace theory and design during the last two years. Course topics may include aerodynamics, advanced materials, control systems, and propulsion systems.

Step 3: Participate in an Internship

You should consider taking part in an internship or co-op program if one is available. They provide you with opportunities to network with professionals and observe aerospace engineering as it's practiced in a real-world setting. Some schools have standing partnerships with aerospace firms or engineering firms to facilitate the process of obtaining an intern position.

Step 4: Get a Job as an Aeronautical Engineer

You can find employment opportunities with manufacturing companies, engineering services firms, and federal agencies. Approximately 67,200 aerospace engineers were employed as of 2018, which was projected to increase by two percent by 2028. Demand for engineers was expected to be driven by a combination of ongoing improvements in design, advances in technology, retirements, and turnover, but many of the manufacturing industries engineers work for are seeing a decline.

Step 5: Obtain a License

If you plan on offering your services to the public, you'll need to become a licensed engineer. Otherwise, you may voluntarily earn a Professional Engineer (PE) license. Requirements vary because they're regulated at the state level, but they roughly follow a 4-step process. It involves completing a bachelor's degree program accredited by the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology, passing the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, accumulating four years of supervised work experience and passing the PE exam.

The FE exam consists of 110 questions. The PE exam tests engineers on their knowledge of specific engineering disciplines, like civil, agricultural, or nuclear engineering. Relevant disciplines for you can include mechanical or electrical engineering. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying administer both the FE and PE exams.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A career related to aeronautical engineering is an aerospace engineering technician. This position may require less education and could be appealing for those who are looking to enter the workforce quickly. Architectural and engineering managers are other roles that have some similar job duties and educational requirements as aeronautical engineers, but they do involve more administrative tasks managing staff and overseeing large projects.