Aerospace Engineer Career Profile

An aerospace engineer may work in the armed forces, airline or space industries. This line of work is known as the other side of "rocket science, making the science work.”  Engineers are involved at all levels of these industries, working with design, hardware and software.

The work environment

The heart of aerospace work is design. Aerospace engineers work with the most demanding, sometimes revolutionary designs. Their design work includes:

  • Airframes
  • Power systems
  • Loads and stresses
  • CAD-based systems and craft architecture design
  • Thermodynamics
  • Aerodynamics
  • Celestial (space) propulsion dynamics
  • Acoustics
  • Guidance systems
  • Control systems
  • Testing of all components of designs
  • Research and development

The products they build are designed and built from the ground up by aerospace engineers. Although some standard design factors are involved in most products, each concept is unique, and each subject is constrained to strict requirements for standards of performance and safety. In many cases, competitive design factors are also involved, like the Boeing/Airbus competitive designs for airliners.

This is a very demanding workplace. Aerospace engineers work in a big budget commercial environment. The nature of their work means that their work is under close scrutiny. Technology has also added several factors to aerospace design and construction, with high precision equipment both raising the standards and increasing the technical demands of the work.

Wages for engineers are between $60,000 to $90,000. The hours for the job are as required and can be long for special projects.

The career environment

The top paying aerospace engineering jobs are consultancies, possibly including participation in patents, or other royalty schemes. The career path for aerospace engineers is almost unlimited. Like other designers, aerospace engineers have progressive career paths based on achievements. Many specialize in particular areas of aerospace, and they can create "portfolios" of their work.

Experience is extremely important in advanced aerospace designs. The huge budgets and heavy commercial emphases in the industry also demand top level skills. Quality is a major factor in aerospace, and professional credentials are major assets. They're also important because this is a very competitive profession.

To give an overview of the aerospace industry in the US: There are nearly 100,000 professional aerospace engineers in America. However, the number of big budget programs is comparatively few. These are the programs which give the major professional credentials, and when new programs start, competition can be intense for any available positions.

Familiarity with the culture and working with military and government officers are part of the upper strata of aerospace design. The top level aerospace designers are people who can work in this environment.