Explore Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics

Aerospace engineers design, develop, and test new technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and space exploration—often specializing in areas such as aerodynamics, structural design, guidance, navigation and control, instrumentation and communication, or production methods. They often use computer-aided design (CAD) software, robotics, and lasers and advanced electronic optics. They also may specialize in a particular type of aerospace product, such as commercial transports, military fighter jets, helicopters, spacecraft, or missiles and rockets.

Aerospace engineers may be experts in aerodynamics, thermodynamics, celestial mechanics, propulsion, acoustics, or guidance and control systems. They often apply their knowledge to related fields such as environmental engineering and mechanical engineering.

*Salary and Career Outcomes gathered from the 2018-2019 CSE Graduation Survey. Post-graduation outcomes reflect the percentage of students who were employed full-time in their field or were enrolled in a graduate program at 6 months post-graduation.

AEM Career Prospects. Average Starting Salary: $71,301; Post-Graduation Outcomes: Employed 66.7%, Graduate School 16.7%, Other 16.7%

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What can I do with a major in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics?

INDUSTRIES

  • Aircraft design
  • Aircraft parts manufacturing
  • Airlines
  • Consulting
  • Heating, Ventilation, AC
  • Higher education
  • Insurance
  • Marketing
  • National defense
  • Propulsion Engineering
  • Research
  • Rocketry
  • Satellites
  • Space flight
  • Transportation

EMPLOYERS

  • 3M
  • Aster Labs
  • Boeing
  • Boston Scientific
  • Carl Zeiss Industrial Metrology, LLC
  • Eaton Corporation
  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • Ford Motor Company
  • General Electric
  • Honeywell
  • HUSCO International
  • Lockheed Martin
  • NASA
  • NAVAIR
  • Northrop Grumman
  • Medtronic
  • Orbital ATK
  • Sierra Nevada Corporation
  • United Launch Alliance
  • UTC Aerospace Systems
  • Virgin Galactic

TECHNICAL SKILLS

  • AutoCAD
  • C, C++, Dynamic C
  • Java
  • Mathematica
  • MATLAB/Simulink
  • ANSYS
  • Python
  • SolidWorks
  • STK

POSSIBLE POSITIONS

  • Analytical engineer: Conducts in-depth assessments of proposed products and evaluates whether the design of each product meets customer requirements.
  • Controls engineer: Designs, develops, installs, manages, and maintains equipment which is used to monitor and control engineering systems, machinery, and processes.
  • Design engineer: Takes the concept or working model of a product to create a design that meets the customer’s requirements, industry standards, and can be manufactured economically.
  • Development engineer: Applies research findings to develop new or improved products or manufacturing processes.
  • Field service engineer: Examines performance reports on products and makes recommendations to solve problems.
  • Manufacturing engineer: Plans the tooling, construction, and assembly of the product as dictated by the design specifications.
  • Materials engineer: Tests and evaluates materials, conventional or composite, used in aerospace structures.
  • Project engineer: Plans, directs, and coordinates activities of company projects.
  • Systems engineer: Performs the requirements, analysis, and definition of the overall system and its subsystem.
  • Test engineer: Designs and oversees the performance testing of products in wind tunnels and in flight.

**Some of these positions may require an advanced degree.

GET INVOLVED

  • Active Energy Club
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Copter Club
  • Liquid Propellant Rocket Design
  • National Society of Black Engineers
  • Rocket Team
  • Science and Engineering Student Board
  • Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers
  • Society of Automotive Engineers – Formula Race Car
  • Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers
  • Society of Women Engineers
  • Solar Vehicle Project
  • Tesla Works

Q&A with George Thome, Propulsion Engineering Intern, SpaceX

What do you do?

I analyze cryogenic fluid networks including propellant inventory, water hammer, and thermal environments.

What's a typical work day?

I check-up on analysis that was running overnight. I create, validate, or troubleshoot models. I also analyze flight or test data, and I automate repetitive tasks.

What qualities are important for this position?

Being a good coworker who can be helpful, ask questions and get work done.

What about technical skills?

Knowledge of internal fluid flows and thermal heat transfer is used daily. Also general knowledge is useful, as often times new problems arise in new areas.

What training were you offered for your position?

There isn’t direct training but mentorship is very important. There is almost always someone with great knowledge who is willing to teach or explain something.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

Launching rockets, and when a model predicts results from a test.

