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Overview

Aerospace engineers (called aeronautical engineers when referring to aircraft engineering and astronautical engineers when referring to spacecraft engineering) are responsible for some of the most incredible technologies of our age, from 747s to scramjets to GPS and smart missile technology. Aerospace engineers work with aircraft and astronautic engineers work with spacecraft. Whether working for businesses, academia or the government, aerospace engineers apply their knowledge of physics, engineering, computer science, and various other disciplines to create new and improve upon existing technologies.

Most master’s programs help prepare students for careers by providing a broad basis which will allow them to research in more than one area, while providing opportunities to focus through thesis work, additional one-year engineer programs, and Ph.D. programs. Areas of focus may include dynamics and control, flight mechanics, structural mechanics, fluid dynamics, propulsion, and power.

Degree Information

Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics (M.S.A.A.E.) degree programs are typically two-year programs offering thesis or non-thesis courses of study. Those who complete a thesis project take an oral exam and those who don’t take a written exam and sometimes an oral exam as well. Many programs are designed to lead to Ph.D. programs, but others may be terminal or connected to a program, for an additional year of study allowing the student to focus his or her research, that confers the title of Engineer.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Does the school have connections to a place where I’d like to work?
  • What are the faculty members researching?
  • How much control over my courses do I have?
  • What are the research facilities offered?

Career Overview

Most aerospace engineers work for the government, businesses, or academic institutions, developing new aircraft and other space and air-related technologies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports mixed news for employment opportunities. While the need for aeronautic and astronautic engineers will continue to decrease due to a decrease in air travel and increase in international competition, enrollment in graduate programs has also decreased. So while opportunities are more limited, the competition for jobs has thinned. In fact, this might lead to a situation in which, due to a wave of retirement, there won’t be enough graduates to fill all the needed positions.

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no licensing requirements for a career in this field.

Salary Information

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average earnings of aerospace engineers in 2002 were $72,750. Those working for the Federal Government averaged the most ($81,830), followed by those employed by architectural, engineering, and related services ($74,890) and aerospace product and parts manufacturing ($70,920). A 2003 salary survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, starting salaries for master’s degree candidates were $61,162; for Ph.D. candidates, $68,406.

Related Links

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
The site includes recent news and accomplishments about NASA.

Aerospace Industries Association
Represents major manufacturers of commercial, military and business aircraft, helicopters, aircraft engines, missiles, spacecraft, materials, and related components and equipment. Lots of research, outreach, and legislation-related information.

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.

National Aeronautic Association