A Career As An Aerospace Engineer
Overview of the Industry
What is aerospace engineering? It refers to the design of aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. As a career choice, it offers interesting ways of thinking and innovative ways of thinking.
Aerospace engineers are required to be brilliant team players with high intellectual capacity and advanced knowledge in fields such as physics, mathematics, geophysics, computer programming.
Aerospace engineers are also required to possess highly analytical minds, sound business acumen, and top-notch problem-solving and writing skills.
As a field of study, it has two major subdivisions; aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering.
Aeronautical engineering deals primarily with aircraft and propulsion design as well as studying the aerodynamic performance of aircraft and the materials they are to be constructed with.
Astronautical engineering deals with the science and technology required for spacecraft to work outside the earth’s atmosphere.
Aerospace engineers typically do not have a wide range of options to consider regarding careers in the field. This is because aerospace engineering primarily concerns industries that are not readily open to public ……………… and mostly has to do with national defense, air and space transportation, and surveillance. It is an industry-funded primarily by governments and very wealthy private companies and investors.
Most aerospace engineers work for defense contractors, aircraft building companies, and consultants in the industry. A few also work in academia.
Working as an aerospace engineer is challenging, primarily because of the massive amounts of time involved and the need to constantly conduct research, check, test, organize and manage numerous projects at various points in time.
The route to becoming an aerospace engineer is demanding, even for the most dedicated of students. However, it is quite interesting and worth the time and effort put in.
The primary way to become an aerospace engineer is by taking a range of mathematics, physics, computer, and engineering classes in college/university in order to receive a Bachelor’s degree in one of these fields.
Still, it is advisable to obtain an engineering degree from the university to make the job searching process easier. Interning and apprenticeships at relevant companies while studying also helps in preparing students for work in the industry due to the hands-on experience and on-the-job training they get.
However, there are other ways to become one. Some of them are listed and explained below:
Work experience: Working in other fields of engineering such as electrical, mechanical, product, and software engineering can help prepare one to work as an aerospace engineer. A background in applied physics will also help in getting jobs at aerospace companies.
Apprenticeship: Engineering technicians can also participate in on-the-job training to get certified as aerospace engineers.
Major Career Paths
There are a few options to choose from within the aerospace industry as regards career choices. The most obvious options include working in research and development, as project and personnel managers, and in private consulting and academia.
In the US, for example, aerospace product and parts manufacturing, general engineering services, engineering research and development, and the federal government accounted for roughly 84% of all aerospace engineering jobs in 2018.
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing, general engineering services, engineering research and development
These areas of job expertise require substantial knowledge of materials science, engineering design, physics, mathematics, and computer-assisted design.
They involve the testing of prospective air- and spacecraft parts in order to determine the optimum load-carrying weight, material endurance, stability, durability, cost-effectiveness, and other required values within carefully calibrated parameters.
They also require the coupling and manufacturing of the various parts tested into the required products while inspecting them to ensure that they are of standard quality, meet environmental regulations, and customer requirements.
Entry-level research staff is typically overworked, with data crunching, business model analysis, and research organization taking up the bulk of their time and effort.
The median pay for entry-level engineers in the industry hovers around the $50,000 mark, with the high earners (the experienced staff) earning close to $165,000, as in 2018 according to data provided by the U.S Bureau of Labor.
Aerospace engineers work full-time. Aerospace engineers do more work in offices nowadays, with computer simulations of flight tests, aircraft evaluation, and staff training requiring handling by sophisticated computer equipment and software.
The job also tends to be compartmentalized. One engineer wrote: “I don’t know what I do”. This is because while teams are required to build air- and spacecraft, individual engineers are often assigned to one of the teams participating in the building projects and given particular tasks to handle. This leads to “not seeing the big picture”, as one engineer put it.
As engineers, heading research and development teams often requires adaptation to become people and project managers.
This isolates them from the intellectually stimulating roles they have played for much of their careers and places them in more administrative roles.
They have responsibility for the research direction. However, they contribute very little to the actual process, seeing as they have little contact with the daily functions of the teams.
On average, after 10 years, around 5% of them leave their jobs to establish their own aerospace research and development teams.
Their success in private business is often dependent on the contacts, financing, and patents they have been able to access and develop while working for the major companies and contractors. Some of the more in-demand roles in this sector are:
Military aerospace engineering
Data processing management
Academia, training programs, and private consulting
Asides the usual drudgery that comes with working in product development and manufacturing, aerospace engineers also play a big role in the transmission of professional expertise to prospective and newer members of the profession.
Many of those who leave the major defense companies and contracting firms go into academia and private consulting.
These sectors are slightly less financially rewarding than manufacturing and production jobs, with the median pay in these areas hovering around the $120,000 mark, according to the US Bureau of Labor, 2018.
However, they offer more opportunities for academic development, research, and participation in studies regarding the industry, how it relates to fiscal issues on world economies and social issues such as weapons control and availability.
Some of the more in-demand roles in this sector are:
Research and development
Academic tutoring (giving lectures to undergraduate and graduate students)
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Overall, the projected rise in available jobs for aerospace engineers in their industry is pegged at 2% for the better part of the next decade as rapid technological growth and efficient production techniques are offset by employee layoffs and redundancy.
However, research and development, consulting, and academia will always be in high demand as newer, faster, and more efficient processes continue to evolve. While this will improve the overall.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Aerospace Engineers, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineers.htm. Accessed April 2, 2020.