Major responsibility of aerospace engineers is the designing and development of aircraft, spacecraft and missiles. Besides, these engineers also supervise the entire manufacturing procedure and test the products. They fall into two categories – aeronautical engineers (design and develop aircraft) and astronautical engineers (work with spacecraft). Whether it is an aircraft weighing half a million pounds or a spacecraft traveling at thousands of miles per hour, aerospace engineers work with all these crafts to design, develop and test them. While performing their task, these professionals use a variety of technology including defense system, aviation and space exploration.
Depending on their work experience, engineers may also specialize in a specific area of aerospace engineering. There are different areas including navigation and control, design, guidance, instrumentation, communication, production etc. Apart from these, these professionals may also choose to specialize in a particular product including military fighter jets, missiles, spacecraft, helicopters, commercial transport and rockets among others.
Educational Qualification & Training
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to kick-start a career in the field of aerospace engineering. There are several technical colleges and universities offering degree programs in aerospace engineering, taking 2-4 years for completion. Graduate training is required for those who wish to take up teaching positions or become a part of research and development projects. Besides having a relevant engineering degree, candidates may also need to fulfill some licensing requirements. Engineers who work in the US in the public sector will need to acquire necessary licensure. Licensed engineers obtain the designation of Professional Engineer (PE).
Team playing skills have to play an important role. Therefore, aerospace engineers should be able to work as part of a team. Excellent communication skill (both verbal and written) is also crucial to interact with other specialists in this field. Other essential job skills include creativity, detail orientation, inquisitiveness and analytical skills.
In the year 2002, aerospace engineers took up around 78,000 jobs in the United States. Though the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a decline in the employment growth rate, candidates with advanced educational qualification and relevant working experience will have no dearth of opportunities.
Salaries of aerospace engineers vary depending on the level of education and years of experience. The average annual salary of these professionals is $72,750. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, those possessing a bachelor’s degree earn around $48,028 annually. Engineers with a master’s and a Ph.D. earn an average annual salary of around $61,162 and $68,406 respectively. With growing skill set, experience and specialization, the annual salary of an aerospace engineer can be as high as $105,060.