Aerospace Engineer

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Aerospace Engineer


If you have ever flown in an airplane, then you have personally experienced the creation of an aerospace engineer. But have you ever seen a television on the back of your airplane seat? Now that's entertainment. In the future, we will witness the invention of faster, more technological and environmental aircrafts, and who knows, maybe public shuttles to the moon will become a regular incidence. Thanks to aerospace engineering, both space travel and international airplane travel have narrowed our world and universe into a much smaller place.

Aerospace engineers research, design, develop, test, manufacture and maintain aerospace vehicles and systems such as commercial and military aircraft, missiles, spacecraft and related aerospace equipment. They work at the front of aerospace technology, developing products that truly change the way we think about the world we live in. Those who work with aircraft are considered aeronautical engineers, while others working specifically with spacecraft are considered astronautical engineers. The two titles are quite interchangeable and often confuse people.

Most aerospace engineer specialize in a particular area such as flight testing or simulation, aerodynamics, structures and materials, navigation, communication or structural dynamics. Aerospace engineers specializing in aerodynamics deal with the forces generated by motion through the air which affect aircraft performance. They work with design engineers and use computers and wind tunnels to simulate flight. Engineers may alternatively decide to specialize in a particular product such as airplanes, helicopters, surveillance systems, simulators, ground stations, satellites or rockets. The commercial industry is always looking for more improved aircrafts and related products.

Another related area aerospace engineers may decide to work in is investigating airplane crashes, including recovering and examining debris, interpreting 'black box' information and determining the cause. This vital research can be used when design teams build new aircraft, so that the same problems will not occur again. Since many people now fear air and space travel crashes, engineers must really be concerned with safety, making sure all machines are in tip top shape. Aerospace technology also extends to many other applications of objects moving within gases or liquids. Examples are golf balls, high-speed trains, hydrofoil ships or tall buildings in the wind.

Aerospace engineers use computer-aided design (CAD), robotics, and lasers and advanced electronic optics to assist them in design work and to help them analyze the effects and potential problems in the designs, such as malfunctions and breakdowns. In their research and design, they are also looking for the most cost-effective solutions to all endeavors. Due to the rapid pace of the industry, aerospace engineers are required to constantly update their skills and knowledge in order to keep up with technological advances.
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  Interests and Skills  
Aerospace engineers must have creative, scientific, mathematical and inventive minds. They must demonstrate patience, motivation, determination and perseverance and have strong problem-solving skills. They must be excellent communicators and "team players", since an aircraft requires the work of a number of people working together toward a common end product. Finally, they should be able to visualize problems in three dimensions and work well on computers.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Design and develop aerospace vehicles, systems and components
  • Develop and conduct computer simulations of aerospace vehicles and systems
  • Prepare specifications for materials and processes to be used in aerospace manufacturing, maintenance, repair or modification
  • Design modifications to systems such as fuel or air conditioning and outline installation procedures
  • Supervise and coordinate the manufacturing, assembly modification, repair and overhaul of aircraft and spacecraft
  • Coordinate ground and flight tests of air and spacecraft using aerodynamic techniques
  • Develop operational specifications, maintenance schedules and manuals for operators
  • Develop the technical phases of logistical and operational support for aerospace vehicles and systems
  • Investigate and report on structural or other component or system failures, accidents or incidents and prepare recommendations for corrective action
  • Develop procedures for the repair of aviation components
  • Aerospace engineers work primarily indoors in offices and testing laboratories. They spend a considerable amount of time working on computers, designing and researching. They may also supervise work performed at manufacturing and production sites, or work at a field site. Aerospace engineers usually work standard hours but may be required to work longer hours to meet project deadlines. Project managers may be called back to work whenever there are problems with projects. They often experience a great deal of pressure and stress to meet deadlines or design standards.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Aerospace engineers are employed by aircraft and spacecraft manufacturers and air transport carriers. Engineers can also work in the public service in government departments and educational and research institutions. Employment in aerospace engineering is usually concentrated in larger metropolitan cities and on military bases.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Entry-level aerospace engineers usually start work under the direct supervision of senior engineers, performing general tasks. With experience and a good track record, they usually build their responsibility level and specialize in a certain area or on a certain type of aircraft. They can eventually advance to positions such as project manager, department head, division manager and vice president. Aerospace engineers with doctoral degrees could teach aerospace engineering at universities and colleges.

  Educational Paths  
While still in high school, if this is the career path you are interested in taking, make sure you take courses in mathematics and science. Most university programs will require these subject areas as prerequisites.

Aerospace engineers require a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or in a related engineering field. Then they must also become registered as a Professional Engineer (PEng) within an association of professional engineers to secure employment and practie in their field. In order to become a licensed Professional Engineer, one must gain four years supervised work experience and complete an examination. Some engineers also get master's degrees or PhDs in a specific area, such as aircraft design engineering.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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