Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering Careers

Read on to learn about typical courses, resources, and careers in this field.

Staff Writer

2022-11-2215 min read

Aerospace and aeronautical engineering careers entail the design, development, and maintenance of aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles.

In addition, aerospace engineers test prototypes and certify them fit for operation.

Aeronautical engineers work in government agencies, defense organizations, or aircraft manufacturing companies.

However, you’ll require a degree in aerospace engineering to begin.

Why Choose Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering?

Here are some reasons why you should choose aerospace and aeronautical engineering:

  • According to BLS, the annual median pay of aerospace engineers as of 2021 was $122,270 against the $15,080 recorded minimum wage for other professions.
  • No previous work experience in aerospace engineering is required to kickstart your career.
  • On Average, 3,800 aeronautical engineer jobs are available yearly.
  • Most aerospace engineers enjoy job flexibility. You can work onsite, in an office, or combine both.

How to Start your Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering Journey

You need at least a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or any closely-related science field to begin your career with entry-level aeronautical engineer jobs.

However, you’ll require a master's and Professional Engineering (PE) license as you scale on your journey.

Aerospace engineers rely largely on practicals and field training throughout their careers to stay updated with current technological advancements.

Educational Requirements

Associate Degree

An associate degree in aerospace engineering takes only two years to complete. After which you can proceed to apply for jobs or a bachelor's degree.

This degree focuses on the technical and organizational skills required in aerospace and aeronautical engineering careers.

The coursework often covers basic job-specific engineering principles.

Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering provides you with a robust knowledge of mathematics, physics, and the necessary engineering principles.

Most institutions that offer aerospace engineering degrees collaborate with organizations that accept student interns and conduct field training.

Students thereby gain hands-on experiences in diverse aeronautical engineer jobs while studying simultaneously.

Master’s Degree

Completing a Master’s degree in aerospace engineering positions you for numerous job opportunities with greater pay. The program runs for one year.

You can study online, part-time, or full-time. So it’s suitable for fresh graduates and employed aeronautical engineers.

The area of focus includes fluids, control, structures, and composites.

Doctorate in Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering

A doctorate in aerospace engineering is typically a three-year program. It allows students with a strong foundation in engineering to undertake a research-based program.

Course modules concentrate on aerodynamics and propulsion, dynamics and control, and materials and structures.

Ph.D. holders can work in space travel institutes, universities, and government organizations.

Employment Prospects

Constantly emerging technologies and aircraft designs create a demand for aerospace engineers globally.

The BLS report above projects a positive job outlook for aerospace engineering in the coming decade with about a 6% employment growth rate.

About 3,800 aeronautical engineer jobs will be available annually within the period as well.

Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering Career Forecast

Aerospace engineers enjoy immense job satisfaction in their chosen career path, especially for being a part of revolutionary aerospace projects.

Although most of the aeronautical engineer jobs available yearly will come from the replacement of workers who resign or retire, more aerospace engineering opportunities will arise from new technologies like drones.

Lucrative Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering Career Paths

Aerospace engineer

Aerospace engineers design, assess, and maintain aircraft and other aerospace products.

Average Salary

The median pay of aerospace engineers in 2021 was $122,270. Aerospace engineering entry-level positions are paid less than $77,440 while more experienced professionals earn over $168,370 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

The basic responsibilities of aerospace engineers include:

  • Undertake and supervise the design, maintenance, and testing of aircraft
  • Conduct Industry-related research
  • Verify project feasibility and ensure it meets established standards
  • Perform routine inspection of aerospace products

Industries Employing Aerospace engineers

Industries that recruit aerospace engineers include:

  • Manufacturers of aerospace products
  • Defense agencies
  • Universities
  • Airline operators
  • Research institutes


Drafters employ computer software to convert designs into technical drawings.

Average Salary

Drafters earn an annual median pay of $60,290. The lowest-paid drafters earn below $37,390 while the top 10% make over $92,790 yearly.

