Aerospace engineers design equipment such as missiles, planes, helicopters, satellites and spacecraft. Most aerospace engineers hold a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or a closely related subject, while others pursue a master's degree or Ph.D. typically needed to direct independent research or for promotion to supervisory positions.
Starting Salary for Graduates With a B.S.
According to an annual salary survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, aerospace engineers graduating with a bachelor's degree reported an average starting salary of $69,600 in 2011. This compares favorably with the average starting income of all 2011 graduates, who earned $41,701 per year. Furthermore, it also compares favorably with the average starting salary of all graduates in engineering, which was $61,872 per year as of 2011.
Starting Pay for Graduate Degrees
While a bachelor's of science in aerospace engineering commands a high starting salary, the prospects for those with graduate degrees can be even better. According to a report by U.S. News & World Report, aerospace engineers graduating with a master's degree started out at an average salary of $62,459 as of 2009. Many who get their master's degree push on for their Ph.D. and had an expected starting salary of $73,814 per year as of 2009.
Expected Pay Scales
After gaining experience for a few years, aerospace engineers can expect one of the highest salaries in all of engineering. While the median income of all engineers in 2010 was $83,340, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income of aerospace engineers was $97,480 per year. Furthermore, the BLS reported that as of 2011, the highest-paid 25 percent of aerospace engineers earned $125,260 or more per year, and the highest-paid 10 percent made $147,810 or more.
Pay by Industry
While more than one-third of aerospace engineers worked directly for aerospace parts and products manufacturers in 2011, these engineers reported one of the lowest average salaries for their occupation at $96,740. Higher average wages were reported by those employed by the manufacturers of navigational and control instruments, who averaged $106,140. Still higher was the average salary of an aerospace engineer working at a scientific research and development firm, at $109,740. One of the highest salaries, though, was earned by aerospace engineers employed directly by the federal government, who averaged $111,080 a year.
Although some expected a high growth rate for aerospace engineers at the turn of the decade, the BLS offered a more sober assessment, citing projected budget cuts in defense and space exploration as well as slow growth in manufacturing. Between 2010 and 2020, the bureau expects jobs for aerospace engineers to grow at a rate of about 5 percent and for about 4,000 new jobs to be available by 2020. Aerospace engineers skilled in robotics, modeling and simulation are expected to have the best prospects for employment.