What Are Some Popular Aerospace Careers?

Individuals who want to work in the aerospace industry can choose from several different careers. Continue reading for the job descriptions and requirements for entering these careers. Schools offering Aviation Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Aerospace Careers

Aerospace is an industry involving internal and external travel around the earth's atmosphere. Many individuals in this field work as aircraft mechanics, aerospace engineers and astronauts. These roles have various responsibilities and career requirements.

Important Facts About Aerospace Careers

Aerospace Engineers Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics/Technicians
Median Salary (2014) $105,380 $56,980
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 2% decline 1% growth
Key Skills Critical-thinking, problem-solving, analytical, and math skills Observational, troubleshooting, and detail oriented skills
Similar Occupations Computer Hardware Engineer, Materials Engineer, Industrial Engineer Automotive Body and Glass Repairer, Mechanical Engineering Technician, Electronics Engineering Technician

Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Aircraft Mechanics

Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians inspect aircraft and repair or replace components and equipment. They also keep maintenance records on the aircraft and repair any problems that pilots describe. Aircraft mechanics can specialize in a type of aircraft like helicopters, jets or spacecraft. These aerospace specialists can also focus on a certain component of aircraft like the engine, electrical system or hydraulics.

Aircraft mechanics obtain training through programs run by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Training covers subjects in electronics, mechanical drawing, chemical engineering and computer science. Programs may award a diploma, associate's degree or bachelor's degree, though graduates with a bachelor's degree may increasingly have an edge in the job market. Additionally, all aircraft mechanics must be certified through the FAA, and the Airframe and Powerplant certification is often favored by employers.

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers design and develop aircraft and spacecraft. There are two types of aerospace engineers: aeronautical and astronautical. Aeronautical engineers work with aircraft that fly within the Earth's atmosphere, while astronautical engineers work with spacecraft that fly outside the Earth's atmosphere. Aerospace engineers develop propulsion, structure and control system components for aircraft and spacecraft as well as working with vehicle aerodynamics and acoustics. They can specialize in aircraft such as rockets, military fighter jets, spacecraft, commercial aircraft and missiles.

A bachelor's degree accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology is required to become an aerospace engineer, though you can also earn a master's degree. Degree programs specifically in aerospace engineering are available, though related engineering programs may also be acceptable. Students study mechanics, stability, propulsion, aerodynamics, spacecraft structures and aircraft dynamics, and they often get practical experience through co-ops or internships. Aerospace engineers with qualifying work experience who would like to move into positions with high responsibility must earn Professional Engineer licensure, requiring passage of a couple examinations.

Astronauts

While a small number of civilian astronauts work as test pilots in the growing private aerospace flight industry, most astronauts in the United States work for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Each NASA space flight requires pilot astronauts and mission specialist astronauts, according to NASA. Pilot astronauts are in charge of the space flight and everyone on board, while mission specialists maintain the spacecraft and its equipment. A third type of astronaut, payload specialists, provide specialized expertise for a component on a particular mission and are generally not professional astronauts.

To become an astronaut for NASA, you must apply to the Astronaut Candidate Program. To be eligible, you must be a United States citizen, have a bachelor's degree in engineering, math, physical science or biological science, have at least three years or 1,000 hours of experience as a command pilot in jet aircraft and be able to pass a physical exam with vision, blood pressure and height requirements. Individuals who are accepted complete about two years of basic training, which includes International Space Station systems, robotics, Russian language and military water survival. They also become familiar with high and low atmospheric pressures and weightlessness.

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