Roles and Responsibilities

The core responsibilities of drafters include:

  • Create design elements using computer-aided design (CAD) software.
  • Develop the raw designs of architects and engineers
  • Determine measurements, materials, and operation methods of new aerospace systems.
  • Collaborate with and report to engineers or architects

Industries Employing Computer-Aided Design (CAD) Technicians

Industries that employ drafters (also known as computer-aided technicians) include:

  • Construction companies
  • Architectural and engineering firms
  • manufacturing

Design Engineer

Design engineers conceptualize, design, and experiment with products to meet the target market specifications.

Average Salary

The average basic salary of design engineers is $70,230 annually. Design engineers also make an extra income of up to $11,000 from bonuses, profit, and commission.

Roles and Responsibilities

Design engineers are responsible for the following:

  • Generate new product ideas
  • Design wide-ranging consumer products from home appliances to jet engines.
  • Test product functionality before launch
  • Redesign existing products using CAD
  • Analyze technical drawings and data

Industries Employing Design Engineers

Industries that employ design engineers include:

  • Manufacturing companies
  • Telecommunication
  • Biomedical companies
  • Research and development institutes

Maintenance Engineer

Maintenance engineers conduct routine inspections and repairs of machines and equipment.

Average Salary

The total salary of maintenance engineers varies depending on their level of expertise and years of experience. However, the annual average salary of maintenance engineers is $67,729 with additional payments of up to $9,790. Senior maintenance engineers earn about $104,545.

Roles and Responsibilities

The duties of a maintenance engineer include:

  • Identify mechanical and technical faults in equipment
  • Conduct routine maintenance of plants, jet engines, or other machinery
  • Oversee the implementation of proactive maintenance strategies
  • Update and install the latest aerospace technologies

Industries Employing Maintenance Engineers

Industries that hire maintenance engineers include:

  • Aviation
  • Construction
  • Government agencies
  • Private organizations

Materials Engineer

A materials engineer creates, modifies, and tests diverse types of materials needed to manufacture products.

Average Salary

Materials engineers earn a median salary of $98,300 annually. The bottom 10% earn below $60,580 while the top 10 percentile earns over $161,080.

Roles and Responsibilities

The materials engineer is responsible for the following:

  • Collaborate with project managers and engineers in the planning and execution of projects
  • Determine the best-suited materials for any product
  • Analyze and draft budgets
  • Evaluate the quality and performance of construction materials

Industries Employing Materials Engineer

Industries that employ materials engineers are:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing factories
  • Research organizations

Manufacturing Systems Engineer

Manufacturing systems engineers use computer-aided design software to develop systems for manufacturing equipment.

Average Salary

The annual average salary of a manufacturing systems engineer is $86,613. Salaries, however, range from $71,00 to $100,000. But, some organizations pay up to $112,000.

Roles and Responsibilities

The primary duties of manufacturing systems engineer include:

  • Design propulsion systems and test prototypes
  • Install systems in manufacturing equipment
  • Work in a team of aerospace engineers to design aerospace products
  • Evaluate and monitor the use of production resources

Industries Employing Manufacturing Systems Engineers

Industries that employ manufacturing systems engineers include:

  • Manufacturing plants
  • Aerospace
  • Pharmaceuticals

Aerospace Technician

Aerospace technicians repair, troubleshoot, and maintain aircraft and other aerospace technologies.

Average Salary

The yearly average income of aerospace technicians in the USA is $51,386. They make an estimated extra income of $3,645 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

The role of an aerospace technician includes:

  • Identity technical challenges in aircraft
  • Optimize systems to function with the latest aerospace technologies
  • Initiate repairs, by troubleshooting or software installations
  • Test aerospace products to be sure they’re in perfect condition
  • Monitoring and evaluation of cost and performance of replaced parts

Industries Employing Aerospace Technicians

Industries that employ aerospace technicians include:

  • Airlines
  • Manufacturing companies
  • Research institutes

Aerospace Structural Engineer

Aerospace structural engineers develop ideas, research, design, and test aircraft structures.

Average Salary

Aerospace structural engineers are paid on average $100,438 annually. The salary of an Aerospace structural engineer currently ranges between $158,500 and $32,000 in the USA.

Roles and Responsibilities

The primary responsibilities of aerospace structural engineers include:

  • Work with other aerospace engineering departments in designing aircraft structure
  • Use computer software to analyze and test prototypes
  • Data entry and calculations
  • Assess structural building materials
  • Quality control and assurance

Industries Employing Aerospace Structural Engineers

Industries that hire Aerospace structural engineers include:

  • Aviation
  • Manufacturing industry
  • Advanced research institutes
  • Defense organizations

Aircraft Mechanic

Aircraft mechanics inspect, repair, and oversee the maintenance of aircraft.

