Aerospace engineers design, develop, and test aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they create and test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.


Aerospace engineers typically do the following:

  • Coordinate and direct the design, manufacture, and testing of aircraft and aerospace products
  • Assess project proposals to determine whether they are technically and financially feasible
  • Determine whether proposed projects will be safe and meet defined goals
  • Evaluate designs to ensure that products meet engineering principles, customer requirements, and environmental regulations
  • Develop criteria for design, quality, completion, and sustainment after delivery
  • Ensure that projects meet required standards
  • Inspect malfunctioning or damaged products to identify sources of problems and possible solutions

Aerospace engineers develop technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and spacecraft. They may focus on areas such as aerodynamic fluid flow; structural design; guidance, navigation, and control; instrumentation and communication; robotics; or propulsion and combustion.

Aerospace engineers may design specific aerospace products, such as commercial and military airplanes and helicopters; remotely piloted aircraft and rotorcraft; spacecraft, including launch vehicles and satellites; and military missiles and rockets.

The following are the two common types of aerospace engineers:

Aeronautical engineers work with aircraft. They are involved primarily in designing aircraft and propulsion systems and in studying the aerodynamic performance of aircraft and construction materials. They work with the theory, technology, and practice of flight within the Earth’s atmosphere.

Astronautical engineers work with the science and technology of spacecraft and how they perform inside and outside the Earth’s atmosphere. This includes work on small satellites such as cubesats, and traditional large satellites. 

Work Environment

Aerospace engineers held about 58,800 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of aerospace engineers were as follows:

Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 32%
Federal government, excluding postal service 18
Engineering services 15
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 9

Aerospace engineers typically work in an office setting, often using a computer. They also may travel to meet with clients.

Work Schedules

Most aerospace engineers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Engineers may need to work extra hours to monitor progress and troubleshoot when problems arise.

Education and Training

Aerospace engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field to enter the occupation. Aerospace engineers who work on projects that are related to national defense may need a security clearance. Some types and levels of clearance require U.S. citizenship.


Aerospace engineers typically need a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field. High school students interested in studying aerospace engineering should take classes in chemistry, physics, and math.

Bachelor’s degree programs in engineering usually include classroom, laboratory, and field courses in subjects such as stability and control, structures, and mechanics.

College students may have an opportunity to participate in cooperative education programs or internships. Through partnership with local businesses, these programs allow students to gain practical experience while they complete their education.

Some colleges and universities offer a 5-year program that leads to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. A graduate degree may allow an engineer to work as an instructor at a university or to do research and development.

Employers may prefer to hire graduates of aerospace engineering programs accredited by a professional association such as ABET. A degree from an accredited program is usually required to become licensed.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Licensure is not required for entry-level aerospace engineer positions. Experienced engineers may obtain a Professional Engineering (PE) license, which allows them to oversee the work of other engineers, sign off on projects, and provide services directly to the public.

State licensure generally requires a bachelor’s or higher degree from an ABET-accredited engineering program, a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, several years of relevant work experience, and a passing score on the PE exam.

Each state issues its own license. Most states recognize licensure from other states, as long as the licensing state’s requirements meet or exceed their own licensure requirements. Several states require continuing education for engineers to keep their licenses.


Aerospace engineers who gain experience or who have additional education or credentials may advance into technical or supervisory positions. Those with leadership skills also may become engineering managers or project management specialists.

Personality and Interests

Aerospace engineers typically have an interest in the Building and Thinking interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Building interest area indicates a focus on working with tools and machines, and making or fixing practical things. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws.

If you are not sure whether you have a Building or Thinking interest which might fit with a career as an aerospace engineer, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Aerospace engineers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Analytical skills. Aerospace engineers must be able to identify design elements that may not meet requirements and then must formulate alternatives to improve their performance.

Business skills. Much of the work done by aerospace engineers involves meeting federal government standards. Meeting these standards often requires knowledge of standard business practices, as well as knowledge of commercial law.

Critical-thinking skills. Aerospace engineers must be able to translate a set of issues into requirements 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.

Math skills. Aerospace engineers use the principles of calculus, trigonometry, and other advanced topics in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work.

Writing skills. Aerospace engineers must be able to write papers that explain their designs clearly and create documentation for future reference.


The median annual wage for aerospace engineers was $122,270 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $77,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $168,370.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for aerospace engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences $128,020
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 126,780
Federal government, excluding postal service 123,800
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing 121,530
Engineering services 120,640

Most aerospace engineers work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week. Engineers may need to work extra hours to monitor progress and to troubleshoot when problems arise.

Job Outlook

Employment of aerospace engineers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2021 to 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 3,800 openings for aerospace engineers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire. 


Aircraft are being redesigned for less noise pollution and better fuel efficiency, particularly with the introduction of electric and hybrid-electric aircraft, which should help sustain demand for aerospace engineers.

Technological advancements have reduced the cost of launching satellites. As space becomes more accessible, especially with developments in small satellites that have greater commercial viability, demand for aerospace engineers is expected to increase. In addition, continued interest in drones will help to drive employment growth for these engineers.

For More Information

For more information about general engineering education and career resources, visit

American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)

Technology Student Association (TSA)

For more information about licensure as an aerospace engineer, visit

National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES)

National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

For more information about accredited engineering programs, visit


For more information about current developments in aeronautics, visit

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA)




Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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