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What Does It Take to Become an Aeronautical Engineer?

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Aeronautical engineering is the branch of aerospace engineering that involves aircraft, rather than spacecraft and satellites. The aeronautical engineer is responsible for the design and development of aircraft ranging from small private planes to supersonic fighters to giant airliners. Aeronautical engineers also help develop and supervise the production and maintenance systems for aircraft.


Acceptance into an accredited program for aerospace engineering requires a strong academic background in high school. You should take mathematics courses, including calculus. Physics is a must as well. Other useful classes include chemistry, computer science and electronics.


Becoming an aeronautical engineer starts with earning a 4 year Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from a university program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). You’ll take courses in mathematics, computer design and physics. Advanced classes include engineering design, methodology and analysis. Engineering students also spend a lot of time in labs learning to apply the principles presented in their class work.

Graduate Education

Education specific to aeronautical engineering takes place at the graduate school level. Students generally require 2 to 3 years to earn a master’s degree in an ABET-accredited program. Prospective aeronautical engineers specialize in a particular area such as aircraft electronics or navigation and control systems. Other specialties include aircraft propulsion and structure.


The final step in becoming an aeronautical engineer is to pass the professional engineer exam in your area of specialization within the field of aeronautical engineering. Exams are administered by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. However, your education won’t stop there. Aviation is a field notable for rapid advances, so keeping up with technological change is a career-long process. Many aeronautical engineers continue their formal training by earning a PhD as a way to move into research and development or into management.

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Based in Atlanta, Georgia, W D Adkins has been writing professionally since 2008. He writes about business, personal finance and careers. Adkins holds master's degrees in history and sociology from Georgia State University. He became a member of the Society of Professional Journalists in 2009.

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