Average Salary

An aircraft mechanical engineer earns an average salary of $53,023 annually. Also, aircraft mechanical engineers enjoy cash bonuses, commissions, and tips up to $3,185 yearly.

Roles and Responsibilities

Aircraft mechanics are responsible for the following:

  • Detect mechanical faults in aircraft
  • Undertake the repair and replacement of broken aircraft components
  • Test-run repaired components to ensure they’re fit for operation
  • Check and identify electrical issues in jet engines
  • Write maintenance reports

Industries Employing Aircraft Mechanics

Industries that hire Aircraft mechanical engineers include:

  • Airlines
  • Federal government agencies
  • Aerospace products manufacturers

Aircraft Maintenance Manager

Aircraft maintenance managers supervise the installation, repair, and maintenance of aircraft components.

Average Salary

Aircraft maintenance managers in the aerospace industry in the USA earn a total salary of $72,791 annually. Another report shows the annual average income range falls between $127,609 and $169,520.

Roles and Responsibilities

Aircraft maintenance managers are responsible for the following:

  • Perform supervisory and managerial roles
  • Assign tasks to junior support staff
  • Apply top business skills in preparing reports and book-keeping
  • Maintain correspondence and cordial relationships between team members

Industries Employing Aircraft Maintenance Managers

Industries that hire Aircraft maintenance managers include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Electrical plants
  • Aerospace industry

Aerospace Sales Engineer

Aerospace sales engineers provide technical support to the sales team of an aerospace products manufacturer.

Average Salary

Aerospace sales engineers earn an average salary of $109,449 yearly in the US.

Roles and Responsibilities

Aerospace sales engineers are responsible for the following:

  • Provide technical after-sales support to customers
  • Offer information and answers to customers’ inquiries
  • Assist aerospace engineers to design products that meet the unique demands of the consumers
  • Ensure prompt response to technical issues
  • Collaborate with sales force to devise marketing strategies

Industries Employing Aerospace Sales Engineers

Industries that hire Aerospace sales engineers include:

  • Aerospace industry
  • Manufacturing
  • Automobile
  • Government

Mechanical Engineer

A mechanical engineer designs, constructs, and tests the mechanical components of equipment and machines.

Average Salary

The annual mean wage of mechanical engineers is $97,000. The 90th percentile of mechanical engineering professionals earns about $136,210 annually.

Roles and Responsibilities

Mechanical engineers are responsible for the following:

  • Diagnose mechanical and thermal faults in an equipment
  • Promptly rectify mechanical glitches
  • Design mechanical devices
  • Serve as flight mechanics for airlines and spacecraft
  • Test mechanical systems
  • Supervise the manufacturing of mechanical components and equipment

Industries Employing Mechanical Engineers

Industries that hire mechanical engineers include:

  • Research and development
  • Equipment manufacturing
  • Transportation
  • Building and architecture

Aeronautical Engineer

Aeronautical engineers design, build and test aircraft.

Average Salary

Aeronautical engineer jobs offer varied salaries depending on location, experience, and level of education. However, the average annual pay of aeronautical engineers is $116,794.

Roles and Responsibilities

Aeronautical engineers are responsible for the following:

  • Build aircraft and propulsion systems
  • Maintain aircraft products
  • Quality assurance

Industries Employing Aeronautical Engineers

Industries that hire aeronautical engineers include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Federal government
  • Research and development

Data Engineer

Data engineers conduct research, develop, and transform data into forms that can be easily used or analyzed.

Average Salary

Data engineers in the USA are paid an average salary of $93,922 annually. Most data engineers report additional earnings of $17,165 from annual cash bonuses, commissions, or profits.

Roles and Responsibilities

Data engineers are responsible for the following:

  • Build data infrastructures that improve aerodynamic performance
  • Operate data-processing systems
  • Maintain data safety regulations across national borders
  • Provide data-based technical support to customers

Industries Employing Data Engineers

Industries that hire data engineers include:

  • eCommerce
  • Financial institutions
  • Transportation
  • Manufacturing
  • Information Technology (IT)

Astronautical Engineer

Astronautical engineers are aerospace engineers who design, build, test, and maintain aerospace products used for space travel.

