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How Do I Get into Aeronautical Engineering?

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  • Written By: Patrick Lynch
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 01 December 2016
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Aeronautical engineering involves creating and designing aircraft. This field is extremely competitive so it’s important to plan many years ahead. This means you must focus on science and mathematics in high school before spending a minimum of four years in college. You cannot become an aeronautical engineer without first being licensed and this requires passing two exams. There may also be an exam which can only be taken after a certain amount of work experience in the field, which varies depending on which country you are studying in.

An aeronautical engineer designs and develops aircraft, including commercial planes, helicopters, military jets, and missiles. Aeronautical engineering is one of two subfields within aerospace engineering. The other is astronomical engineering, which involves spacecraft.

If you are interested in aeronautical engineering, it is best to have had an interest in aviation for a number of years. You will have a head start before college if you study mathematics and science in high school. Recommended courses include algebra, physics, and calculus as well as computer science.

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The next step is to obtain an aerospace engineering degree. Expect to take courses such as advanced mathematics, basic engineering, and aerospace engineering in a bachelor’s degree program. Although a bachelor’s degree is usually enough to begin with, the most successful candidates generally earn a graduate degree or a specialty certificate in a certain area of aerospace engineering. Some of the specialty areas include navigation systems, instrumentation and communication, and aerodynamics. A master’s degree in one of the above topics usually takes an extra two to three years beyond the bachelor's degree.

If you are hoping to get into aeronautical engineering, you will need to earn a license in the region in which you work. Usually, a fundamentals of engineering exam is the first step on the road to being licensed. This examination is normally completed upon graduation. You cannot become successful in the field of aeronautical engineering without this license. This means that you will need work experience as this is a requirement in order to complete the second and final licensing exam.

In the United States, you need at least four years of work experience. This experience can be gained via internship or through working in an entry-level engineering position. There does not appear to be a similar requirement in the United Kingdom, however. Once you pass the final principles of practice of engineering exam, you will be a fully licensed aeronautical engineer.

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anon324999
Post 9

Is this an expensive career because I am not so bright in high school and I really want to know if pursuing this career is still a possibility considering my budget.

anon240544
Post 7

who deals with the engines between an aeronautic engineer and an aircraft engineer?

Amphibious54
Post 6

Does anyone know what the average aeronautical engineer salary is compared to other engineers and scientists? Specifically, what is the salary of an aerospace engineer compared to a petroleum engineer, chemical engineer, or a geophysicist? Additionally, are there any factors that make being an aerospace engineer harder or easier than being a petroleum engineer, chemical engineer, or geophysicist?

aplenty
Post 5

@Pelestears- As far as aeronautical engineering colleges go, Embry-Riddle is one of the best, but they do not offer terminal degrees in the field. I can tell you that MIT and Stanford rank in the top three as well, but they are very selective. More attainable schools that also ranked very high are University of Michigan, University of Illinois, Texas A&M, and Purdue. I am an Illinois Alum, so I am partial to the school. I would recommend looking into their program, especially if you are only an incoming freshman.

If you want to go the military route, the United States Air Force academy may top them all. The school does not offer a doctorate, but I doubt you can beat the undergraduate or master’s education in aeronautical engineering you would find at the Academy.

Alchemy
Post 4

@PelesTears- The one school that comes to mind for Aerospace engineering is Embry-Riddle. The school only offers degrees in the field of aeronautics. I have a buddy that is taking an advanced pilot training program at Embry-Riddle in Prescott Arizona. He has said that US News ranked the school as one of the top three aerospace engineering schools in the country.

I live in Arizona, so we have a couple of schools with really good engineering programs. Do not quote me on this, but I think Arizona State University and University of Arizona have aerospace and aeronautical programs. These schools have some of the top rated engineering schools in the country, So I would assume their aeronautical programs are top notch. Especially considering a number of big aerospace firms have plants and offices in Phoenix.

PelesTears
Post 3

What are some different aeronautical engineering schools? I have loved airplanes as long as I can remember and I would love to learn how to design things that fly. I would assume with all of the instability surrounding the cost and long-term availability of oil, alternatives will need to be discovered to ensure that people can take to the skies with different fuels. I have read about aerospace design competitions that challenge people to come up with an alternative fuel commercial aircraft design, and I would love to do something like that one day.

These are all dreams, but they have to start somewhere. I would appreciate any opinions about the different aerospace engineering schools. I really think this is what I want to do.

submariner
Post 2

@Cougars- I am going to graduate a mechanical engineer, but I originally declared aerospace engineering (Aeronautics) as my major. I decided to switch majors once I discovered that defense companies hired many of the aerospace engineers, and the market for aerospace engineers was fiercely competitive.

Anyway, my transition into mechanical engineering was seamless. I switched after my third semester and only had to make up one course (Materials structures and properties...I think).

For the most part, the two engineering disciplines are based on similar foundations. The first two years cover the basics like chemistry, physics, mechanics, thermofluids, and circuits. These courses are the basis of the two fields of engineering, and they are often taught as the core course work of most engineering programs. Check with your adviser, but you will probably be able to switch without any problems.

cougars
Post 1

How closely related are aeronautical and mechanical engineering? I finished my first year of school for mechanical engineering, but I think that I want to switch to aerospace or aeronautical engineering. Does anyone have any advice as to how easy or hard it is to switch between an aerospace and mechanical engineering major?

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