Aerospace engineers design, construct and test aircraft, missiles, satellites and spacecraft. They may evaluate materials for future use in aviation, astronautics and defence, as well as create and analyse prototypes. Aerospace engineers also develop testing equipment and protocols for aircraft and spacecraft safety. The complexity of aerospace design requires extensive collaboration; specialisation in structural design, guidance systems, robotics, propulsion and other areas is encouraged.
- Analyse aerospace project proposals to determine cost, feasibility and production time
- Use computer software to design aircraft and spacecraft products
- Assess designs for adherence to engineering principles, environmental codes and customer requests
- Create computer models and mechanical prototypes for operational, environmental and stress testing
- Assure all designs, testing and finished projects meet established quality and safety standards
- Develop guidelines for operation, safety standards, maintenance and testing of aerospace products
- Write technical reports, handbooks and other documentation for use by staff and customers
- Maintain records of all data, testing and performance reports
- Research and test new materials for use in aerospace products
- Design systems and improvements to reduce environmental impact of aircraft
- Troubleshoot malfunctioning or underperforming components and implement repair or redesign solutions
- Coordinate with other engineering, manufacturing and technical staff on projects
- Direct research and development for aviation, defence and spacecraft
Skills and qualities
Gathering work experience and building expertise in one or more specialty areas often leads to higher-level projects and supervisory roles. Licensed aerospace engineers can advance to leadership positions with extensive responsibility, including engineering manager and programme manager.
Continuing education may be required to maintain licensing. Those with advanced degrees typically go into research and development or return to university in a teaching or research role.
Additional career options include private consulting and starting your own R&D firm.
Nights, weekends, holidays occasionally
Aerospace engineers typically work full time in an office or lab environment. Overtime hours may be necessary to complete a project by deadline or to address malfunctions and safety issues.
Jobs for aerospace engineers are available in companies that design and manufacture aircraft, missile and defence systems, satellites, and other spacecraft. You will find design, analysis, and research and development positions in the government as well as the private sector.
Aeronautical and astronautical engineers generally work as part of a team on a single component or process, and may move from project to project as needed. Your job could require travel to manufacturing plants, or relocation to one of the few states where most government defence work is done.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
BA in aerospace engineering or related subject
Aerospace engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree, and advanced positions in areas like research and development go to candidates with a master's. A BA in aerospace engineering is preferred, but related engineering degrees with coursework in aeronautical and astronautical engineering is also an option.
Internships and cooperative programmes between universities and businesses can give you practical job skills in addition to your studies. Log four years of experience and pass two tests from accreditation board ABET, and you'll be a licensed professional engineer. Licensure is not required for many aerospace engineering positions, but it is necessary for leadership roles.
Government work may require security clearance.
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022