Aerospace engineering consists of the design, testing, development, and manufacture of aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft. The engineer may have special knowledge in one or more of the following; celestial mechanics, thermodynamics, acoustics, propulsion, aerodynamics, guidance systems, and structures.
Aerospace engineers create extraordinary machines, from airplanes that weigh over a half a million pounds to spacecraft that travel over 17,000 miles an hour. They design, develop, and test aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles and supervise the manufacture of these products. Aerospace engineers who work with aircraft are called aeronautical engineers, and those working specifically with spacecraft are astronautical engineers.
Aerospace engineers develop new technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and space exploration, often specializing in areas such as structural design, guidance, navigation and control, instrumentation and communication, or production methods. They often use computer-aided design (CAD) software, robotics, and lasers and advanced electronic optics. They also may specialize in a particular type of aerospace product, such as commercial transports, military fighter jets, helicopters, spacecraft, or missiles and rockets. Aerospace engineers may be experts in aerodynamics, thermodynamics, celestial mechanics, propulsion, acoustics, or guidance and control systems.
Aerospace engineers typically are employed in the aerospace product and parts industry, although their skills are becoming increasingly valuable in other fields. For example, in the motor vehicles manufacturing industry, aerospace engineers design vehicles that have lower air resistance and, thus, increased fuel efficiency.
Employment in the United States
Aerospace engineers held about 78,000 jobs in 2002. Most worked in the aerospace product and parts manufacturing industries. Federal Government agencies, primarily the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, provided 10 percent of jobs. Architectural, engineering and related services, scientific research and development services, and navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing industry firms accounted for most of the remaining jobs.
1. Unknown author; Occupational Outlook Handbook 2004-2005 Edition; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Washington DC USA; 2004; Available http://www.bls.gov/oco/home.htm.