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Aerospace design engineers specialize in designing space vehicles, military and commercial aircraft and related components. To become an aerospace design engineer typically requires at least a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or a related engineering discipline. While studying to become an aerospace design engineer, you'll typically take courses in areas such as aerodynamics, structures, stability and control, propulsion and performance. To successfully learn these technical areas requires a solid grounding in mathematics and sciences. Taking advanced or college-level math and science courses while still in high school will help position you for acceptance into an aerospace engineering program.
In many engineering programs, the first term starts with calculus, so acceptance into a program typically requires completion, with good grades, of algebra, geometry and trigonometry in high school. Entry also often requires the completion of courses such as physics, chemistry and biology during high school. Strong grades in English, history and social studies also are important for admission.
When selecting a college program to become an aerospace design engineer, it can be important to consider whether you want to design spacecraft or aircraft. Some programs focus more on aeronautical engineering, or the development of aircraft, and others focus more on astronautical engineering, the development of spacecraft. Other aerospace engineering programs will specialize in the study of both. It can be important to ask about internships to ensure that the degree program offers them. Pursuing an internship with a government agency or aerospace contractor during college will help you to become a design engineer by providing experience and possibly job connections.
It also is a good idea to join professional organizations for engineering and aerospace. Many professional organizations provide student chapters that can provide insight into the field, research assistance, educational opportunities and mentoring or networking opportunities. Some even provide scholarship opportunities. Chapters of such organizations often can be found at colleges and universities offering aerospace engineering programs. If you live in the United States, a couple of examples of engineering organizations that you might join to further your goal to become an aerospace design engineer include the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the American Society of Mechanical Engineering.
Design engineers use a variety of software and computer applications to design aircraft and space hardware, so a strong aptitude for computers is important. Good conceptual and three-dimensional visualization ability is helpful when becoming a design engineer. Strong creative, analytical and problem-solving ability also will help you in a career as a design engineer. Written and oral communication skills will help you produce technical design documents, work in team settings and more.
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