Aerospace Degree Program and College Major Information
Read about aerospace programs and majors offered at various degree levels. Learn about the educational prerequisites, courses and career options for students in these programs.
Degree programs in aerospace engineering are available at the associate's, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels. Students majoring in aerospace engineering learn to design and construct aircraft, missiles and satellites. Major studies in aerospace technology include calculus, physics, statistical analysis and aerodynamics. At the bachelor's level, students may be able to choose a degree concentration. Students in master's programs can choose from thesis and non-thesis degree paths.
While many associate's programs in this field prepare students for enrollment in 4-year engineering programs, individuals with an associate's degree may also find work as engineering technicians. The minimum educational requirement for most aerospace or aeronautical engineers is a bachelor's degree.
Associate of Arts in Aerospace Engineering
Individuals interested in designing and creating parts and vehicles for space flight and other atmospheric voyages should consider earning an aerospace degree. An associate's degree in aerospace engineering is generally a preparatory program for a related 4-year degree. Students focus on completing the math and science prerequisites generally required for admittance to an aerospace engineering major program.
In order to qualify for admission into an associate's degree program in aerospace engineering, applicants must be high school graduates, or they must have earned a GED. Admitted students may have to take a college placement test before being able to enroll in classes.
At the 2-year degree level, students complete general education requirements. They also take advanced classes in these subjects:
- Differential equations
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates of a 2-year aerospace degree may themselves be eligible for jobs as aerospace engineering technicians. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, starting in 2010 and continuing through 2020, employment of aerospace engineering technicians was predicted to see little to no change in job growth, although there will be turnover among current positions. Additionally, as of May 2012, the BLS (www.bls.gov) noted that aerospace engineering and operations technicians earned a median income of $61,530 annually.
Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering
Aerospace engineering majors study not only the intricacies of engineering, science and mathematics but also aircraft systems design and operations. Depending on the degree program, students may be able to concentrate in astronautics or aeronautics. A 4-year degree program focused on aerospace engineering prepares individuals for eventual careers in governmental or industrial positions where they can construct flight vehicles, launching weapons and satellites.
Aerospace engineering programs are highly selective, so applicants should demonstrate competitive ACT or SAT scores, GPAs and class rankings. Individuals wishing to major in aerospace engineering must typically take high school or college courses in advanced science, mathematics and computers.
Undergraduate students usually participate in aerospace industry internships and often design and complete an aircraft or a spacecraft project before graduating. Coursework for a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering typically includes variations of the following:
- Computer-aided design of aerospace systems
- Aerospace dynamics
- Aircraft structures
- Electrical engineering
- Experimental space systems
- Advanced engineering mathematics
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Individuals who majored in aerospace engineering are qualified to work as aerospace technologists and engineers. As of May 2012, aerospace engineers earned a median wage of $103,720, noted the BLS. Furthermore, employment of aerospace engineers from 2010-2020 was predicted to increase by five percent, which is slower than the average for all other U.S. professions.
Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering
At the graduate level, aerospace master's degree students develop more advanced research skills and critical-thinking abilities. Students can opt for a thesis or non-thesis track. Aerospace engineering concentrations are often available in orbital mechanics, aerospace control and guidance operations, structural dynamics and aerothermodynamics.
Typically, applicants to a master's degree program in aerospace engineering must have a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering, math or science. A cumulative undergraduate grade of a B is usually required for admissions consideration.
At the master's degree level, students participate in lectures and lab work. Topics of study often include:
- Aerospace theories
- Global positioning systems
- Space mechanics and navigation
Popular Career Options
Those who hold a master's degree in aerospace engineering often work for such agencies as the U.S. Department of Defense and NASA. Aerospace engineer graduates can work as:
- Airline diagnostic specialists
- Aerospace parts designers
- Aerospace engineering consultants
- Spaceship developers
- Missile and rocket engineers
Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering
Ph.D. programs in aerospace engineering are research-focused. Students are required to come up with a unique concept and argue it to a panel of aerospace faculty. In order to graduate, doctoral candidates must not only successfully complete their dissertation but also pass a comprehensive knowledge and skills assessment.
Like all levels of aerospace engineering programs, Ph.D. programs are very selective, so applicants should have competitive GPAs and be ranked higher than at least half of their fellow graduates. Aerospace engineering applicants must have a master's degree in a related field and in some cases, related work experience. Those interested must submit letters of recommendation.
At the doctoral level, students are often required to assist an aerospace professor for at least one semester. Throughout the program, students get closer toward doctoral candidacy by learning and participating in:
- Research methods
- Quantitative analysis
- Qualitative analysis
- Dissertation preparation
- Dissertation defense
Popular Career Options
Doctoral graduates of an aerospace engineering program typically find themselves working in authoritative or scholarly settings. The following jobs can be obtained with Ph.D. in aerospace engineering:
- College professor
- University chairperson
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