Aerospace engineering is a field of work dedicated to designing and building aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. It is one of the newest fields of engineering, as it only came to be in the early 19th century when scientists first experimented with aircraft like hot-air balloons.
But aerospace engineering should not be confused with aeronautical engineering, which is concerned with creating aircraft for people and cargo that travel within the Earth’s atmosphere. These days, the aerospace industry is primarily concerned with innovating cleaner aircraft and commercially viable spacecraft.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 67,200 jobs available to aerospace engineers in 2018. Until 2028, the job growth projection is at 2%. While this is slower than average, it does not mean there is no bright future for individuals who are looking to become aerospace engineers.
Aerospace engineers are hard at work to innovate, especially with regard to the ongoing trends in the aerospace engineering industry. One of those is the possibility of a zero-fuel aircraft. Aerospace companies would need bright aerospace engineers and other professionals to ensure that it becomes a reality.
The industry is also looking for people who can help create advanced space propulsion technology. NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy have been hard at work to achieve this objective for a few years now.
There are other trends impacting the aerospace engineering industry, such as 3D printing, blockchain technology, and smart automation, enhanced structural health monitoring, and advanced materials.
As has been mentioned above, aerospace engineering is concerned with designing and building aircraft and spacecraft (Stanzione, 2019). The field had its beginnings in 1852 when the first steam-powered airship took to air. However, the first notable milestones in the field was when brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright successfully created an engine that could take off, fly, and land on its own power (Lucas, 2014).
However, apart from dealing with airplanes, rockets, shuttles, and the like, aerospace engineers are also responsible for the development of equipment for weather forecasts, television broadcasts, and mobile phones (UCAS, 2020).
Preparations to become an aerospace engineer start in high school. In the U.S., applicants to aerospace engineering programs are expected to have adequate calculus readiness. This is so, for example, at the University of Texas at Austin Cockrell School of Engineering. Applicants can demonstrate this through a SAT Math score of 620 or over, an Advanced Placement Calculus AB or BC score of three or over, an official transcript from a college or university to prove that they took college-level Calculus I or higher (Office of Admissions, n.d.).
Similarly, the University of Buffalo only admits students that have GPAs that range from 90 to 96, ACT score between 24 and 30, and SAT score anywhere between 1180 and 1350. The State University of New York also encourages applicants to their aerospace engineering program to have competency in English and writing, social studies, college-preparatory science and a second language, and college-preparatory mathematics.
Meanwhile, In the U.K., prospects are expected to have at least three A levels in mathematics or physics. Applicants to the program also need to have five GCSEs A-C in relevant courses like mathematics, science, and English. It is also possible to get into an aerospace engineering program with level 3 vocational qualifications in engineering (UCAS, 2018).
Additionally, it will be a big help to have courses in calculus and chemistry. Computer science and computer-aided design subjects can also be beneficial (BigFuture, n.d.).
Of course, requirements vary from university to university, so interested individuals need to contact the educational institution they want to get into.
And once students are enrolled in an aerospace engineering program, they will spend the first-and-a-half or two years familiarizing themselves with engineering coursework. Usually, these are focused on engineering science and engineering design, as per the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) (DegreeQuery.com, 2020).
Career Igniter (2020) reported that the tuition for aerospace engineering in the U.S. can be as low as $8,000 per year in public institutions and more than $45,000 for private colleges or universities in-state. Out of state, the tuition can go up from about $27,000 in public institutions to over $45,000 for private schools. On average, in-state aerospace engineering programs would cost in-state students $10,500 a year while out-of-state students would have to shell out an average of $36,500 annually.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (2019) estimated the cost of attendance for the 2019-20 academic year at $73,160. The Georgia Institute of Technology (2019) set back in-state students $31,572 while out-of-state students paid $52,684 for the school year 2019-20. Freshmen had a slightly lower cost for their two semesters, at $28,832 and $49,944, respectively.
