Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering

Aerospace engineering covers all aspects of aviation, on earth and in space. Aeronautical engineers design and oversee the manufacturing of aircrafts, including jets, helicopters, and missiles, whereas astronautical engineers design and oversee the manufacturing of spacecrafts, such as those taking astronauts to the moon. Safety is the top priority for everything aeronautical and astronautical engineers design. Aerodynamics, maneuverability, and fuel efficiency are very important, but not as much as safety. If an aircraft, spacecraft, or engine malfunctions, or is designed improperly, people can become injured or lose their lives. To maintain the safety and integrity of this field, most states and engineering firms require aerospace engineers to earn at least a bachelor's degree from an accredited engineering program. Licensing requirements vary for each state, though most states generally mandate that would-be engineers pass extensive examinations as well as work for several years as a aerospace engineers.

The real training will start in your first job in the industry.

Brian PippengerSenior Manufacturing Engineer for the Rolls-Royce Corp.

Getting an Aeronautical or Astronautical Engineering License

Aeronautical and astronautical engineers are responsible for the safety of those operating and riding in the aircrafts and spacecrafts they design. This responsibility is not taken lightly, so each state strives to ensure that all of their aerospace engineers are experts in the field before giving them a license. Earning a degree shows that you have the necessary knowledge to become an engineer, but completing the required years of work experience and passing the exams needed to get your license proves that you have a full hands-on understanding of your field as well.

Becoming a licensed aeronautical or astronautical engineer is a four-step process. The first step is to earn a degree from an engineering program accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Most positions require a bachelor’s degree, although some may require a graduate degree. Step two is to pass the Fundamentals of Engineering exam (FE). Passing the FE exam earns you the title of engineer-in-training, which will allow you to start working under the direct supervision of licensed engineers, the third step of the process.

"The real training will start in your first job in the industry," Brian Pippenger, a senior manufacturing engineer for the Rolls-Royce Corp., said. The Rolls-Royce Corp. is an aerospace manufacturing company that designs and builds regional jets and helicopters, as well as military and domestic jet engines. "Having a good foundation in this field will help in the transition from student to engineer," Pippenger said.

Every state requires a certain number of years of relevant work experience as an engineer. Check with your state board to determine how many years you must complete. After that, you’re ready for the fourth step: taking the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam (PE). Passing the PE exam allows you to finally obtain a professional engineer license.

Maintaining an Aeronautical or Astronautical Engineering License

Aerospace engineering is an ever-changing field. Technological advancements in aviation are constantly being made, and knowledge and understanding of flight, aerodynamics, and propulsion are constantly expanding. Aeronautical and astronautical engineers must stay on top of their game and gain awareness of these advancements so that they may apply it to their own work. For this reason, simply gaining a professional engineering license once is not enough. Engineers must maintain their licenses by completing continuing education courses, passing renewal exams, and renewing their licenses according to their state’s requirements.

The National Society of Professional Engineers provides an updated continuing education requirements chart with information by state, including the necessary number of class hours, how often the license must be renewed, whether pre-approval is needed for enrollment, whether the courses are self-study, and an explanation of any special requirements. Information regarding the dates, times, and locations of license renewal exams can be obtained from your state’s licensing board.

Aeronautical and astronautical engineers have demanding jobs that keep them busy. We recommend completing your course work around your schedule — without having to adjust to a school’s class schedule — by taking your classes online. "Online education through reputable engineering societies like the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, or through an accredited engineering institution, is a great resource for working professionals," said Brett Anderson, a professional engineer and senior integrated project team manager of the F-15 program at The Boeing Co. "[It] provides great opportunities to broaden and sharpen both technical and non-technical skills in a manner that supports how the industry does business, virtually anywhere and anytime." The specific classes you will need to take depend on your state’s requirements, so we recommend that you consult with your state licensing board before signing up for courses.

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