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Senior Associate, Advisory at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP
Aeronautical Engineers, also known as Aerospace Engineers, perform engineering duties in designing, constructing, and testing aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft. Additionally, some may specialize in conducting basic and applied research to evaluate adaptability of materials and equipment to aircraft design and manufacture. Through thorough research, these engineers may recommend improvements in testing equipment and techniques.
The typical level of education that most aeronautical engineers need is a Bachelors degree to enter this occupation. According to the United States Department of Labor, employment of aerospace engineers is projected to grow six percent in the United States from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This is due to the fact that aircraft are being redesigned to cause less noise pollution and have better fuel efficiency, which will help sustain demand for engineers interested in research and development. In addition, as international governments refocus their space exploration efforts, new companies are emerging to provide access to space beyond the access afforded by standard governmental space agencies.
One interesting fact is that at some universities, a student can enroll in a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree upon completion. A graduate degree may allow an engineer to work as an instructor at a university or to do research and development. Lastly, cooperative programs and internships enable students to gain valuable experience and to finance part of their education. It is my experience, having worked with many engineers over the course of my career, that an internship with industry can help increase the likelihood of employment soon after college graduation.
I would recommend as you work to earn a Bachelors degree in this field that you focus on your Critical Thinking Skills. Aerospace engineers must be able to produce designs that meet governmental standards, and to figure out why a particular design does not work. They must be able to ask the right question, then find an acceptable answer.
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Ratheesvar (Theesh) Mohan
Advisory Associate at PwC
Ratheesvar (Theesh)’s Answer
New York, New York
I studied Aerospace Engineering (B.Sc and M.Sc) at Georgia Tech (in Atlanta, GA). I am not too sure of the job prospects in A.E. in other parts of the world, but I can tell you what the situation is like in the US.
Jobs in the aerospace industry in the US are subject to security considerations. Therefore, unfortunately it is almost impossible to secure a job in the US if you are not a permanent resident (Green card holder) or a citizen of the US. There are a some A.E. related jobs that international students are eligible for, but there are very, very few of them and there are thousands of students competing for each of them. Now, if you happen to be a permanent resident or a citizen, the job prospects are not bad. There are definitely jobs out there with a range of aircraft manufacturers (e.g. Boeing, Gulfstream, Lockheed Martin), spacecraft manufacturers (e.g. SpaceX), engine manufacturers (e.g. GE, Pratt & Whitney), equipment manufacturers (e.g. Honeywell) and government agencies (e.g. NASA, FAA). Job prospects for international students may improve with more advanced degrees (Master's, Ph.D.), but only very slightly. Of course, positions in academia and/or research labs at universities are also options, and may be a little easier to secure.
For those who are eligible to work in the A.E. industry in the US, many enter the industry with Bachelor's degrees. The ease of landing a job improves quite a bit with Master's and Ph.D. degrees, as does the pay (Master's is about 15% more than Bachelors' and Ph.D. is about 25% better, but don't rely too much on those numbers, those are just my very rough estimates).
This is just a quick summary of the situation. I'd be happy to answer any other questions you may have in more detail and/or point you in the direction of other resources.
As an aeronautical engineer, you can work for a variety of companies: aircraft engine manufacturers such as GE or Rolls Royce. Aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing or Airbus. Defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin or Northrop-Grumman. The sky is the limit. Additionally, you can leverage your engineering background to work in any industrial background.