How Do I Become an Aerospace Engineer?

If you are interested in air and space travel, excel at mathematics and have the analytical skills to devise designs and resolve problems, you might be wondering how to become an aerospace engineer. In air and space travel, devices such as airplanes, spacecraft, and satellites face numerous challenges. To meet these demands, aircraft must be carefully designed and tested. Aerospace engineers are the professionals responsible for developing the vehicles and parts used in air and space transportation and for testing their designs to ensure the vehicle’s reliability and safety.

Aerospace engineers typically focus on either astronautical engineering, which refers to the creation of spacecraft and other devices used in space, or aeronautical engineering, work creating airplanes and related vehicles and system used for travel within the earth’s atmosphere. In either case, the safety of the craft is exceptionally important. Spacecraft that malfunctions can put entire crews of astronauts in danger. Aircraft must be made safe to prevent the kind of plane crashes that can kill numerous passengers and crew members. Despite their common goals of making the piece of air or spacecraft they are working on as safe and effective as possible, these two different types of engineers use different theories and technologies of physics to determine how the craft will function in the necessary environment, either within or outside the atmosphere.

An aerospace engineer plans and tests the designs for a craft. It’s an aerospace engineer’s responsibility to instruct manufacturers on how parts are to be made or assembled. Once prototypes exist, the aerospace engineer evaluates the functioning of the prototype. An aerospace engineer must be able to accurately conclude whether or not a design will be safe, whether it will function technically as intended and whether it can realistically be produced for a reasonable cost. If problems exist within a design as evidenced by failure or malfunction, an aerospace engineer will examine the parts and figure out how the problem originated and how to alter the design to prevent or resolve the problem in the future.

To prepare for a career in aerospace engineering, candidates should first attend an accredited university and earn a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field that exposes them to aerodynamics, physics, mathematics, mechanics, propulsion and engineering concepts. Often, these courses include hands-on experience in the form of laboratory projects, field work or internships. Because aerospace engineers use computer software for much of their design and testing, candidates must develop technical proficiency with computers. While candidates may secure entry-level positions without attaining licensure, advancement typically requires aerospace engineers to earn and maintain a license as a professional engineer.

Aerospace engineers earn a median annual salary of $97,480, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, but six-figure salaries aren’t uncommon depending on employer and experience. If you have excellent mathematical and analytical skills, knowing how to become an aerospace engineer could be the start of an exciting, profitable new career path.

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