Aerospace Engineer Job Description: Top Duties and Qualifications

An Aerospace Engineer, or Aeronautical Engineer, is responsible for designing, troubleshooting and enhancing aircraft and spacecraft for commercial and military organizations. Their duties include applying mathematical and scientific knowledge to design and repair air and spacecraft components, testing aircrafts to determine and fix any current or potential issues and coordinating projects to meet safety standards and follow government regulations.

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Aerospace Engineer Duties and Responsibilities

Aerospace Engineers are responsible for directing the manufacturing and testing of the prototypes they design. It is up to them to determine if proposed projects are technically possible and safe, ensuring the quality of all projects. They are involved from start to finish in their projects, performing a number of duties:

  • Decide if a project’s operations are safe
  • Evaluate the designs to ensure they meet customer satisfaction, engineering principles and environment regulations
  • Create the foundation for manufacture methods, quality standards and date of delivery
  • Inspect malfunctioning products to determine the source and solution of the problem

What Does An Aerospace Engineer Do?

Aerospace Engineers work for manufacturing companies or government entities building, testing and fixing parts of space and aircrafts like computer systems, control panels and guiding systems. They ensure air and spacecraft vehicles are safe for passenger or cargo transportation. Aerospace Engineers often work closely with departments like testing, production and research to ensure their designs and improvements meet the necessary safety and efficiency standards. They’re typically in charge of creating budgets, safety standards and timelines to ensure every project meets certain guidelines and deadlines.

Aerospace Engineer Skills and Qualifications

Aerospace Engineers are skilled in many fields, including analysis, problem-solving and design. A successful Aerospace Engineer candidate will display a specific skill set that ensures a project will be completed thoroughly and safely. Such qualifications are as follows:

  • Business skills and commercial law knowledge for reaching federal government standards and regulations
  • Math skills since trigonometry and calculus are often used in analytical designs
  • Writing skills in order to explain their designs clearly in writing
  • Critical-thinking skills to conclude why a design may not be working and how to fix it

Aerospace Engineer Salary Expectations

For Eeronautical Engineers—Aerospace Engineer that specialize in work with aircrafts—the average salary is $78,477. This information is based on 1,013 salaries submitted to Indeed in the past 36 months from employees, users and past and present job advertisements. The average amount of time candidates tend to stay within a company is 1-3 years.

Aerospace Engineer Education and Training Requirements

Candidates for Aerospace Engineering should have a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering and should have field studies in general engineering, mechanics, propulsion, aerodynamics, structures, stability and control. Though not required, it is recommended for an Aerospace Engineer candidate to be trained in software that they may have to frequently use, such as C++. Any candidate that wishes to advance to overseeing a project must pick up a Professional Engineering (PE) license. Issued from state to state, this license allows high levels of leadership and independence.

Aerospace Engineer Experience Requirements

Entry-level candidates should be an EIT (engineer-in-training) before starting a new job. Upon receiving their bachelor’s degree, entry level Aerospace Engineer candidates can take an exam called the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam in order to officially become an EIT. Once they complete the work experience requirements set by your company, they can then take the second exam called the Principles and Practice of Engineering. After passing the FE and PE exams, completing at least fours of work experience, and receive a degree from an ABET-accredited program, a candidate can receive their state licensure.

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Frequently asked questions about Aerospace Engineers


What are the different types of Aerospace Engineers?

Most Aerospace Engineers closely study certain fields, like thermodynamics, flight mechanics, aerodynamics or celestial mechanics. This allows them to either specialize in aeronautical or astronautical engineering. An Astronautical Engineer works specifically on spacecraft carriers and researches ways for them to more efficiently travel to and from the Earth. To help with this, many of these Engineers work with large and small satellites. 

Aeronautical Engineers work primarily on designing and improving aircraft systems. They conduct extensive research on how to improve the aerodynamic performance of aircrafts. Aeronautical Engineers apply this research to designing, testing and improving different sections and systems of aircrafts. 


What makes a good Aerospace Engineer?

A strong Aerospace Engineer must have advanced knowledge and passion in technical subjects like science, math, computers and mechanics to regularly test and brainstorm innovative designs. Since their ideas should be unique and efficient, an ability to use both creativity and critical thinking during each project is often ideal for effective candidates. Aerospace Engineers are regularly expected to conduct extensive research on ways to design or enhance specialized production facilities or processes, so a good Aerospace Engineer should be willing and able to focus and study for several hours at a time.


Which industries do Aerospace Engineers typically work in?

Many Aerospace Engineers work in product manufacturing corporations building national defense carriers, like missiles, or parts for aircraft and spacecraft vehicles. Some Aerospace Engineers work directly for the federal government identifying needs and goals for aircraft carriers and building designs to support these preferences. 

Some Aerospace Engineers focus specifically on designing different air and spacecraft machines, so they’ll work in an office environment where they’re given advanced software tools and computer equipment to craft and present detailed designs. 


What's the difference between an Aerospace Engineer and a Mechanical Engineer?

Both Aerospace Engineers and Mechanical Engineers hold similar responsibilities and tasks but often work in different industries and on different projects. Mechanical Engineers design and build a wide range of machines lik generators, automobiles and robotics. Many Mechanical Engineers need to receive additional educational knowledge or skills to work on space and aircraft carries. 

Aerospace Engineers work primarily on air and spacecraft carriers and rarely build designs or construct other machines, like Mechanical Engineers. Aerospace Engineers can work for the government or military, while most Mechanical Engineers serve in an office setting.

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