What Is Aeronautical Engineering?

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Aeronautical engineers design the aircraft that carry people and cargo. A specialized aeronautical engineering degree is the entry-level requirement for this career.

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What Would I Do as an Aeronautical Engineer?

Aeronautical engineers are involved in all steps of the process of aircraft production. Some work in the design side of the field, where they use computer software to prototype aircraft designs and parts. Others oversee new aeronautical plans and engineering proposals to decide which are feasible and should be manufactured. Still others do theoretical research into the principles of flight, thermodynamics, and other physics questions related to aircraft.

Others work in a variety of project management and manufacturing areas. Some make sure that engineering projects follow a set budget and are carried out in a timely manner, while others inspect the project for quality. It is common for aeronautical engineers to specialize in a particular design or production area, such as navigation and instrumentation, propulsion, structural design, and control.[1]

What Education and Training Will I Need to Become an Aeronautical Engineer?

You will need a bachelor's degree in engineering to get started as an aeronautical engineer. It is advisable to complete a program that has accreditation through ABET, since more employers and state licensing agencies require applicants to have completed an ABET-approved program. The bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering includes background science requirements in math, physics, and engineering fundamentals, as well as aeronautical engineering specialization courses. Foundational science classes include calculus, mechanics, electricity, differential equations, technical writing, and analytical geometry.

Upper-level aeronautical engineering classes discuss topics like aerodynamics, engineering materials, electrical engineering, space mechanics, turbines, engines, flight dynamics, and spacecraft design. Lab courses are an important component of the aeronautical engineering degree. Students learn how to work with materials, manipulate electrical components, and test designs. In an online aeronautical engineering degree, students have to come to campus over summer or during special residential periods to complete the hands-on requirements.[2]

What Job Outlook Can I Expect as an Aeronautical Engineer?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a slower-than-average growth rate for the aerospace and aeronautical engineering field for the next few years. While growth will be slow compared to other professions, a number of factors will be creating jobs for newly trained engineers. Many aeronautical engineers work on projects related to national defense, and these types of jobs will remain in the US due to security concerns. Engineers will also be needed to improve the efficiency and safety of civilian and commercial aircraft. In addition, aeronautical engineers interested in spacecraft design may also see job opportunities, as private companies begin developing spacecraft and government agencies continue robot-based space missions.[3]

Aeronautical engineers who are trained in high-demand engineering skills and tools will have the best job opportunities. Some skills that will be sought after by employers include an understanding of Collaborative Fluid Dynamics software, collaborative engineering tools, and robotics.[3]

What Work Environment Can I Expect as an Aeronautical Engineer?

About one-third of aeronautical engineers work in aerospace product and parts manufacturing. Another 15 percent work in architectural, engineering, and related services. Other major employers include scientific research and development firms, the federal government, and navigational instruments manufacturing. Most aeronautical engineers work full time in office settings, where they use software and computing tools to do aeronautical testing.[4]

What Other Careers Might I Be Interested In?

If the highly technical nature of aeronautical engineering appeals to you, there are a variety of other information systems and engineering positions you might want to investigate before committing to a degree program. Industrial engineers find ways to make production processes more efficient and are similar to aeronautical engineers in that many work in manufacturing. Other overlapping work areas include materials engineering, mechanical engineering, and electronics engineering.


  1. ^Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published March 29, 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineers.htm#tab-2.
  2. ^Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published March 29, 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineers.htm#tab-4.
  3. ^abOccupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published March 29, 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineers.htm#tab-6.
  4. ^Occupational Outlook Handbook. Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor. Published March 29, 2012. http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/aerospace-engineers.htm#tab-3.
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