Aeronautical engineers design aircraft and related propulsion systems. They apply their knowledge of physics and engineering to create plans and develop aircraft for various purposes. Many aeronautical engineers eventually earn their professional engineer license to enhance their career advancement potential. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, however, that employment prospects are relatively poor for aerospace engineers. Limited growth in the defense and manufacturing industries is expected to limit aerospace engineer job growth to just 5 percent from 2010 to 2020. On the other hand, a May 2012 article in IEEE's "Today's Engineer" points out that almost 100 percent of U.S. graduating engineers are employed right out of college, and that aerospace engineers are also employed in other areas such as the automotive and electronics industries.
Enroll in an ABET-accredited aerospace or aeronautical engineering program. Study hard, maintain a high GPA and graduate in the top 10 percent of your class. Take classes in trigonometry, calculus, engineering principles and physics to gain knowledge about propulsion, stability and control, mechanics and aerodynamics.
Apply for aerospace-engineering related internships or work study programs after your sophomore year. Having some professional engineering experience under your belt, even if it is just part-time or for a few months in the summer, gives you a leg-up in landing your first job.
Take and pass the Fundamentals in Engineering exam offered by NCEES, the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying, after you graduate. This is a comprehensive exam covering basic engineering principles, and is the first step toward earning your professional engineer license. After four years of professional experience, you are eligible to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam and earn your P.E.
Begin developing your professional network in college. Get to know your professors and attend as many departmental distinguished visitor presentations and social events as possible. Join and consider becoming an officer of your school's student engineering organization. Being perceived as a "go-getter" will help you get an internship and help you land an ideal first job.
2016 Salary Information for Aerospace Engineers
Aerospace engineers earned a median annual salary of $109,650 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, aerospace engineers earned a 25th percentile salary of $85,500, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $135,020, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 69,600 people were employed in the U.S. as aerospace engineers.