The U.S. Department of Labor reports that approximately 63,960 aerospace engineers are employed in the United States. Many aircraft-related engineering jobs are found in Alabama, California, and Florida, where large aerospace companies are located. Nearly 36 percent of all aerospace engineers work in products and parts manufacturing. Government agencies such as the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration employ approximately 15 percent of aerospace engineers. Other employers include engineering services firms, research and testing services companies, and electronics manufacturers.
Many students begin their careers while completing their studies through work-study arrangements that sometimes turn into full-time jobs. Most aerospace manufacturers actively recruit engineering students, conducting on-campus interviews and other activities to locate the best candidates. Students preparing to graduate can also send out resumes to companies active in the aerospace industry and arrange interviews. Many colleges and universities also staff job placement centers, which are often good places to find leads for new job openings.
Students can also apply directly to agencies of the federal government concerned with aerospace development and implementation. Applications can be made through the Office of Personnel Management (https://www.usajobs.gov) or through an agency's own hiring department.
Professional associations, such as the National Society of Professional Engineers and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, offer job placement services, including career advice, job listings, and training.
As in most engineering fields, there tends to be a hierarchy of workers in the various divisions of aerospace engineering. This is true in research, design and development, production, and teaching. In an entry-level job, one is considered simply an engineer, perhaps a junior engineer. After a certain amount of experience is gained, depending on the position, one moves on to work as a project engineer, supervising others. Then, as a managing engineer, one has further responsibilities over a number of project engineers and their teams. At the top of the hierarchy is the position of chief engineer, which involves authority over managing engineers and additional decision-making responsibilities.
As engineers move up the career ladder, the type of responsibilities they have tend to change. Junior engineers are highly involved in technical matters and scientific problem solving. As managers and chiefs, engineers have the responsibilities of supervising, cost analyzing, and relating with clients.
All engineers must continue to learn and study technological progress throughout their careers. It is important to keep abreast of engineering advancements and trends by reading industry journals and taking continuing education courses. Such courses are offered by professional associations or colleges. In aerospace engineering especially, changes occur rapidly, and those who seek promotions must be prepared. Those who are employed by colleges and universities must continue teaching and conducting research if they want to have tenured (more guaranteed) faculty positions.
Tips for Entry
Participate in the National Society of Professional Engineers’ mentoring program (https://www.nspe.org/resources/career-center).
Read publications such as Aerospace America (https://aerospaceamerica.aiaa.org/), Aerospace & Defense Technology (https://www.sae.org/publications/magazines/aerospace-engineering-aerospace-defense-technology), and PE Magazine (https://www.nspe.org/resources/pe-magazine) to learn more about trends in the industry and potential employers.
Visit the following Web sites for job listings:
Join professional associations such as the National Society of Professional Engineers to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.