Career Spotlight: Aerospace Engineering

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If you are keen to advance your career in the field of mechanical engineering, consider applying to the University of California Riverside’s online Master of Science in Engineering program, with a specialization in mechanical engineering. The program provides a comprehensive education in an array of areas, including sustainable design, fluid systems and control systems. Furthermore, all work can be completed online, meaning that you can devise a study schedule that complements your busy personal and professional life.

Upon graduation from the UCR’s online Master of Science in Engineering program, a number of exciting career paths will be open to you, including aerospace engineering. A career dedicated to the design of aircraft and defense systems, aerospace engineering is a challenging yet rewarding professional path. To learn more, read on:

What do aerospace engineers do?

Aerospace engineers work to build any vehicle or device that can fly — so airplanes, missiles for military defense, space satellites and spacecraft, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics detailed. Some aerospace engineers may specialize further, and dedicate their careers to certain aspects of aerospace engineering, including communication, structure or robotics — some even specialize in designing and constructing certain vehicles, such as airplanes, helicopters or spacecraft. In essence, this is a broad industry with multiple career path options and room for development and professional growth.

As outlined by an article published in Live Science, within the aerospace engineering industry there are in fact two recognized disciplines: Aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. The former concerns the design of aircraft, such as commercial planes, helicopters, aircraft for military use and so on. Astronautical engineering, on the other hand, focuses on the design of vehicles and satellites that can be used in space.

The BLS explained that some of the most common, day-to-day duties for all professionals working within this exciting industry include: Developing project ideas and presenting proposals for those ideas, working on the design of aircraft or aerospace products, ensuring that all project proposals are safe and technically possible, conducting testing of new designs and ensuring that all new designs and products meet rigorous mandates, among others. It is important to keep in mind that duties and responsibilities can vary considerably, contingent on an engineer’s area of specialization and the organization within which he or she works.

How to enter the field

Aerospace engineers, according to the Live Science article, need a solid educational foundation in academic disciplines such aerodynamics and physics, as well as a comprehensive knowledge of aircraft design and all the individual elements that come together to form the product. This knowledge is typically attained during study for a bachelor’s degree, while master’s programs will elaborate on these core topics and provide a more complex and nuanced education. The BLS explained that a bachelor’s degree is imperative for entry into the field, and that a master’s degree can allow professionals to move up the career ladder with greater ease, to positions in upper management, academia or research.

Live Science also noted that in many cases engineering professionals will need to receive certification, as employers typically overlook candidates without it.

Typical compensation

Professionals working in the field of aerospace engineering are compensated very well, although as outlined in an article by popular careers website Payscale, there is a wide range in typical salaries, and bonuses and commission work can comprise a notable amount of an aerospace engineer’s paycheck. The median nationwide salary for this role stands at a little over $81,000 per year, although salaries in excess of $132,000 annually are not uncommon. Those just entering the field can expect to earn considerably less, with salaries around the $60,000 a year mark. The article explained that the highest salaries are, unsurprisingly, typically awarded to those with the most professional experience. Having an advanced degree such as a master’s can also help boost a candidate’s earning potential. Salaries can also vary widely due to geographical location — aerospace engineers will find more lucrative opportunities in areas with booming aerospace industries such as the Seattle area and Florida.

Career Spotlight: Aerospace Engineering

Leading organizations that hire aerospace engineers

There are a number of leading organizations across the country that hire aerospace engineers. They include, but are by no means limited to:

An organization that hires many aerospace engineers is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The federal agency has been in operation since 1958, and is dedicated to space exploration and the development of technologies and spacecraft that make the exploration possible. Notable past achievements from NASA include the historic moon landing in 1969 and a role in the development of the International Space Station. Today, the organization has a number of focuses, including: Developing space technology, scientific research on space and the universe, devising strategies for human space exploration, work on the International Space Station and research in the field of aeronautical engineering, with a focus on sustainable designs.

Notable current endeavors that NASA are working on include a project named Journey to Mars, which aims to send astronauts to the Red Planet by the 2030s, and the development of the Orion spacecraft, which promises to be the most sophisticated spaceship ever developed, capable of sending astronauts distances that extend further than the moon.

There are many career opportunities available at NASA, not only in engineering but across an array of disciplines. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the space agency has multiple branches across the country. To learn more, review the organization’s careers website.

2. Airbus SAS
An international company, headquartered in France, but with operations in the U.S., Airbus SAS is one of the world’s largest aircraft manufacturers, producing aircraft for many leading U.S. airline companies including Delta, American Airlines and United Airlines. An article on Airbus’ official website explained that there are multiple steps that go into making an aircraft, with skilled engineering professionals needed, particularly at the design offices and engineering centers. These facilities are international in scope and can be found in North America, Europe, China and India. Airbus has two major design and engineering centers — one in Wichita, Kansas and the other in Mobile, Alabama.

More information about career opportunities at Airbus SAS can be found here.

3. SpaceX
A relatively young organization, founded in 2002 and independent of NASA, SpaceX is dedicated to the development of spacecraft and other space technology. The ultimate objective of this organization is to, one day, enable people to inhabit other planets. The company has witnessed remarkable success in its short history, notably sending a spacecraft successfully to the International Space Station in the spring of 2012. Despite being an independent company, SpaceX does work closely with NASA, having secured a contract worth billions to send cargo to astronauts based on the International Space Station.

Headquartered in Hawthorne, California, SpaceX has an array of careers opportunities for aerospace engineers. The company’s careers website offers a comprehensive guide to current opportunities.

Other major employers

Other notable companies that hire aerospace engineers include:

  • Boeing
  • FlightSafety International
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Raytheon
  • General Dynamics

Consider UC Riverside
The first step to an exciting career in aerospace engineering begins with your application to the University of California Riverside’s online Master of Science in Engineering program. To learn more about the program and the option to specialize in mechanical engineering, click here.