Aerospace engineering, a discipline that combines ingenuity and the quest for exploration, is the perfect career for aspiring innovators who dream of soaring through the skies or even venturing into the cosmos. Here’s your guide on how to become an aerospace engineer and some notable schools to get you started on your journey.
Step 1: Ignition – Lay a Strong Foundation
Your journey begins in high school. Focus on excelling in mathematics and sciences, particularly physics. Additionally, engage in extracurricular activities such as robotics, model rocketry, or aviation clubs to foster your passion.
Step 2: Lift-off – Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree
Enroll in a Bachelor’s program in Aerospace Engineering or a related field like Mechanical Engineering. Look for programs accredited by ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) in the United States. Core subjects usually include fluid dynamics, materials science, structural analysis, propulsion, and aerodynamics.
• Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): World-renowned for its engineering programs.
• California Institute of Technology (Caltech): Offers an excellent Aerospace program with close ties to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
• Stanford University: Known for cutting-edge research in aeronautics and astronautics.
Step 3: Gaining Altitude – Internships and Projects
Practical experience is invaluable. Secure internships and engage in engineering projects, either through school or extracurricular activities. Participate in competitions and join organizations such as AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics).
Step 4: Orbit – Specialize with a Master’s Degree (Optional)
Though not mandatory, a Master’s degree allows you to specialize in areas such as aerodynamics, propulsion, or space systems.
Notable Schools for Master’s:
• University of Michigan – Ann Arbor: Offers a highly-ranked Aerospace Engineering Master’s program.
• Georgia Institute of Technology: Renowned for research and collaboration with the aerospace industry.
Step 5: Re-Entry – Enter the Workforce
Begin your career as an aerospace engineer in various sectors including government agencies like NASA, private corporations like SpaceX, or in academia.
Step 6: Continuing Trajectory – Professional Development
Stay current with advancements in aerospace technology. Pursue professional engineering (PE) licensure if desired, and consider engaging in doctoral research for specialized roles.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for aerospace engineers is projected to grow 3% from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The median annual wage for aerospace engineers was $116,500 in May 2019.
Reaching Your Full Potential
Becoming an aerospace engineer is a challenging but immensely rewarding journey. With passion, dedication, and the right education, the sky is not the limit; it’s just the beginning.