How to Become an Aerospace Engineer
Aerospace engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in mathematics for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.
Aerospace engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field to enter the occupation. Aerospace engineers who work on projects that are related to national defense may need a security clearance. Some types and levels of clearance require U.S. citizenship.
Aerospace engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field. High school students interested in studying aerospace engineering should take classes in chemistry, physics, and math.
Bachelor’s degree programs in engineering usually include classroom, laboratory, and field courses in subjects such as stability and control, structures, and mechanics.
College students may have an opportunity to participate in cooperative education programs or internships. Through partnership with local businesses, these programs allow students to gain practical experience while they complete their education.
Some colleges and universities offer a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. A graduate degree may allow an engineer to work as an instructor at a university or to do research and development.
Employers may prefer to hire graduates of aerospace engineering programs accredited by a professional association such as ABET. A degree from an accredited program is usually required to become licensed.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
Licensure is not required for entry-level aerospace engineer positions. Experienced engineers may obtain a Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows them to oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public.
State licensure generally requires a bachelor’s or higher degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, several years of relevant work experience, and a passing score on the PE exam.
Each state issues its own license. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require continuing education for engineers to keep their licenses.
Aerospace engineers who gain experience or who have additional education or credentials may advance into technical or supervisory positions. Those with leadership skills also may become engineering managers or project management specialists.
Analytical skills. Aerospace engineers must be able to evaluate project design elements and propose improvements, if necessary.
Business skills. Meeting federal standards in aerospace engineering requires business knowledge, including commercial law. Project management or systems engineering skills also may be useful.
Communication skills. Aerospace engineers must be able to explain, both orally and in writing, the details of their designs. They may need to convey information to a variety of audiences, including nontechnical ones.
Interpersonal skills. Aerospace engineers often work on teams and must be able to interact with other types of engineers and with nontechnical team members.
Math skills. Aerospace engineers use calculus, trigonometry, and other math in their analysis, design, and troubleshooting work.
Problem-solving skills. Aerospace engineers upgrade designs and troubleshoot problems to improve aircraft, such as for increased fuel efficiency or safety.