How to become an Aerospace Engineer

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Aerospace engineers design, create, and test aircrafts for the military, commercial airlines, and businesses. They consult with clients about their requirements, and collaborate with other engineers for the conceptualization and initial design. Once the planes are built and running, aerospace engineers will be tasked to write technical reports, bulletins and manuals, as well as check performance reports. They also accommodate customer feedback, and inspect malfunctioning or damaged planes.

Quick Career Information

You will need the following credentials in order to become an aerospace engineer:
Bachelor’s degree
• License
• Analytical, writing, math, and critical thinking skills

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed a seven percent job growth for aerospace engineers, from 2012 to 2020, with a median salary of $105,380 in 2014.

What They Do

Aerospace engineers normally coordinate the design, development, and testing of the plane and other aerospace products. They also review the project proposals to see if they are financially and technically feasible, and whether they will result in safe aircraft and parts. Aerospace engineers also evaluate designs to ensure that the products will meet the engineering principles, environmental challenges, quality standards, and customer requirements.

In addition, these people develop the acceptance criteria for quality standards, design methods, completion dates, and post-delivery sustainment. They are also in charge in the inspection of damaged or malfunctioning aerospace products and identify the causes and potential solutions. Aerospace engineers may develop new technologies for the benefit of defense systems, aviation, and spacecraft.

They often specialize in structural design; aerodynamic fluid flow; navigation, guidance, and control; robotics; communication and instrumentation; and combustion and propulsion. These engineers usually become experts in one or more related fields, such as celestial mechanics, aerodynamics, flight mechanics, and thermodynamics, among others.

They also typically specialize in either astronautical or aeronautical engineering. Aeronautical engineers design aircraft and propulsion systems, as well as study the aerodynamic performance of construction materials and aircrafts. Astronautical engineers, meanwhile, work with spacecrafts and study how they perform in and out of the Earth’s atmosphere. These two types of engineers face various operational and environmental issues involved in spacecraft and aircraft design, but both depend on the basic physics principles.

Steps to Become an Aerospace Engineer

It pays to read scientific journals and online resources, and speak with knowledgable people to know more about what aerospace engineers do. It is essential to know what it takes to become one. Below are the steps that you need to take in order to achieve success in this field:

Step 1: Develop Your Physics, Math, Drafting, and Analytical Skills in High School

Aerospace Engineering requires advanced knowledge in physics, math, and numerical methods; and exceptional spatial abilities. High school is the best time to develop these skills. This is because aerospace engineers will work on hydrodynamics, gravitation, thermodynamics, aerodynamics, material strength, material science, and the like.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that you will need a bachelor’s degree in order obtain entry-level engineering jobs. This means you will also need to earn a high school diploma or equivalent for you to qualify for bachelor’s degree programs. The mathematics involved in aeronautical engineering is so intensive that you might want to master algebra, trigonometry, geometry, and calculus in high school. Other relevant courses include chemistry, physics, and information technology. Additionally, focusing on social studies, English, and humanities can help you prepare for the general education subjects in college.

You also need to improve your analytical mindset. Aerospace engineering will require you to solve complex problems using intuitive or concrete methods. You can improve your analytical skills by playing mental games like chess, crosswords, and other strategy games.

Step 2: Get a Bachelor’s Degree

Majority of aerospace engineers have a bachelor’s degree. The BLS stated that engineers may receive training in related fields, meaning you have the opportunity to consider majors like mechanical and aerospace engineering. Many related bachelor’s degree programs provide a board education in engineering and sciences during the first two years. The last two years will be used for them to examine specific topics in aerospace design and theory. Course topics may include advanced materials, aerodynamics, propulsion systems, and control systems.

Some universities allow students to enroll in a five-year program that grants them both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree. An engineer with a graduate degree can work as a university instructor or conduct research and development. Aerospace engineering programs are accredited by ABET.

Step 3: Participate in a Co-Op or Internship Program

You should consider participating in a co-op or internship program. It serves as your gateway to meeting professionals and observing aerospace engineering in the real-world setting. Some universities have partnerships with engineering firms or aerospace firms to help students obtain an intern position. Participating in such program can give you an edge as companies do recognize this experience. You will also gain the opportunity to have professional references and start your networking early.

Step 4: Find Employment as an Aerospace Engineer

You can seek employment from engineering services firms, manufacturing companies, and federal agencies. There are around 83,000 aerospace engineers who are employed, as of 2012. This number is expected to rise by about seven percent by 2022. The demand for engineers was seen to be drived by ongoing design improvements, technological advances, turnover, and retirements. It means opportunities for aerospace engineers will continue to flourish in the coming years.

Step 5: Obtain a License

Aerospace engineers who would like to serve the public will have to obtain a license. Otherwise, they may opt to earn a Professional Engineer license. The requirements will vary by state, but a four-step process is usually being followed. The process involves the completion of a bachelor’s degree program that is accredited by the ABET, passing the Fundamentals of Engineering test, having four years of work experience, and completing the PE exam.

The Fundamentals of Engineering test contains 180 questions in multiple-choice format. The PE test, on the other hand, helps determine whether engineers have gained ample knowledge in certain engineering disciplines. You can also include relevant studies like electrical or mechanical engineering. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying oversees the PE and FE tests.

Work Environment

Aerospace engineers normally work full-time. They often spend extra hours to monitor their projects and ensure that the design meets the client’s requirements. They also work to measure aircraft performance, make sure that the production is sound, and ensure that the deadlines are met.

Aerospace engineers work in industries that focus on the design and creation of missiles, aircrafts, national defense systems, or spacecrafts. They serve firms that engage in analysis and design, manufacturing, research and development, and government agencies. In addition, these engineers now spend most of their time in the office. This is because modern aircraft design involves the use of software design tools, computer equipment, modeling, evaluation, simulations, and training.

They also collaborate with other professionals in the creation and design of spacecrafts, aircrafts, and their components. This is why communication, division of tasks, and teamwork are crucial.

Wanted: Aerospace Engineer

Engineers move to make things work. They have greatly contributed to world’s progress, like the creation of high speed cars, skyscrapers, space vehicles, and jets. The demand for aerospace engineers, technicians, scientists, and technologists will continue to soar and prepare people for the 21st century.

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