Aerospace Engineers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

While in high school, follow a college preparatory program. Doing well in mathematics and science classes is vital if you want to pursue a career in any type of engineering field. The American Society for Engineering Education advises students to take calculus and trigonometry in high school, as well as laboratory science classes. Such courses provide the skills you'll need for problem solving, an essential skill in any type of engineering. Other important classes include computer science, English, and speech.

Postsecondary Training

Aerospace engineers need a bachelor's degree to enter the field. More advanced degrees are necessary for those interested in teaching or research and development positions.

While a major in aerospace engineering is the norm, other majors are acceptable. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recommends a degree in any of a variety of disciplines, including biomedical engineering, ceramics engineering, chemistry, industrial engineering, materials science, metallurgy, optical engineering, and oceanography. You should make sure the college you choose has an accredited engineering program. ABET sets minimum education standards for programs in these fields. Graduation from an ABET-accredited school is a requirement for becoming licensed in many states, so it is important to select an accredited school. Currently, approximately 70 colleges and universities offer ABET-accredited aerospace engineering programs. Visit ABET's Web site (https://www.abet.org) for a listing of accredited schools.

Some aerospace engineers complete master's degrees and even doctoral work before entering this field. Advanced degrees can significantly increase an engineer's earnings. Students continuing on to graduate school will study research and development, with a thesis required for a master's degree and a dissertation for a doctorate. About one-third of all aerospace engineers go on to graduate school to get a master's degree.

Other Education or Training

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics offers instructor-led, Web-based, and home study training; correspondence courses; conference sessions; and webinars. Topics include aerodynamic measurement technology, aerospace electronics and power systems, design engineering, human factors engineering, management, production engineering, space logistics, space operations and support, space systems, and systems engineering. The American Society for Engineering Education offers continuing education opportunities for engineers via its annual conference and other events. The National Society of Professional Engineers provides webinars for student members of the society. Recent webinars included “The Career Engineering Roadmap,” “Get Licensed, Get Ahead,” “How to Get Your First Job,” and “Engineering Your Career with a High Quality Social Network Web Seminar.” The Society of Women Engineers offers conference sessions, webinars, and other education resources on topics such as leadership, career development, and special issues for women in engineering. Contact these organizations for more information. 

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Most states require engineers to be licensed. There are two levels of licensing for engineers. Professional Engineers (PEs) have graduated from an accredited engineering curriculum, have four years of engineering experience, and have passed a written exam. Engineering graduates need not wait until they have four years of experience, however, to start the licensure process. Those who pass the Fundamentals of Engineering examination after graduating are called Engineers in Training (EITs) or Engineer Interns (EIs). The EIT certification usually is valid for 10 years. After acquiring suitable work experience, EITs can take the second examination, the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam, to gain full PE licensure.

In order to ensure that aerospace engineers are kept up to date on their quickly changing field, many states have imposed continuing education requirements for relicensure.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Take as many math and science classes as possible and participate in internships and other experiential opportunities to gain experience in the field.

Aerospace engineers should enjoy completing detailed work, problem solving, and participating in group efforts. Mathematical, science, and computer skills are a must. Equally important, however, are the abilities to communicate ideas, share in teamwork, and visualize the forms and functions of structures. Curiosity, inventiveness, and the willingness to continue to learn from experiences are excellent qualities to have for this type of work.