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How to Become an Aircraft Engineer

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Aircraft engineers are responsible for the design, testing and construction of aircraft approved for flight by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). To prepare for the challenging work of manufacturing safe vehicles used for commercial and industrial flight, aspiring aircraft engineers must complete education in engineering, science and mathematics. Beginning with high school, individuals seeking a career in this field should begin selecting classes, potential colleges and professional societies that support aerospace career opportunities.

Complete high school graduation requirements. In preparation for a career in aircraft engineering, high school students should be prepared to take a full program of math and science studies, including algebra, geometry and trigonometry as well as chemistry and physics.

Take your college placement exam. Students looking to pursue a career as an aircraft engineer will require an engineering degree from an accredited four-year college or university. To prepare for college admissions, students should take this exam to satisfy admission requirements for college programs.

Select a college or university that offers a suitable bachelor of science (BS) program in aerospace and or mechanical engineering. According to the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), students in a suitable engineering program will learn critical engineering concepts including propulsion, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and aerodynamics. Additional coursework will include calculus, physics, chemistry and social science.

Identify and apply for co-op or internships when eligible. Co-op programs by participating companies typically offer students paid employment opportunity prior to graduation to prepare for a career in engineering. Internships provided by companies may not offer compensation, but provide important on-the-job employment experience helpful to landing a position upon graduation. Consult the career planning office at your college institution to identify and apply for these supplemental work experiences.

Join an professional association to assist you with further career and professional development. The AIAA is a professional association for aerospace engineers. Some associations, like the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) also extend student memberships to provide affiliation for students pursuing degrees in Aerospace Engineering. Professional associations can increase your ability to network with peers, get career advice and learn of new job opportunities.

Identify entry-level employment opportunities. Working with your career planning office at your college, your professional association affiliation and engineering network you've built during your college-level work, begin your job search. Consult with your co-op or internship company, since they may give you special consideration for employment based on your previous work experience.