Since the 19th century and the first attempts at powered flight, aerospace technology has come a long way. Aerospace engineers are the professionals who work behind the scenes to make the magic of flying machines possible in today’s world. They design and maintain aircrafts, spacecrafts, satellites, and missiles to use across defense systems, communication technologies, commercial fields, and anything else that involves reaching for the sky. Graduates of online aerospace engineering degree programs help design, build and test aviation devices. These devices include airplanes, rockets, satellites, missiles, drones and other equipment systems that explore the upper atmosphere and deep space. Online aerospace engineer graduates must tap into their analytical and creative side to create machines that will soar. Engineers in this field typically either focus on aeronautics (aircraft) or astronautics (spacecraft). As with most engineering majors, expect a handsome salary—upwards of $110,000 per year!
THE CAREER PATH
The Department of Labor (DOL) describes the two primary specialties that have emerged with the progression of aerospace technology:
- Aeronautical Engineering – A branch of aerospace engineering that focuses on the theory, technology, and practice of flight within the earth’s atmosphere.
- Astronautical Engineering – Alternatively, this branch of aerospace focuses on spacecraft and technology outside of the atmosphere.
Although the DOL describes the different environmental and operational issues between aeronautics and astronautical engineering, there is a lot of overlap in the fields due to their foundation in the basic principles of physics. Aerospace engineers also often become experts in at least one area within the science they choose and will require a bachelor’s degree. These engineers earn nearly $110,00 on average, per year. More experienced aerospace engineers will have to be licensed as a professional engineer (PE). Some states may require continuing education courses to remain licensed as a PE. Local state laws will determine your course of action.
Depending on what point in your career you are at, or the amount of time that you have to invest in a degree and climbing the ladder of your career, you may choose to enter the profession as an aerospace engineering and operations technician or you may decide to jump-in directly as an aerospace engineer. Technicians can usually start their career with an associate’s degree or vocational education, and make almost $70,000 on average.
Additionally, for U.S. citizens who are aerospace engineers, two major career locations exist: government work or civilian jobs. Many aerospace engineers are employed by the U.S. Air Force or a federal agency, such as NASA or the FAA. These positions usually require security clearances and involve national defense. Civilian spacecraft and aviation manufacturers also support aerospace engineering options for core staff who design and test new commercial aircraft.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
If you still haven’t quite outgrown your childhood obsession with helicopters or space shuttles, or even if you’re just now discovering a newfound love for the science of flying, aerospace engineering can offer a broad path of exploration and upward mobility in a career filled with problem solving and learning. Careers in aerospace engineering don’t require a whole lot more than a passion for the field, other than a little bit of schooling and skills.
It goes without saying that careers in any type of engineering demand professionals that are great at math and problem-solving. If you’ve always been a whiz with calculus and physics then this may be the perfect field for you. It requires a lot more than just talent in math and science, however. Aerospace engineering also requires professionals to be analytical and detail-oriented. Small mistakes can be life threatening for these professionals and their colleagues. It’s a career that involves communicating with a number of different professionals and thinking critically to identify design elements and manage engineering projects.
Finally, one unique aspect about aerospace engineering is group work. Unlike many online engineering graduates, aerospace engineers rarely work alone. They typically work in large groups on a big project, such as developing a new rocket. Long hours spent in a lab or doing research is also fairly common so be prepared to designate ample time to the growth of your career—flexibility in your personal life may be key here.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Aerospace engineering is offered as an online bachelor's degree program, but most aerospace engineering degrees are offered at the graduate level, including online master's degrees and doctorate degrees. If you do not have an aerospace bachelor's degree, a bachelor's degree in engineering will help prepare you for this advanced online degree.
Note that aerospace engineering degree online studies can fall under different names. Space studies is a related online degree major. Online certificates, associate, bachelor and master's degrees are all available in space studies. These degrees are not meant to qualify one to work as an engineer. Instead, they focus on the study of space from a social, psychological and commercial perspective. Aviation managers and military contractors in charge of space projects, including weather, satellite and atmospheric exploration, are more likely to enroll.
Expect an online aerospace engineering degree program to include courses in physics, aerodynamics, astronautics, flight dynamics, propulsion and structural dynamics. In short, be prepared to learn rocket science. Your courses may also allow for a concentration in a specific topic, such as fluids, heat transfer or cost operations.
In order to be competitive for most positions in the job market, potential students will want to search for programs that have been programmatically accredited by the Accrediting Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Licenses are not common among aerospace engineers, and aren’t required for entry-level positions. Although there are certain certifications available to aerospace engineering and operations technicians, offered by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The average online master's degree in engineering costs $28,000, so make sure to look into all of the options that offer the best bang for your buck and prepare you to explore your interests and goals for your career in aerospace engineering. Click on a program below to view tuition cost, accreditation, and admission information.