Aerospace Engineer Job Outlook: Learn More About Working as an Aerospace Engineer

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From jumbo commercial jetliners to gravity-defying space shuttles, aerospace engineers design the aircraft that have made aviation and exploration possible. Unlike aeronautical engineers, who focus primarily on aircraft that operate within the Earth’s atmosphere, aerospace engineers’ expertise is all-encompassing. Were it not for aerospace engineers and their capabilities, air travel and space travel as we know it today would not be possible.

The same goes for the United States’ defense. The U.S. is a worldwide leader in defense spending, devoting more money toward national defense than the next 10 leading countries combined. This includes China and India, the two largest nations in the world by population. Some of this funding goes toward the aerospace industry in the design and manufacture of weaponry, such as missiles and rockets. These government funds are also used for research to assist in the development of new technologies.

The aerospace industry is enormous, and there is a place for you in it. With an online Master of Science in Engineering from the University of California, Riverside, you can obtain the qualifications and experience employers are seeking, as the demand for aerospace engineers is robust. Whether you recently earned your bachelor’s degree in engineering or completed undergraduate study decades ago, the online continuing education available through the University of California, Riverside can take your career to new heights — on your schedule. You can even fast-track your master’s experience; it’s possible to complete the 100% online program in as few as 13 months. But time is on your side, because for the foreseeable future, the aerospace engineer job outlook appears bright.

What is the current job market like for aerospace engineers?

According to the latest figures available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an additional 1,900 positions for aerospace engineers are expected to become available nationwide between 2019 and 2029. That’s a growth rate of roughly 3%. That is in line with the average employment change among all professions.

Largely fueling the demand for aerospace engineers is the pace of commercial travel. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, COVID-19 dramatically decreased passenger volume globally, with it falling approximately 60% in 2020 alone. However, as government restrictions loosen and more people become vaccinated, the travel industry is expected to bounce back significantly in the months ahead, CNBC reported.

Aircraft manufacturers, in consultation with aerospace engineers, may need to intensify their production efforts to meet demand and diminish the existing backlog of orders. As Bloomberg recently reported, Boeing recorded more than 4,000 jetliner sales in February 2021, increasing its backlog by approximately 1%.

What are the career opportunities in aerospace engineering?

In addition to designing aircraft, aerospace engineers assess proposals for projects, perform quality assurance, and participate in the testing of aircraft as well as aerospace products.

This wide variety of responsibilities may lead to different job titles, as aerospace engineer is more of an umbrella term that encompasses the overall sector. Here is a partial list of the roles you may be eligible for with an aerospace engineering bachelor’s or master’s degree:

  • Mechanical engineer
  • Data processing manager
  • Military aerospace engineer
  • Drafter
  • Payload specialist
  • Industrial engineer

The duties and responsibilities of each role tend to be similar, but their primary focus may be more specific to a particular branch of aerospace. For instance, in the case of a military aerospace engineer, their efforts may be confined to a particular branch of the armed forces, the Department of Defense, or a defense contractor. Online engineering students who graduate from UC Riverside with their master’s degrees can — and have — become any one of these engineering professionals. The comprehensive curriculum provides them with the skill sets that these roles require.

Does NASA hire aerospace engineers?

Another major employer of aerospace engineers is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. While NASA may be best known for its astronauts and the monumental feats individuals like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Alan Shepard achieved, none of it would have been possible without the aerospace engineers who developed the technology that led to Moon landings and other out-of-this-world discoveries.

According to its website, NASA employs approximately 17,000 people who work at one of its nine centers in the U.S., including its headquarters in Washington, D.C. In terms of engineering, NASA has roles for engineers in 20 different capacities, but its two most common engineering specialties are computer engineers and aerospace engineers.

Tom Ivanco, a research aerospace engineer at NASA, noted on the agency’s website that NASA is a terrific place for engineers to work, as its mission provides professionals with the opportunities to apply their knowledge right away.

NASA is a major employer for aerospace engineers. According to BLS data, approximately 16% of full-time aerospace engineers work on behalf of the federal government, accounting for a larger percentage than engineering services providers, navigational manufacturers and organizations specializing in research and development. Depending on what organization or body they work for, aerospace engineers may require a security clearance. This is typically the case for those engaged in national defense projects or who are employed by the Department of Defense.

