Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace engineering deals with the design and construction of spacecraft, aircraft and rockets. Astronautical and aeronautical engineering are two main areas of aerospace engineering. Aeronautical engineering involves aircraft that fly inside the Earth's atmosphere, while astronautical engineering deals with aircraft that operate outside of it. Aerospace engineering studies the properties of aircraft, such as aerodynamics, lift, drag, control surfaces and airfoil.

Aerospace engineering can be very broad. It deals with many elements, such as astrodynamics, fluid and solid mechanics, electrotechnology, propulsion, statics, dynamics, materials science, control engineering, aeroelasticity, avionics, noise control, flight testing, software, risk and reliability. Most of these elements are based on theoretical mathematical and empirical principles and components. Aerospace engineering also involves the various components of an aerospace vehicle and its life cycle, such as design, power, bearings, life support, thermal control, temperature, pressure, velocity and radiation.

Aerospace engineering schools can be found throughout the country. There are aerospace engineering degrees available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctorate levels. A bachelor's degree is the minimum degree requirement in order to become an aerospace engineer. However, many employers prefer candidates with a master's degree, so it may be worthwhile to spend an extra year or so in school to obtain this degree. Plus, those with a master's degree tend to earn an average of $10,000 more per year. Tuition can range anywhere from about $9,000 to more than $40,000 per year. Besides cost, you will want to consider many other factors when deciding on the right school for you, such as degrees offered, courses available, class sizes, job placement programs, faculty, extracurricular activities and location. Some aerospace engineering schools may even offer online degree programs, allowing you to study from home on your own time. Although you will have to work hard to stay motivated and complete assignments on time, this option offers a significant degree of flexibility and is ideal for those who work full-time or have other responsibilities.

A bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering may take nearly five years to complete because of the wide range of classes needed to satisfy degree requirements. Besides core classes in math, physics and chemistry, students can expect to take classes in aerodynamics, flight, stability control, electrical systems, power generation, aircraft sensors and wing structure. Later on in their academic career, students are often required to take labs and design courses that focus on testing flight and propulsion principles, flight simulations, wing design and repairing issues with aircraft. Those interested in becoming an aerospace engineer may prefer to obtain a general engineering degree with a focus on aerospace courses.

There are more than 78,000 aerospace engineers in the United States. Of these, most work in the aerospace products and engineering fields. However, the highest aerospace engineering salaries can be found in the manufacturing industry, with an average wage of more than $118,000 annually. Those in non-scheduled air transportation also make a high wage, averaging more than $114,000 annually. Overall salaries range from nearly $61,000 to more than $143,000. Most aerospace engineers (more than 19,000) work in California, with Texas employing nearly 9,000. Maryland and Virginia offer the highest aerospace engineering salaries, at more than $116,000. Those in Bethesda, Maryland earn the highest salaries overall, at more than $160,000.

Aerospace engineering is expected to play an important role in the future. Aerospace engineers will face difficult challenges in many areas such as global communication, national security and the economy. They will be called upon to design better aircraft, work on missiles and other government projects, and assist with space enterprises that conduct research in outer space.

Aerospace engineering is expected to increase by 10 percent by 2018, which is considered favorable. With technology ever-changing, there will be great demand for those with knowledge of the latest technologies, as well as those highly-skilled in design. Although the industry is starting to become more competitive due to more students graduating with aerospace engineering degrees, these graduates will be needed to replace those who retire or leave the field.

Aerospace Engineer Salary

Last Updated: 06/08/2014

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