Most challenging?

Managing different tasks with different timeframes.

What are your possible career paths now?

Progress as an engineer, become a technical manager, and even a director. The company has a flat corporate structure.

Advice for current students?

Aerospace engineering and mechanics is a great major and sets you up well to get into modeling. I would take additional programming classes, as it is an important skill in today’s job market.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

Get internships, especially during the fall or spring! It was the most important for me personally as well as for my career. Don’t rush through college. You have your whole life to work.

Q&A with Adam Thoreen, Flight Deck Engineering Manager, The Boeing Company

What do you do?

I manage a team of engineers responsible for designing, testing, certifying, and supporting Boeing commercial airplane flight decks.

What's a typical work day?

There is never a typical day! I could be doing anything from reviewing a design to discussing an issue with test pilots, or meeting with customer airlines to discuss the flight deck.

What qualities are important for this position?

Excellent communication skills and a desire to always understand more about a topic are essential.

What about technical skills?

We design the interface for commercial airplane flight crews—so I need to know the operational environment of flying an airplane. What are the flight crew’s needs and challenges? What does the airplane as a complex machine require the flight crew to do to manage it?

What training were you offered for your position?

On the job training—I was paired up with a senior engineer who served as a mentor when I first started.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

It is rewarding to see the results of my work whenever I travel. It is exciting to know that the product I’m designing safely transports millions of people around the world every day.

Most challenging?

It takes a while to design and certify a commercial airplane. It is not like a consumer electronic device which can have a product cycle of a year. It takes many years to develop, test, and certify an airplane. Sometimes at the height of design I wish I could see it fly right then and there!

What are your possible career paths now?

Boeing allows for both advancement into senior engineering positions as well as management.

Advice for current students?

Aerospace creates amazing products. It is a wide field however, covering everything from spacecraft, airplanes, materials, defense (and more!). Figure out what interests you and seek out classes and internships in that area.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

At my job, every single thing I do requires working with a team of people to accomplish it. Take advantage of opportunities to participate on teams, clubs, and group assignment while you’re in college. That is most representative of the world beyond engineering school.

Q&A with Miguel Reyes, Investment Banking Analyst, Lake Street Capital Markets

What do you do?

I support senior investment bankers on raising capital for companies through equity offerings, mergers and acquisitions, and other corporate finance advisory transactions.

What's a typical work day?

It includes financial modeling, market research of companies and industries, and creating pitch books to prospect for new clients.

What qualities are important for this position?

Being highly motivated, well organized, detail oriented, and being able to work under pressure and tight deadlines. You must also be able to work independently and in a team environment, and have strong interpersonal and communication skills.

What about technical skills?

Excel (navigating a spreadsheet without using a mouse is a plus!) and PowerPoint.

What training were you offered for your position?

I had free access to programs to learn the skills needed to be successful. I also had direct mentorship/ oversight by senior bankers who have decades of experience in finance.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

Seeing the results of our work in a short period time. In other words, enabling exciting companies to grow by connecting them with providers of capital.

Most challenging?

Unpredictable schedule, demanding clients, and time management.

What are your possible career paths now?

Climbing the ladder directly to managing director (senior banker), other finance opportunities in different companies (corporate development, private equity, venture capital, hedge funds, etc.), strategy and operations roles, business school or other masters programs.

Advice for current students?

Have a solid reason for pursuing aerospace engineering and try to determine what field (within aerospace) you would like to enter—aerodynamics, control systems, orbital mechanics, etc. Also ask yourself if you would like to get a master’s degree in aerospace right after undergrad. I found that most of my classmates pursued this path, as some entry-level roles required an M.S.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

Be open minded to other opportunities since you may not work in the field that you studied after school!

Q&A with Cory Sorensen,Senior Aero/Thermal Engineer, Aero Systems Engineering

What do you do?

At ASE, we design aerospace testing facilities such as wind tunnels and engine test cells. I am responsible for the aerodynamic and thermodynamic performance of these facilities. 

My job starts when a customer needs a new or upgraded testing facility. I work closely with the customer and the sales team to produce a specification that meets their needs and budget. From there, I transition to the design phase and make the necessary calculations to ensure that the customer’s requirements are met. This can range from calculating the amount of run time in a Mach 3 blow down wind tunnel to what is the flow quality at a test article in a wind tunnel. Once the facility is constructed, we travel to validate the design by operating and testing the facility.

