How to Become an Aerospace Engineer

Aerospace engineers develop and build missiles, aircraft and spacecraft. There are two types of aerospace engineers: an aeronautical engineer and an astronautical engineer. An aeronautical engineer works on aircraft, while an astronautical engineer works on spacecraft. Aeronautical engineers can find work with companies that design and build aircraft or defense systems. Astronautical engineers often find work with space agencies.

Education and Licensing

All professional engineers must complete a four year undergraduate degree in engineering. Once the degree is completed, you can become an engineer in training. As an engineer in training, you will be required to work under the supervision of a professional engineer for 4 years. You are then eligible to submit your qualifications to your state licensing board.

At that time, you will be required to  pass the required examinations for engineering licensure in that state. All states in the US require that professional engineers are licensed, though the rules and examinations can differ between states.

According to College Navigator, there are just over seventy schools in the United States that offer degrees in aerospace engineering. If you want to gain experience while in college, you should consider a program that also offers a co-op option, a combination of terms in school and terms spent in the workplace.

Tips and Advice

If you are currently in high school, you should take courses in physics and mathematics, as well as complete the required courses to gain admission to the college of your choice. Pursuing these subjects to the highest levels that are available to you will help you when you apply to college. It is also essential that you do well in these classes, not only for college admissions, but so you understand the subject matter in your college level classes. Many engineering employers make choices about candidates to interview based on the applicant's GPA.

You should also pursue opportunities to attend engineering events, such as summer camps and engineering and science fairs. Usually sponsored by engineering companies and/ or hosted by a college with an engineering program, these camps are good opportunities to learn about research, plan experiments and meet other students that you might end up attending college with. You can find a listing of pre-engineering science camps by state, on the Engineering Education Service Center website. Science and engineering fairs are also often sponsored by industry leaders in the state and the judges are usually local scientists, engineers and professors, making these events great opportunities to get noticed. Your high school is probably involved in the local engineering and science fair, so ask your science teachers for assistance to get involved in upcoming science fairs.

While in college, do your best to keep your GPA up and look for meaningful, engineering related summer jobs. Many of these jobs are available even in the summer after your first year. In fact, many of the summer camps for science and engineering will hire college students to work as camp counselors and instructors.

Internships and co-op placements are also good options for student engineers. A co-op degree program will help you get career experience while in school, and internships, whether paid or unpaid, allow you to learn about the work environment in different companies. It is also not uncommon for former interns and co-op placements to get their first job out of college with a company that hosted them as a student.