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An aerospace (or aeronautical) engineer, is someone who designs aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, missiles, and systems for national defense. In addition, they test prototypes to make sure they function according to design. They are employed primarily in analysis and design, manufacturing, industries that perform research and development, and the federal government.
An aerospace engineer typically does the following:
An aerospace engineer may develop new technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and spacecraft. They often specialize in areas such as aerodynamic fluid flow; structural design; guidance, navigation, and control; instrumentation and communication; robotics; or propulsion and combustion. They can specialize in designing different types of aerospace products, such as commercial and military airplanes and helicopters; remotely piloted aircraft and rotorcraft; spacecraft, including launch vehicles and satellites; and military missiles and rockets. They often become experts in one or more related fields: aerodynamics, thermodynamics, celestial mechanics, flight mechanics, propulsion, acoustics, and guidance and control systems.
Aerospace engineers work in offices, laboratories, or manufacturing environments for either private companies or the federal government.
Entry-level aerospace engineers usually need a bachelor's degree. High school students interested in studying aerospace engineering should take courses in chemistry, physics, and mathematics, including algebra, trigonometry, and calculus. Bachelor degree programs are designed to take four years and include classroom, laboratory, and field studies in subjects such as general engineering principles, propulsion, stability and control, structures, mechanics, and aerodynamics (which is the study of how air interacts with moving objects).
Some colleges and universities offer cooperative programs, in partnership with industry, that give students practical experience while they complete their education. Cooperative programs and internships allow students to get valuable experience and to finance part of their education. At some universities, a student can enrol in a five-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree upon completion. A graduate degree will allow an engineer to work as an instructor at a university or to do research and development.
The different types of aerospace engineering programs are general aerospace engineering programs, aeronautical engineering programs and astronautical engineering programs.
Aerospace engineers design equipment such as missiles, planes, helicopters, satellites and spacecraft. While a bachelor's of science in aerospace engineering commands a high starting salary, the prospects for those with graduate degrees can be even better.
Aerospace engineers design machines that fly, from missiles and airplanes to space shuttles and satellites. They do not, however, travel to space. Instead, they use computer models to simulate space flight.
"When people learn what I do for a living, they say 'I want your job!'" laughs John Connolly, an engineer at the Johnson Space Center.
Aerospace engineers design, build and maintain aircraft and the parts and instruments that go into them. They also work at the forefront of technology on space vehicles and satellites.