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To become an aerospace engineer, a combination of education and experience is required. An aerospace engineer is responsible for designing and developing ships for both inside and outside the earth’s atmosphere. Many of the developments and discoveries made by aerospace engineers have improved technology, materials, and motor vehicles.
There are two main branches of aerospace engineering: aeronautical and astronautical. Both fields are focused on flight, mechanics, and materials science. Aeronautical is focused on flight inside the earth’s atmosphere. This includes airplanes, helicopters, gliders, and related devices. Astronautical is focused on flight outside the earth’s atmosphere. Developments here have improved satellites, space stations, and rocket ships.
In order to become an aerospace engineer, a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering in a minimum requirement. This type of degree can be obtained from an accredited university that offers an aerospace program. The choice of school is critical to the opportunities for further study and career options.
When selecting a university, look for one that offers advanced degrees in aerospace engineering. The aerospace program can be operated from either the mechanical or the aerospace departments within the engineering faculty. A school that is able to offer master's and PhD programs has the breadth and depth of staff expertise to provide a well-rounded program. These schools are more likely to have important connections to prototype projects and opportunities to work with industry leaders.
The experience necessary to become an aerospace engineer can be gained from a wide range of positions. The most important skills for this field are attention to detail, mental focus, and teamwork. All these skills can be developed working in manufacturing, retail or on team projects.
All engineering degree programs have opportunities for internships and summer jobs in the industry. The competition for these positions is very high, and course marks are often the deciding factor. Additional experience can be gained by participating in science projects and science related extracurricular activities.
Two main industries employ aerospace engineers: government agencies, and manufacturing. Positions in government space agencies are relatively hard to obtain, due to the high retention rate. These positions offer a great deal of stability and the ability to participate in a prestigious program.
Manufacturing positions include airplane design, power gliders, cars, and even underwater devices. The breadth of material studied in an aerospace program can be applied to a wide range of devices and environments. Take a broad perspective when looking for a position to ensure that you are not missing any potential opportunities.
@allenJo - In terms of educational credentials, I would stress that anyone who wants to get into the industry apply for the best aerospace engineering colleges.
I don’t know what all of them are, but I would safely put MIT and CalTech at the top of the list. I would imagine that they would have very stringent requirements, so you’d probably need to score very well on their entrance exams to qualify. I think the field is very competitive to be sure.
@everetra - If you work in computer software development, you are probably not that far from aerospace engineering – assuming you wanted to pursue the additional education.
Computer software engineers are needed in aerospace engineering jobs, to design embedded systems that control the instrument panels and other important computer components in the aircraft.
I know a guy who works in a company that develops flight simulators for the aviation industry. He uses FORTRAN to do some development for them. I think he has a mix of computer science and engineering in his background.
With these kinds of positions I don’t think that you would necessarily need a PhD or anything like that, just some hands on experience and the required educational credentials.
I remember very well a classroom presentation I gave back when I was in middle school, on the topic, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
I said I wanted to be an aerospace engineer. I showed the class a poster with magazine of clipped photographs of the Space Shuttle, which at the time was just being launched onto the national scene and was generating a buzz of excitement.
I had been fascinated by the science of flight and the technology of craft that could explore the boundaries of space. Well, when I grew up I never actually became an aerospace engineer but I did stay in the technical specialties, software development.
But I’ve always had tremendous respect for the space program and for the engineers who can help develop these marvels of flight and space exploration.
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