Careers in Aerospace and Defense

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in aerospace and defense industries. Read on to learn more about career options along with the training requirements, job outlooks and salaries for careers in these fields. Schools offering Aviation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Professionals in Aerospace and Defense Do?

Those with an interest in defensive aerospace technology may start a career in the aerospace engineering industry, manufacturing industry or military. In these industries you will find a need for aerospace engineers, aircraft service technicians and aircraft structure assemblers.

Aerospace engineers are most often in charge of designing aircraft and aircraft components. They review designs and assess whether or not they meet engineering principles, customer requirements, environmental regulations and safety regulations. They are the ones who determine quality standards and ensure designs meet those standards. In the event of an aircraft malfunction, they are brought in to assess the situation, determine what caused the malfunction and develop solutions.

Aircraft technicians diagnose problems with aircraft and repair them. This includes working on electrical systems, mechanical components and wings. They often inspect parts for defects and replace any defective parts they find to prevent future problems. This involves the use of diagnostic tests and equipment. These technicians must use maintenance manuals and keep records of the maintenance and repairs they complete.

Aircraft structure assemblers use blueprints, schematics, hand tools and specialized machinery to assemble aircraft components. These components may include wings, fuselage, landing gears, control equipment and heating and ventilating systems. They may also perform quality control checks.

Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Aerospace EngineerAircraft Service Technicians Aircraft Structure Assemblers
Education RequiredBachelor's degree High school diploma or equivalent with on the job training and/or completion of an FAA-approved program Technical school program
Training RequiredCooperative programs and internships On-the-job training to learn the skills necessary to pass the FAA exam Employer-sponsored training
Education Field of StudyEngineering program accredited by ABET N/A N/A
Key SkillsAnalytical skills, business skills, critical thinking skills, math skills, writing skills Agility, detail oriented, dexterity, observational skills, troubleshooting skills Dexterity, math skills, color vision (for avionics and electronics assemblers)
LicensureOptional for engineers who assume more responsibility Certification by the FAA Soldering certification may be required for electrical and avionics assemblers
Projected Job Outlook (2014-2024) -2%* 1%* -5%*
Median Salary (2015) $107,830* $58,370* $48,970*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are Common Career Options in Aerospace and Defense?

You might seek employment as an aerospace engineer in the aviation, space or military industries. Aerospace engineers design airplanes, spacecraft and missile defense systems. You might develop schematics for space shuttles and rockets, or you could design component parts, like fuselages, frames and guidance systems. Engineers often specialize in a particular sub-field, including propulsion, celestial mechanics, thermodynamics or control systems. Specific job duties could include the following:

  • Compiling and presenting data
  • Testing the integrity of aerospace devices
  • Constructing prototypes
  • Presenting statistical information to executive staff

Additional career opportunities in this field might be available in quality assurance, logistics, sales, program management or human resources. You could also work in the aerospace manufacturing sector as a service technician, assembler or computer-controlled machine operator.

What Kind of Training Do I Need?

Aspiring engineers usually need at least a bachelor's degree in engineering to be considered for employment. In an aerospace engineering bachelor's program, you might explore topics like fluid dynamics, jet propulsion and guidance systems design. Additional coursework may include:

  • Graphics and visualization for engineering
  • System dynamics
  • Deformable bodies
  • Thermodynamics
  • Aerodynamic structures

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most engineering managers have a bachelor's degree in engineering as well as a master's degree in business administration or engineering management. If you're interested in aerospace production or manufacturing work, you'll need at least a high school diploma. However, employers may prefer job applicants who have some postsecondary training in the field. You might pursue a certificate or associate's degree in aerospace manufacturing or aerospace technology.

What Can I Expect From the Job Market?

The number of employed aerospace engineers was expected to decline by two percent between 2014 and 2024, as reported by the BLS. In 2015, aerospace engineers earned a median annual salary of $107,830, which works out to an hourly wage of $51.84, according to the BLS. As of May 2015, aerospace structure assemblers earned a median hourly wage of $23.55. Aircraft service technicians made a mean hourly wage of $28.06, according to May 2015 BLS data.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

You might consider engineering technology or assembly positions in similar fields. Electrical and electronics engineering technicians aid in the development of electrical equipment, including computers, communications equipment and navigational equipment. Most of these professionals have an associate's degree in electrical or electronics engineering technology. Assemblers and fabricators may be found in a number of industries including electronic equipment production, engine and machine assembly and structural metal fabrication. In all these fields, they complete many of the same task as aircraft structure assemblers using schematics, hand tools and machinery. These professionals may get started with a high school diploma and some on-the-job training.

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:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools