If you get fascinated by the designs of flying machines like aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles, then aerospace engineering might be your forte. However, you’d need a degree from one of the best aerospace engineering schools to succeed in this field, especially in the US.
This article will guide you through everything you need to know about aerospace engineering. Starting from what it is, the demand for aerospace engineers and, ultimately, the schools that offer the best aerospace engineering programs in the US.
In addition, you’ll find out about the highest paying aerospace engineering careers and what you need to do to get to that level.
But first, let’s get to understand what aerospace engineering is all about.
Before we proceed, you might want to read about the 12 Top Schools For Electrical Engineering
What is aerospace engineering?
Aerospace engineering is the engineering field that deals with the design, development, testing, and manufacturing of aircraft, spacecraft, and other flying machines. As an aerospace engineer, you work with a team to build the different parts of a flying machine.
The field is a very rigorous one, as aircraft and spacecraft undergo several testing processes before being officially released for operation.
Aerospace engineering has two divisions: aeronautical and astronautical engineering. While aeronautical engineering deals with the design and production of aircraft that fly within the earth’s atmosphere, astronautical engineering deals with spacecraft. Spacecraft operate outside the earth’s atmosphere.
Is there a high demand for aerospace engineers?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 6 percent employment growth for aerospace engineers between 2021 and 2031. It also projects 3,800 job openings for aerospace engineers each year within the given period.
For a field that has less than 100,000 people currently employed in the US, aerospace engineering still has lots of room to accommodate more engineers.
Schools for aerospace engineering in the US
These are the schools with the best academic programs for aerospace engineering in the United States. They have full accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the global body in charge of STEM programs.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a private land-grant research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It offers graduate and undergraduate programs in both aeronautical and astronautical engineering.
MIT doesn’t just rank as the best school for aerospace engineering in the US, it also ranks top among schools in the world. This is as a result of its deep investment in research and education on everything that has to do with air, space and computing.
Employers value MIT aerospace engineering graduates highly because they know the value of MIT’s aerospace programs.
You can visit the school website to learn more.
The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) offers graduate programs in Aeronautics and Space Engineering. It also has an aerospace minor for undergraduate students who wish to pursue aerospace engineering at the graduate level.
Caltech is a private research university in Pasadena, California, popular for its deep roots in science, technology, and engineering. The Graduate Aerospace Laboratories of the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT) have a long history of research in aerospace engineering and practice.
GALCIT has experimental facilities in solids, fluids, biomechanics, propulsion, combustion, materials and computing.
You can visit the school website for more information.
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Stanford University is one of the best schools in the US where you can get a solid aerospace engineering degree. The school offers undergraduate major and minor programs in aerospace engineering, and also offers three graduate programs in the same discipline.
Stanford has had six members who have received the Guggenheim Medal, which is seen as one of the greatest aeronautics honors in history. The school is filled with highly decorated faculty members who have years of experience in the aerospace engineering field.
Visit the school website to learn more about the aerospace engineering programs at Stanford.
The Georgia Institute of Technology has established its name among the top schools for aerospace engineering in the US. The Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology offers undergraduate and graduate programs focusing on these key disciplines:
- Aerodynamics and Fluid Mechanics
- Aeroelasticity and Structural Dynamics
- Flight Mechanics and Controls
- Propulsion and Combustion
- Structural Mechanics and Materials
- System Design and Optimization
This school has over a hundred years of training aerospace engineers, most of whom have gone on to win multiple awards in the field.
Visit the school website for more information.
Purdue University has a long history in the field of aerospace engineering. Being the alma mater of the famous Neil Armstrong (the first man to walk on the moon), Purdue University’s school of Aeronautics and Astronautics is popular for the quality of its programs.
The school offers an undergraduate program in aerospace engineering with specializations in six areas. It also offers graduate programs with research interests in aerodynamics, aerospace systems, astrodynamics and space applications, autonomy and control, propulsion, and structures and materials. Dual degree programs are also available for students who want to graduate with an MS/MBA and a BSAAE/MSAA degree.
Purdue’s school of aerospace engineering has the facilities and faculty to give you the best education in the field. You can find out more from the school website.
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The Aerospace Engineering Department at the University of Michigan is deeply invested in aerospace research. Students are involved in research to foster the development of the aerospace industry from the undergraduate level. In fact, two student proposals from the University of Michigan were recently chosen by NASA for development to support future missions.
The master’s and doctorate degree programs at the University of Michigan rank as the 5th in the nation.
Visit the school website to learn more.
The department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is a leader in the field of aerospace engineering. The faculty and graduate students conduct research and foster the development of aircraft and space applications in about 20 laboratories on campus.
The school is currently deep in research on using AI (artificial intelligence) to train teams of robots to work together.
The University of Illinois offers undergraduate and graduate programs, including online programs in aerospace engineering. There’s also the 5-year BS-MS program that prepares students to earn dual degrees upon graduation.
Visit the school’s website to learn more about its programs.
This is a public land-grant university in College Station, Texas. It currently ranks among the top 10 schools for aerospace engineering in the US.
Texas A&M offers an undergraduate major and minor in aerospace engineering. Their graduate programs are also ranked among the best in the nation.
The aerospace engineering programs at Texas A&M cover these four key disciplines in the field:
- Aerodynamics and Propulsion
- Dynamics and Control
- Materials and Structures
- Systems Design and Human Integration
The school offers its students diverse opportunities with its connections to major aerospace industries. You can learn more about Texas A&M’s aerospace engineering department here.
The University of Southern California is a top private research university in Los Angeles. The school offers one undergraduate program and four graduate programs in aerospace engineering.
The aerospace program at the University of Southern California is in the same department as the school’s mechanical engineering programs. This is because both disciplines work together to produce efficient flight machines that meet the required standard.
If you desire to study aerospace engineering at the school, visit the school website for more information.
Is a degree in aerospace engineering worth it?
Aerospace engineering is definitely worth the stress and financial investment you’d make while schooling.
This is because it offers some of the highest paying job opportunities in the job market.
What major do I need for aerospace engineering?
For a career in aerospace engineering, you need to major in aerospace engineering, mechanical engineering, or any related discipline in your undergraduate studies.
What subjects do I need to study aerospace engineering?
To study aerospace engineering in college, you need to take the following subjects in high school:
- Computer programming and languages
What jobs can you do with an aerospace engineering degree?
As an aerospace engineer, you’d be involved with the design and sketches of aircraft, spacecraft, and other related flight machines.
People in this job earn an average of $122,270 per year.
Flight engineers examine aircraft and spacecraft before they take off, during flight, and after the flight has landed. They perform several technical checks on the engines, sensors, and other key parts of the aircraft to ensure smooth movement in the air.
People in this job earn an average of $118,826 per year.
You can work as a maintenance engineer and provide maintenance services to aircraft and spacecraft as and when due.
Maintenance engineers earn an average annual income of $83,181.
As a materials engineer, your job would be to check the quality and durability of the materials used in producing aircraft. Materials like titanium, steel, carbon fiber, and other composite materials are required to be in their best form for use in the aerospace industry.
You can earn an average of $99,193 per year as a materials engineer.
Inspector and Compliance Officer
Your job here is to examine the designs and sketches made by the aerospace design engineers to ensure they meet the required standard. If there are flaws in the design, it’s your duty to send them back to the drawing board. You are also responsible for providing compliance and safety training to other engineers.
Your average annual salary in this job is $88,271.
How much do aerospace engineers earn in the US?
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual wage of aerospace engineers is $122,270.
The lowest 10 percent earn less than $77,440 and the highest 10 percent earn more than $168,370.
What are the highest paying aerospace engineering careers?
Here are the six highest paying aerospace engineering careers:
1. Thermodynamics Engineer
People in this job earn between $107,000 and $227,000 per year.
Your job as a thermodynamics engineer is to design, and test certain parts of the aircraft like the engine, air conditioning system, airflow, etc
2. Weight Engineer
You can earn between $82,000 and $160,500 per year in this field.
As a weight engineer, you’d work with the design team to ensure the weight and overall system of the aircraft meets environmental demands.
3. Aeronautical Engineer
The salary range for aeronautical engineers is $84,000 to $152,000 per year.
In this job, you’ll collaborate with system designers, pilots, and other engineers to design and test different components of an aircraft.
4. Propulsion Systems Engineer
The salary of propulsion systems engineers ranges from $93,500 to $150,500 per year.
Your job here will be to design propulsion components like engines, motors, and compression systems for aircraft, spacecraft, missiles, rockets, etc.
5. Flight Test Engineer
Your salary as a flight test engineer ranges from $104,000 to $148,000 per year. As stated earlier, the job of a flight test engineer is to examine the readiness of an aircraft, or spacecraft before it takes off, during flight and after landing.
6. Aerospace Stress Engineer
You can earn between $81,500 and $146,000 per year in this field.
Your job here is to conduct stress tests on aircraft structures and systems to determine when they’re due for change or reinforcement.
Where do aerospace engineers work?
As an aerospace engineer in the US, you can work in:
- US Air Force
- Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
- Private airline companies
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How do I become an aerospace engineer?
Acquire a bachelor’s degree
Acquiring a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or any related engineering discipline is the first step to becoming an aerospace engineer.
Participate in an internship
Take part in internships to gain hands-on experience of how aircraft are designed and manufactured.
Get a job as an aerospace engineer
Once you have your degree as an aerospace engineer, you are free to apply for jobs in the field. You can apply to work in any private aerospace company or the government owned industries.
What other degrees are related to aerospace engineering?
Here are related fields to aerospace engineering:
- Construction engineering
- Mechanical engineering
- Nuclear engineering
- Engineering physics
- Mining and petroleum engineering
The satisfaction that comes from being a part of the design of a system that takes people around the world and into space is immense. That is why aerospace engineering isn’t just a field where you make enough money to become financially stable; it is also a field where you have the opportunity to carve your name on the walls of history.
I hope this article has provided you with all the answers to the questions you have about studying aerospace engineering in the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions about Schools for Aerospace Engineering
No, you do not need to acquire a PhD to succeed as an aerospace engineer. If you attended any of the top schools for aerospace engineering, you must have acquired enough skills in your undergraduate studies to start an entry level job as an aerospace engineer.
Like in every other field, the more you practice, the more experienced and better you become in your job.
However, a PhD would be an added advantage for you as it means you’ve taken part in some ground-breaking research in the industry.
Aerospace engineering is a very difficult and rigorous discipline. This is mainly because you’d be dealing with challenging subjects like mathematics, physics, thermodynamics, and computer programming, amongst others.
However, you shouldn’t be discouraged because of that, as the top schools for aerospace engineering have the best systems to make you understand even the more difficult concepts.
The best school for aerospace engineering in the US is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The cost of tuition for a bachelor’s program in aerospace engineering ranges from $15,000 to $56,000.
A bachelor’s degree program in aerospace engineering takes four years to complete. However, there are schools that offer you a five-year program that allows you to graduate with both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering.