What Does an Aerospace Engineer Do? - Job Description, Requirements & Job Outlook

Thinking about launching a career as an aerospace engineer? Get the facts about what education is required, what the job entails and whether it's a growing field to decide if it's the right job for you. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Aerospace engineers are responsible for designing, developing and testing things like satellites, missiles, spacecraft, and aircraft - and all the systems that keep them running smoothly. The work they do is on the bleeding edge of technology, and the systems they develop are often integrated into applications across society. To become an aerospace engineer, you need at least a bachelor's degree in engineering. See the table below for a quick profile of the profession.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Aerospace engineering, engineering
Key Skills Math, problem-solving, analytical skills
Licensure Professional Engineering (PE) license not required for all positions
Job Growth (2016-2026) 6%*
Median Salary (2017) $113,030*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Do Aerospace Engineers Do?

There are two branching fields under the 'aerospace engineer' moniker -- aeronautical engineers and astronautical engineers. Aeronautical engineers work with aerodynamics within the Earth's atmosphere, studying and designing cutting-edge aircraft and propulsion systems. Astronautical engineers do this to a degree as well, but they also study aerodynamics outside the Earth's atmosphere, often for the space program or companies that launch satellites.

Both specializations work in a similar manner. For instance, with a new aircraft design, aerospace engineers will start with a theory, test that theory with a prototype and finally, oversee its production. If anything goes wrong, they will be tasked with diagnosing the problem and coming up with solutions to fix it.

How Do You Become an Aerospace Engineer?

All aerospace engineering jobs require you to have at least a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering - or a related engineering discipline. Common coursework includes aerodynamics, advanced mathematics, mechanics, physics, chemistry, engineering principles and more. Some universities offer a program that lets engineering students earn both a bachelor's and a master's degree in only five years. When looking for a program, you'll want to consider ones that are accredited by the ABET (the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology).

How Much Do Aerospace Engineers Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the median salary for aerospace engineers was $130,030 in May 2017. The top 10% brought home $162,110 or more, while the bottom 10% made $70,840 or less. Some of the highest paying industries at that time were: wholesale electronic markets agents and brokers, scientific research and development, the federal government and consulting services.

Where Do Aerospace Engineers Work?

In 2016 -- the last year for which the BLS has data -- there were 69,600 jobs in aerospace engineering. The aerospace parts and products manufacturing industry was the biggest employer, with 38% of the workforce. Engineering services employed 15%, with another 14% employed by the federal government.

What's the Expected Job Growth for Aerospace Engineering?

Defense projects, commercial aircraft and the burgeoning space tourism field will all play a role in the growth of the aerospace engineering. The BLS predicts a growth of 6% from 2016 to 2026, which is on par with the average growth for all other professions in the country.

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