Generally, home and European Union students have to spend at least £9,250 for tuition annually in the U.K. (University of Liverpool, 2020). In Wales, tuition can cost up to £9,000. Universities in Northern Ireland, meanwhile, can cost up to £4,275 for home students while students coming from other parts of the U.K. look at £9,250 per year. Students in Scotland, regardless of whether they are home or E.U., are expected to pay £9,250 for a year of study (Times Higher Education, 2020).
And for international students who are interested in taking up a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in the U.K., the first year alone can set them back £15,000. The second, third, and fourth years will cost £15,400, £15,800, and £16,200, respectively (Kingston University London, 2020).
In France, one of the founding countries of Airbus, all engineering students pay around €601 for a school year. This low cost of study is due to the fact that the government subsidizes undergraduate education in a public college or university. Non-E.U. students are not counted in the subsidy of France, though, so they have to pay higher tuition. Thus, they have to prepare at least €2,770 for a year of study in the country.
Source: CareerIgniter, 2020
A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering takes four years to complete (BachelorsPortal.com, 2020). However, there are also colleges and universities that offer a five-year program that allows students to complete a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree simultaneously (Environmental Science, 2020).
For those who are interested in taking a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, they have to set aside two years for full-time study (Top Universities, 2019). A postgraduate degree (Ph.D.), on the other hand, takes three to five years to complete. In Georgia Tech’s Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering (2020), a Ph.D. candidate has to finish a total of 42 credit hours.
Aerospace engineering programs, not schools, are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) (n.d.). This means that students, employers, and society can be confident that the program and its graduates meet the high-quality standards set by the accreditation commission.
It should be noted, however, that ABET accreditation is not similar to getting an aerospace engineer license.
In order to acquire a license, graduates of aerospace engineering programs must have at least four years of work experience first. Then they have to pass two examinations. One of those would be the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which they can take immediately after completing their bachelor’s degree (Study.com, 2020; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020).
While licensure is not required for entry-level positions, aerospace engineers are required to have a Professional Engineering (PE) license for higher positions of leadership (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020).
In the U.K. and EASA member states, there is the Part-66 License System. It has three categories: Category A permits holders to conduct limited inspection and maintenance tasks; Category B allows holders to issue Certificates of Release Service after maintenance; and Category C enables the holder to provide certificates after the base maintenance of an aircraft (Careers in Aerospace, 2017). To acquire a license, an interested individual should apply to their country or state’s respective national aviation authority (European Union Aviation Safety Agency, n.d.).
According to U.S. News, these ten higher education institutions have the best accredited aerospace engineering programs:
Meanwhile, Times Higher Education lists the following as the top universities for mechanical and aerospace engineering worldwide:
Once conferred a degree, new aerospace engineers have different career paths they can take. They do not necessarily have to get into the creation of aircraft and spacecraft outright. They can also work on designing parts, processing simulation data, and drafting drawings and specification sheets (Florida Tech Ad Astra, 2016).
CollegeGrad (2020) reported that the entry-level salary for aerospace engineers is $69,041 per year. Meanwhile, an aerospace engineer who has experience can take home $112,143 yearly.
If aerospace engineers want to take home the highest pay possible, they can move to New York. In the state, aerospace engineers have an average hourly wage of $54.23. That translates to an annual salary of $112,792 (ZipRecruiter, 2020).
Source: ZipRecruiter, 2020
Since the beginnings of aerospace engineering, there have been a handful of people who made an indelible mark in the field.
Aerospace engineering, as a field, is advancing at a fast pace. It is even borrowing developments from other industries to augments aerospace and aeronautic technologies. All these ensure that people have safer commercial flights and make private space flights possible. Apart from that, aerospace engineering is also dedicated to the environment. As such, the field is working towards zero-fuel aircraft in the civil and commercial sectors.
Moreover, aerospace engineering is transforming the military. Its dedication to creating safer combat operations has been paving the way to lesser collateral damage.