Aerospace Engineer Job Description

Aerospace engineers research, plan, design, build, test, and maintain spacecraft and aircraft. Engineers who focus more on spacecraft are called astronautical engineers, while those who focus on traditional aircraft are called aeronautical engineers. Companies hire them to improve flight safety, increase fuel efficiency and flight speed, and reduce production and environmental costs. Most aerospace engineers choose a specialty such as flight mechanics, robotics, aerodynamics, propulsion systems, or guidance and control systems. Successful aerospace engineers are self-motivated and technical problem-solvers who work well on teams. They’re usually employed full time in industries that utilize aircraft, such as defense and plane manufacturing.


Aerospace Engineer Duties and Responsibilities

While an aerospace engineer’s day-to-day duties and responsibilities are determined by where they work, there are many core tasks associated with the role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:

Conduct Development Research

Aerospace engineers conduct research on production plans for aircraft such as military fighter jets, spaceships, missiles, and rockets. They evaluate functional requirements and parts specifications in the development phase, and estimate cost, reliability, and safety. They also analyze aircraft proposals to decide if they are technically sound and financially feasible.

Design Aircraft

Aerospace engineers often construct prototypes of their aircraft designs. They apply the principles of engineering science to produce aircraft parts and support equipment. They use their engineering training to examine designs and make sure they meet regulations, customer needs, and environmental guidelines.

Produce Aviation Guidance Systems

A key responsibility for aerospace engineers is designing guidance systems for general aviation, defense, and space exploration aircraft. They also design production techniques and manufacturing facilities. In addition, aerospace engineers use advanced computer software and hardware to produce and analyze system designs, and ensure that their designed systems function reliably.

Test Aircraft Performance

Aerospace engineers test and supervise aircraft and spacecraft. They provide daily direction by coordinating and supervising the manufacturing process. Aerospace engineers also conduct extensive stress tests on aerospace products. They must carefully evaluate products to identify safety concerns or potential defects. Finally, they coordinate test flights and document the results of each attempt.

Communicate Report Findings

After they gather information and interpret data, aerospace engineers communicate their results. They publish technical reports for peers to read. They also share their findings and technical advice with company clients, teams, distributors, and other aerospace professionals.


Aerospace Engineer Skills and Qualifications

Aerospace engineers should have strong math skills and a passion for scientific experimentation and research. Employers typically seek candidates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in aerospace engineering and the following skills:

  • Engineering – aerospace engineers use sound engineering practices, including requirement tracking, configuration control, technical communication, and the peer review process
  • Computer skills – aerospace engineers need strong skill with industry standard software in addition to Java and MySQL programming experience
  • Math skills – advanced math concepts like probability, statistics, and estimation theory are used by aerospace engineers on a daily basis
  • System design – understanding how a system should work and how conditions, operations, and the environment will change outcomes is a key quality for aerospace engineers
  • Communication skills – aerospace engineers usually design and build air and spacecraft with teams, so communicating well with others is critical
  • Strategic planning – it’s important for aerospace engineers to strategically divide work into manageable assignments
  • Technical writing – interpreting data and producing technical reports on system test results are common responsibilities, so writing and documentation are important


Tools of the Trade

Aerospace engineers work in office or research environments and are comfortable using the following software and equipment:

  • 3D modeling software (CAD)
  • Programming languages (C++, Java, MySQL)
  • Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint)


Aerospace Engineer Education and Training

Aerospace engineers need a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a closely related field. These educational programs cover core concepts such as thermodynamics, mechanics, robotics, and aerodynamics. Many employers prefer candidates with master’s degrees, which is required for education and research roles. Aerospace engineers who want to advance beyond the entry level may pursue professional engineer (PE) licensure.


Aerospace Engineer Salary and Outlook

According the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for aerospace engineers is $113,030. The lowest 10 percent of workers earn less than $70,840. The highest 10 percent earn more than $162,110.

The BLS projects employment of aerospace engineers will grow 6 percent through 2026, which is about as fast average for all occupations. Aircraft are being redesigned for better fuel efficiency, which will create demand for research and development.


Helpful Resources

We searched the web for the best industry resources to help you continue exploring a career as an aerospace engineer. Here are more ways to learn whether becoming one is right for you:

American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics – AIAA is global networking organization with more than 30,000 members from 88 countries. It’s the world’s largest technical society dedicated to the aerospace industry

Fundamentals of Aerodynamics – this best-selling introductory offering provides an interesting, readable, and up-to-date overview of aerodynamics

Introduction to Aerospace Engineering with a Flight Test Perspective – read this book to discover the fundamentals of aerospace engineering, real-world flight, aerodynamics, propulsion, and self-control

Advice to Rocket Scientists: A Career Survival Guide for Scientists and Engineers – this book shares down-to-earth career advice from a former NASA engineer and astronautics professor, who teaches readers how to prepare and succeed in science-related professions

Failure Is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond – this is an interesting, page-turning memoir from a mission control flight director during the Apollo days, who witnessed the first manned space flight

Royal Aeronautical Society – RAS provides access to international networking and training resources to help its 19,000 members become successful aerospace engineers


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