What Do Aerospace Engineers Do?
Private and public institutions depend on the technical knowledge and experience of aerospace engineers to design, produce and test aircraft, satellites and missiles for commercial and military use. These engineers also design parts or subassemblies related to these larger vehicles, such as wings and control systems. Engineers are called on to write specifications related to testing the qualities of aircraft and their components. They are expected to understand aerodynamics, aircraft power plants and spacecraft propulsion.There is expected to be a 7 percent growth annually for this position nationwide. This means about 2,540 openings annually. Job growth areas include computer simulated virtual testing of parts and complete aircraft and spacecraft; private space access companies are also likely to need employees.
Aerospace Engineers Skills and Abilities
To work successfully as an aerospace engineer, you will need to be able to think critically and see all sides of proposed project approaches, solutions and conclusions. A broad understanding of the scientific method is a given. You are expected to be a skilled reader and listener and an apt problem solver. During project lifetimes, you are required to communicate effectively with individuals and large and small groups though speech and the written word. You must be able to analyze on many levels and perform mathematical computations in connection with solving complex problems.
Aerospace Engineers Duties
Many of your duties will concern formulation of mathematical models and concept designs. Planning experimental testing of flight or aerospace systems and approaches to resolving customers’ technical problems may well become your responsibilities. Much of your work will involve computers, information processing, analysis and decision-making. You will also be expected to gather data from existing sources and keep your fingers on the pulse of change. Additional tasks related to the position include:
- Designing electromechanical equipment and emission reduction systems
- Supervising design, development and quality control systems
- Evaluating designs and specifications for environmental or technological impact
- Directing design, development and quality control activities
Aerospace Engineers Tools and Technology
You will be working with computer clusters and various meter types such as laser velocimeters, signal generators and cockpit simulators. Your design and testing responsibilities will require familiarity with many software applications for computer-aided design (CAD), computer-assisted manufacturing (CAM), analysis, development environment, and object or component-oriented development. Less technical but essential to a successful career are the ability to use word processing, database query systems and graphics and photo imaging software.
Education and Training for Aerospace Engineers
This career is fairly demanding in terms of formal education: Nearly half the practicing engineers hold a Bachelor’s degree, though about 15 percent are less educated. Speaking generally, neither on-the-job training nor work experience are required to join the profession. If you would like to enter the field, your undergraduate work should be done in the appropriate technical areas like aerospace mechanics, aerothermodynamics and aerospace computation.
Aerospace Engineers Salary
Despite the awe in which some engineers are held—“rocket scientist!”—the pay scale is generous but not excessive. The median annual wage was $103,720 in 2012, while the lowest 10 percent earned less than $65,000. The top 10 percent pulled in nearly $150,000. The biggest factor affecting pay is the employing firm, followed by career length and location. Salaries are augmented by full medical and dental insurance. Experienced engineers holding advanced degrees have excellent chances of rising to executive ranks where even higher salaries are commonplace.
Aerospace Engineers Jobs by Geography
Because much of the aerospace industry is supported by government contracts, job opportunities and higher salaries center on states where manufacturing facilities have long existed, like California and Texas. Recently, however, the emergence of new companies formed to provide access to space outside standard government agencies has opened the employment door in states like Washington, New Mexico and Virginia.