Aerospace engineers design and test missiles and spacecraft, work in a variety of industries and earn a range of salaries. The level of degree that an aerospace engineer holds is only one factor determining rates of pay; other significant factors influencing aerospace engineer salaries include location and industry of employment.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 78,450 workers reported employment as aerospace engineers in 2010. The average annual salary for all reporting was $99,000, while the median salary was $97,480. The lowest-paid 10 percent of all aerospace engineers working in the United States earned an annual salary of $60,620, while the highest-paid 10 percent reported earnings of $143,360 or higher.
Pay by Industry
As of 2010, aerospace engineers working in the aerospace products and parts manufacturing industry reported average annual earnings of $89,150. Those working in scientific research and development services earned an average of $106,840 per year, while aerospace engineers working for the federal government earned an average annual salary of $110,780. The highest-paid aerospace engineers by employment sector worked in the machinery, equipment and supplies wholesaling industry and reported an average annual salary of $118,420.
Pay by Location
As of 2010, the highest-paying state for employment in aerospace engineering was Maryland, where aerospace engineers earned an average annual salary of $117,160. Virginia aerospace engineers earned an average of $116,280, while those working in the District of Columbia made an average of $115,180 per year. Other top-paying states included Alabama and California. The highest-paying metropolitan areas were the Bethesda-Frederick-Gaithersburg area of Maryland and the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area of California. The top-paying non-metropolitan area in 2010 was St. Mary's County in Maryland.
Pay by Education
Although the BLS does not maintain or publish salary outlooks by level or type of degree, a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in 1999 found that an entry-level aerospace engineer who possessed a master's degree could expect to earn an average of almost $14,000 more than an entry-level aerospace engineer with only a bachelor's degree. In addition, the BLS reports that two of the three highest-paying industries for aerospace engineers in 2010 were management and technical consulting services and wholesaling, both of which may require business training. This data suggests that aerospace engineers who have MBAs may receive higher-than-average wages for their field.
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.