How to Become an Aerospace Engineer

Aerospace engineering is study of the design, construction, testing, maintenance and research of aircraft and spacecraft. It is one of the most challenging fields of engineering and requires special academic qualifications and training. You learn advanced concepts of physics and mathematics at the university. If you have passion for spacecraft or aircraft, math and physics then a career as an Aerospace Engineer may be a fit for you.

Steps

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    Know what Aerospace Engineering is. Before deciding on an Aerospace Engineering degree, be aware of what it entails. Read online resources, scientific journals and speak with knowledgable people to learn.
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    Develop sound math, physics and drafting skills in high school. Aerospace Engineering requires advanced math, physics, numerical method skills and excellent spatial abilities. Examples are gravitation, hydrodynamics, aerodynamics, thermodynamics, material science and strength of materials, among others. High school is the best time to begin developing the foundations for these skills.
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    Develop sound analytical skills. An analytical mindset is a requisite for a career in Aerospace Engineering as is the ability to solve complex problems using analytical techniques, using concrete or intuitive methods. Playing mental games like crosswords, chess and other strategy games helps.
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    Apply for a degree in Aerospace Engineering. Apply for a degree in Aerospace Engineering at as many universities as possible. This gives you options when acceptance letters arrive. Make sure each university you apply to is ABET accredited. Most employers will not recognize degrees from universities that are not.
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    Consider other fields of engineering. There are not many universities that offer a degree in Aerospace Engineering. To broaden your options, research and consider other engineering disciplines such as Mechanical Engineering and Civil Engineering. Other engineering degrees like Electrical Engineering are excellent but require an entirely different toolbox to be successful.
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    Try to complete a summer Co-op or internship. Once you are halfway through your sophomore year at the university, it is a good time to apply for a Co-Op or internship position. This allows you to gain exposure to the professional environment and some exposure to the concrete, technical aspects of the job. Employers recognize this experience as invaluable. You also have the opportunity to get good professional references and begin your professional networking early. This experience will give you a competitive advantage which is particularly important during times of economic difficulties.
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    Decide about attending graduate school. Graduate school can be helpful for your career but can also be a huge pitfall. Those in the industry understand that a student who continues straight through to a masters degree, before entering the workplace, are at a serious disadvantage even though they will garner a higher salary. The problem is that universities no longer tie the academic masters work to the real world. A student who comes straight in with a masters degree will have a high, often misplaced idea of their capabilities and worth to the company. However, those students who either pursue their masters and a career at the same time or wait a couple of years before pursuing it, are generally able to put academic concepts in their proper place in the real world they will have to work in. Keep this in mind.
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    Keep a correct mindset in the workplace. As you go through the process of obtaining your degree, it is easy to take the exceptionally good mindset you have developed for school and assume that it should continue into the workplace. It will not work, it is necessary to change your mindset to accommodate the needs of your employer(s). Understand that you are obtaining a degree in order to make money that allows you and your family to have a good life. To do this, you have to generate money for your company so they can satisfy their shareholders (a good rule of thumb is that you need to generate three times your salary, annually, for the company to be profitable). Done right, everyone makes money and is happy. At this time in your life you are fairly idealistic and this may not sit well with you. It is reality and adjusting to it while at the university is in your best interest.
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    Maintain the standards of ethical behavior and hard work while pursuing this degree. Your degree is a feather in your hat. You will find that after you graduate, when you let people know you are an Aerospace Engineer, people will respond with respect and will look up to it. It is indeed a feather in your cap and everyone recognizes it. Work hard and work smart and you will become one. And then it is up to you to maintain the standard that encourages people to respect Aerospace Engineers.

Warnings

  • After a relatively short time in engineering, ten years or so, it will become difficult to change careers if you want to. This is due to the larger than average salary. As a gas fills a vacuum, you will fill your life to accommodate your salary. If you think you may want options, be careful.

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