Another major employer of aerospace engineers is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. While NASA may be best known for its astronauts and the monumental feats individuals like Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Alan Shepard achieved, none of it would have been possible without the aerospace engineers who developed the technology that led to Moon landings and other out-of-this-world discoveries.

According to its website, NASA employs approximately 17,000 people who work at one of its nine centers in the U.S., including its headquarters in Washington, D.C. In terms of engineering, NASA has roles for engineers in 20 different capacities, but its two most common engineering specialties are computer engineers and aerospace engineers.

Tom Ivanco, a research aerospace engineer at NASA, noted on the agency’s website that NASA is a terrific place for engineers to work, as its mission provides professionals with the opportunities to apply their knowledge right away.

NASA is a major employer for aerospace engineers. According to BLS data, approximately 16% of full-time aerospace engineers work on behalf of the federal government, accounting for a larger percentage than engineering services providers, navigational manufacturers and organizations specializing in research and development. Depending on what organization or body they work for, aerospace engineers may require a security clearance. This is typically the case for those engaged in national defense projects or who are employed by the Department of Defense.

 

 

What are the typical job duties of an aeronautical engineer?

While aerospace engineers can be found in many different industries, sectors, and disciplines, the bulk of their work is usually specific to one of two specialties: aeronautical or astronautical. Astronautical engineers spend the bulk of their time engaged in the activities and discoveries related to the solar system. These include the development and design of equipment like satellites and landing craft. As NASA reported, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter touched down on the red planet in April 2021. In doing so, it became the first aircraft to make a powered and controlled flight landing on a planet’s surface.

For aeronautical engineers, while they also help in the ongoing designing, testing and development of aerial equipment, their focus is usually on the aerial activities that take place tens of thousands of feet above the Earth (rather than thousands of miles.)

At the same time, because both specialties rely on the principles, laws and theorems associated with physics, astronautical and aeronautical engineers perform duties that frequently intersect.

Here are a few of the common job duties an aeronautical engineer may be responsible for, as listed by the BLS:

  • Evaluate designs — such as for aircraft or propulsion systems — to ensure they meet quality standards established by governing or oversight entities
  • Analyze proposed projects to evaluate whether they will comply with safety protocols
  • Assist in the coordination of aircraft or aircraft products
  • Perform cost assessments to determine if certain projects can be accomplished within a given budget

Another major ongoing task for aeronautical engineers is problem resolution. Due in large part to improved technologies and safety measures, airline incidents worldwide are down significantly across the board. According to the International Civil Aviation Organization, accidents, fatal accidents and accident rates fell worldwide in 2020 compared to 2019.

But hardly a year goes by without some type of mechanical issue occurring, often one that threatens the safety of passengers. In 2019, for example, Boeing decided to ground all of its 737 MAX commercial jetliners after deadly accidents that claimed the lives of almost 350 people in Indonesia and Ethiopia.

Two years removed from those incidents, more safety problems have emerged, which has prompted Boeing to tell airlines to stop flying 737 MAX planes until further notice, The New York Times reported.

Resolving safety concerns is an all-hands-on-dec effort. Aerospace engineers are central to these efforts, charged with inspecting the malfunctioning engines, guidance, and control systems that may have led to the accidents in the first place. Thus, just as aerospace engineers must be well-versed in various hard skills, they also need to be competent in certain soft skills, such as critical thinking and problem-solving.

How can you start your career as an aerospace engineer?

If you’re seeking a role as an aerospace engineer, the online Master of Science in Engineering program at UC Riverside can help you get there. The program can take your career to new heights — in more ways than one. For more information on the curriculum and transfer credits, visit the program page and consider applying.

Recommended Reading

7 Unusual Careers That Begin with an Engineering Degree

A Guide to 6 Surprising Engineering Degree Jobs

Sources

BLS — Aerospace Engineers

NASA — Engineering

NASA — What Is Nasa?

NASA — NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Succeeds in Historic First Flight

ICAO — Effects of COVID-19 on Civil Aviation

New York Times — Boeing Tells Airlines to Stop Flying Some 737 Max Planes

CNBC – Air Travel Recovers as Vaccinations Spur Bookings