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how to become an Aeronautical Engineer

How to Become an Aeronautical Engineer

An aeronautical engineer is a specialist in the design of aircraft. You might decide to become an aeronautical engineer if you have a keen interest in aviation and flight, a good head for academic work, and a desire to work on exciting projects. Building an airplane is a very complicated process, and involves a long and detailed procedure of design, manufacture, and testing. Aeronautical engineers will also contribute to the maintenance and repair of working aircraft.

While the first planes to soar through the skies a century ago were simple in their design, the planes of today are very complex. Most aeronautical engineers specialize in a particular area, and work within a larger team of engineers on a project. As new technology is developed, the work of an aeronautical engineer is constantly changing. This is certainly a challenging role.

Education Requirements to Become an Aeronautical Engineer

To become an aeronautical engineer, you'll need to be prepared to complete several years of college, which may at times become competitive. In high school, you'll need to get good grades, especially in math and science. Courses in physics, algebra, and calculus will be particularly helpful.

At college, you will need to complete a four year bachelor's degree that specializes in aeronautical science and engineering. Make sure your course has been accredited by ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Your coursework will again include subjects in math, science, engineering, physics, and aerospace, just to name a few.

Your education isn't over yet! To get a role as an aeronautical engineer, you'll also need to attend graduate school. A masters degree in aeronautical engineering is the best choice of postgraduate degree, and will take anywhere between one and three years to complete, depending on the school you enroll in. The coursework will be much more specific to aircraft design. While a master's degree is adequate to become an aeronautical engineer, many in the field eventually complete a doctorate.

After you complete your postgraduate degree, you'll need to take the Professional Aeronautical Engineer Exam, which will allow you to be fully licensed and certified to practice.

Since this is a field which is constantly seeing the introduction of new technology, you will need to stay on the forefront. Continuing education will be a part of your job.

Aeronautical Engineer Job Description

An aeronautical engineer designs and oversees the manufacturer of aircraft. They test prototypes, and also oversee the maintenance and repair of planes. They work with both civil and military aircraft, and also may work to develop related technology involving missiles, weapons, or radar.

The purpose of an aeronautical engineer is primarily to develop an aircraft which is safe. They also need to take into consideration the cost effectiveness of such aircraft, as well as their impact on the environment.

An aeronautical engineer will often focus on one stage of the development process. For instance, they may work exclusively in research, design, or manufacture. Some could work in the testing stages, while others in maintenance and repair.

Here are some of the job requirements of an aeronautical engineer:

  • Researching aircraft design

  • Applying the principles of science to aircraft

  • Overseeing the manufacture of aircraft, including small components

  • Attending flight tests

  • Taking measurements and readings during tests

  • Aircraft maintenance

  • Accident investigations

Aeronautical Engineer Salary and Career Path

Most aeronautical engineers will begin their career working under the supervision of a more experience engineer. With experience, you will be able to move on to more complex roles, and in turn earn a higher salary.

There are many different fields that an aeronautical engineer could work in. Some are employed by aircraft manufacturers like Boeing. Others work for airlines performing maintenance and testing. Some work for the military, while others work as teachers or researchers in colleges.

Some similar roles to an aeronautical engineer include:

Aeronautical engineers are the highest paid of any of the engineering career paths. According to, they earn a median wage of around $99,000 a year. The highest 10% of earners take home in excess of $140,000 a year.

While it may be challenging to become an aeronautical engineer, after you have completed your education, you can look forward to an exciting career that will always be changing and expanding. There are excellent salaries available, as well as good job security for those who are successful.

*Salary Information provided by the Bureau Of Labor Statistics
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