What’s a typical work day? 

There isn’t a typical day. An engineer typically takes on one or more projects, and each project lasts a few months to a few years. We must be capable of performing different types of analyses including heat transfer, pressure loss, acoustics, compressible flow, and components sizing. We work closely with other engineering disciplines including mechanical, electrical, and structural.

What qualities are important for this position?

There is much more to the position than being able to make the calculations. You must be able to write clear and organized reports, and have the ability to present the findings. 

What about technical skills? 

An understanding of compressible flow is probably most important for this job. The isentropic flow equations taught in the Fluid Dynamics courses along with the shock equations are very useful. Also, computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is becoming more powerful and more widely used throughout the industry. An understanding of it is important. It’s not just about: Can you run the code, but do you know why you are choosing the settings and making the assumptions?

What training were you offered for your position? 

My company will send us to AIAA conferences and training meetings for developing skills such as CFD. The rest of the training comes through working on projects with guidance and supervision of senior engineers.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

Since many of the designs we do at ASE are unique, there is never a clear formula that we can follow. Battling all of the different variables as we perform analyses until finally we find the solution that works is satisfying. Also, ASE’s business is worldwide. I enjoy the opportunities to experience many different industries—such as jet engine, military and defense, research, and others that use a wind tunnel—and to make connections in these industries and explore other cultures. 

Most challenging? 

Controlling the schedule and cost is often a challenge for projects. As a project evolves, there are often unexpected results that I will encounter. As an engineer, I like to fully analyze the problems and explore options. There is typically never enough schedule or budget to accommodate this, and I am left to use best judgment on how to proceed.

What are your possible career paths now?

Most engineers stay within the engineering department. Promotions within engineering include manager and director positions. Another opportunity that engineers are well suited for is technical sales and marketing positions.

Advice for current students?

Consider if job location is important to you. While aerospace engineers can fill many roles throughout the industry, positions that lean heavily on aerospace specialties such as fluid dynamics are sometimes hard to find in certain regions.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

Getting outside-the-classroom experience is very important for personal development and obtaining a job. Make relationships with faculty and professionals, seek out research, and learn relevant programs. These will help you stand out from others when you are looking for an internship, applying for graduate school, or finding your first position as a graduate.

Q&A with Mark Miller, Software Engineer (Developer Operations), National Instruments

What do you do?

I develop and maintain code infrastructure to support our driver and application developers.

What’s a typical work day? 

A typical day starts by looking at my Agile dashboard to see what needs to be worked on, then I will partition out my time from there. Some projects or tasks only take a couple hours and others, weeks to months. We’re a fast-paced software team that works with a lot of new and open-source technologies.

What qualities are important for this position?

Being able to communicate effectively and work well with a team is important. You have to be able to build trust between yourself and your team. In software engineering, it’s very important that your team and manager trust you can produce high quality code. 

What about technical skills? 

Understanding how software components interact with themselves and interact with other software is a technical skill that is often overlooked in engineering fields that aren’t software focused. It’s not enough to just know a language’s syntax and claim “I know how to program in <code language>.”

What training were you offered for your position? 

Before I started my current software engineering role, I was in an Engineering Leadership Program that trained me on the products and systems National Instruments sold. In total, I had accrued about 2,000 hours of training, which is more than what other tech companies will offer.

What part of your job is most satisfying?

In my organization, my team has very strong autonomy. We’re trusted to work on the things that we think are important and align with the company’s goals. It’s satisfying to be able to plan out my own day and balance my projects in a way that works for me.

Most challenging? 

The most challenging aspect of a software team, especially when starting out, is learning and figuring out the technologies and systems that your team is using. Being able to learn quickly and ask questions are important to be successful.

What are your possible career paths now?

There is a strong management and technical path from my current position. The cap for management (under VP level) is section manager, which oversees an entire product stripe in our organization. On the technical path, you can achieve roles such as principal engineer and chief software architect.

Advice for current students?

I graduated with a degree in aerospace and ended up in software for a company that doesn’t make rockets or planes. Aerospace gave me a broad background to understand engineering and solve problems. I might find myself in an aerospace job one day, but for now I am happy solving the technical challenges I am working on.

Any other advice you'd like to share?

Technical ability will get you far, but network, network, network. Coming from a non-computer science background, I had to build trust with a lot of people to let me do this job. This was made possible by reaching out and building my network.