Average Salary

The annual average pay of astronautical engineers is $133,503. The top 86% of astronautical engineers earn up to $679,997 yearly while the bottom percentile makes $25,142.

Roles and Responsibilities

Astronautical engineers are responsible for the following:

  • Design spacecraft, missiles, and aerospace navigation systems
  • Conduct research on aerospace and atmospheric science
  • Build products that adhere to strict environmental regulations
  • Test prototypes
  • Plan and oversee aircraft maintenance

Industries Employing Astronautical Engineers

Industries that hire astronautical engineers include:

  • Manufacturing plants
  • Research organizations
  • Government agencies

Avionics Engineer

Avionics engineers maintain and repair aerospace electronics to ensure flight safety and maximize overall efficiency.

Average Salary

An Indeed estimate shows avionics engineers earn an annual average income of $112,309. The salaries range from $67,000 to $135,000 depending on location and experience.

Roles and Responsibilities

Avionics engineers are responsible for the following:

  • Implement safety regulations
  • Schedule and conduct inspections of aerospace electronics
  • Monitor radar systems for seamless aircraft navigation and communication
  • Upgrade and install defense or commercial electronics systems
  • Guide junior engineers on industry best practices

Industries Employing Avionics Engineers

Industries that hire Avionics engineers include:

  • Aviation
  • Airforce
  • Research institutes

How to Boost Your Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering Career

If you wish to enhance your aerospace and aeronautical engineering career, you should first decide on which career path to major in.

Proceed to get a degree in aerospace engineering and complement that with available certification courses. Join professional bodies for aerospace engineers to network and grow.

Finally, update your skills regularly to increase your performance on the job market and ensure to Keep a portfolio of completed projects to show prospective employees

Pros and Cons of Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering Careers

Here are some of the pros and cons to consider before you choose a career in aerospace and aeronautical engineering.


  • Good starting salary with the possibility of additional pay
  • Health insurance coverage and other benefits depending on the organization
  • Room for innovation and creativity
  • Career advancement opportunities
  • Possibility of a career switch to other engineering fields with similar duties
  • Flexible work environments (you can work in an office, on board, factory, or field)


  • The workload of most aerospace engineers can be overwhelming
  • Aerospace engineers work full-time and oftentimes long hours
  • Most aeronautical engineer jobs require relocation to another city or country
  • A negative job outlook for some aerospace engineering career paths like drafters

Skills You’ll Develop While Studying Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering

As you study aerospace and aeronautical engineering, you’ll learn some vital skills needed to thrive in the field. They include:

Critical Thinking and Analysis

At the crux of the duties of aerospace engineers are logical reasoning and problem analysis.

Aerospace and aeronautical engineering entail having to conduct research to proffer solutions to diverse problems as they arise.

You’re required to think deeply and critically to develop your own research, ideas, and innovative aerospace products.

Software Skills

Aeronautical engineers must be computer-literate and proficient in the use of complex design software and aerospace technologies.

As technology advances, new engineering principles will emerge. You’ll need analytical skills to navigate and adapt quickly.

Also, excellent writing skills will enable you to document your design process and research for future reference.

Management Skills

Aeronautical engineer jobs demand top project management skills like planning, decision-making, and execution.

Aerospace engineers can collaborate with a project engineer to develop ideas, and design and implement projects suitable for the market.

You’ll often be required to supervise aircraft maintenance or product development projects.

Interpersonal Skills

Aerospace engineers often work in teams. Good interpersonal skills will help you interact and communicate effectively with colleagues whether you’re the team leader or a member.

Aerospace and aeronautical engineering careers involve collaboration to design and execute aerospace projects like aircraft.

Attention to Detail

Aircraft systems and other aerospace products are sensitive. From product design to testing of prototypes, an aerospace engineer should focus completely during all stages of assessment.

Aerospace engineers must develop a keen attention to detail to avoid errors that may lead to the loss of lives and resources.

How to Prepare for an Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering Career

Like every other profession, aspiring aerospace engineers have to be intentional and work towards a fulfilling career. Here are some ways to prepare:

1. Take Physics, Mathematics, and Chemistry in High School

Build excellent math skills from high school by taking science-related subjects.

Aerospace engineers combine mathematical principles (from trigonometry, calculus, etc) and their problem solving skills to analyze data and design aircraft.

2. Complete a Bachelor's Degree in Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering

Obtaining a bachelor’s degree is one of the first steps to kickstarting your aerospace and aeronautical engineering career.

Apply to any institution of your choice that promises in-depth knowledge and a broader understanding of the discipline.

You also gain practical experience during your degree program through internships and field trips.

3. Earn Postgraduate Degrees in Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering

Postgraduate degrees help you to scale faster on the ladder of success as an aerospace engineer.

For instance, a master’s degree or Ph.D. will grant you access to high-paying job offers.

You’ll require a postgraduate degree if you wish to diversify to other aerospace careers like becoming a nuclear engineer.

4. Get Industry Certifications and State Licensure

Professional certifications and state licensure establish your authority in the aerospace and aeronautical engineering fields.

Many employers pay licensed engineers better than those without a license.

State licensure typically requires 4+ years of experience to acquire and 30 hours of continuing education. Some popular certifications are:

  • OSHA Safety Certificate
  • Certified Aviation Manager (CAM)
  • Professional Engineering (PE) license

5. Gain Field Experience

Aerospace engineering affords you the freedom to gain valuable experience while earning simultaneously.

But you can also gain hands-on skills while undertaking your bachelor’s degree program. This prepares you for the competitive labor market and positions you for better opportunities.

Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering Resources to Help Your Career

Some aerospace and aeronautical engineering resources to boost your career include:

**AIAA Research Material: **Access aerospace engineering research materials from 1963 till date.

ABET-Approved engineering program: you’ll require a degree showing you’ve completed an ABET-accredited course.

Fundamentals of Engineering (FE): a pass in the FE exam will help you acquire state licensure.

Professional Engineering (PE) Exam: you can scale to managerial positions when you pass the PE exam.

Additional resources are also available online for aerospace engineers.

How to Switch to an Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering Career

You need to acquaint yourself with high school science subjects like math and physics.

Choose the particular aerospace engineering career you want to pursue and sit for an SAT or ACT.

Complete an engineering foundation degree or register for an apprenticeship with aerospace engineers where you gain in-depth knowledge.

With your experience, apply for internships or entry-level roles where you can grow.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering?

Aerospace and aeronautical engineering is the design, maintenance, and testing of aircraft and other aerospace products.

Aerospace engineers are responsible for conceiving ideas and constructing aircraft.

In addition, aerospace engineering is often subdivided into astronautical engineering and aeronautical engineering.

What certification do I need for an Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering career?

Aerospace engineers primarily do not require any certification to begin a career. But as you grow, you’ll require a Professional Engineering (PE) certification.

Every engineer (aeronautical engineers, nuclear engineers, etc) need an FE certification if they plan to get a state license.

Can I get an Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering degree online?

Yes, you can. Several online courses for aerospace engineers are offered by top international institutions.

All you need are your application fee, transcripts of your highest educational qualification, and your SAT score.

Aspiring aeronautical engineers can take a 4-year online bachelor’s degree aerospace engineering course.

What fields can Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering professionals work in?

Different aerospace and aeronautical engineering career paths can be rewarding and aerospace engineers can work in several industries. Aeronautical engineer jobs are rife in aviation, government agencies, and manufacturing industries.

Aerospace engineers are needed in academia in universities or research institutes.

Is there a high demand for Aerospace and Aeronautical Engineering majors?

Aerospace engineers are in high demand, especially with emerging aerospace technologies.

A BLS report estimates a 6% career growth between 2021 and 2031 for aerospace and aeronautical engineering majors. Also, 3,800 aeronautical engineer jobs are expected to be open annually within that decade.

Final Thoughts

By now you must have decided which aerospace and aeronautical engineering career best suits you.

Choosing any of the above-mentioned aerospace engineering career paths is daunting and requires a lot of hard work no doubt. But with dedication and interest, you can be on your way to an exciting, and greatly rewarding, career.

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