Aerospace Engineering Degrees
What degrees can I earn?
An onsite or online engineering degree in aerospace engineering can be earned at the associates, bachelors, masters and doctoral levels. Bachelors degrees are considered the degrees necessary in order to be competitive for most jobs. However, engineers are increasingly pursuing aerospace engineering graduate programs and PhD programs to enhance scientific research and broaden career opportunities in the field.
Engineering certificate programs provide the opportunity to broaden expertise in a chosen specialization. Both undergraduate and graduate certificate programs are available in aerospace engineering, with both requiring candidates to have earned a bachelors or masters degree as a prerequisite for entry. Certificate programs take an average of 15 credit hours to complete, with the length of time ranging from 1 to 2 years.
A campus-based or online engineering associates degree program can typically be earned in 2 years upon completion of 60 to 80 credit hours. The degree is offered as an Associate of Aerospace Engineering or an Associate of Science with an aerospace engineering concentration. Most associates programs will require completion of core math and science courses as prerequisites for entry, although students may have the option to pass a qualifying test to waive those requirements.
A Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering or a Bachelor of Engineering with an aerospace engineering focus are popular degree programs in the engineering field. The program takes 4 years to complete 120 to 140 credit hours. Candidates with a strong foundation in physics and mathematics, particularly in calculus and trigonometry, may have a competitive edge over other applicants.
Students interested in an engineering masters degree in aerospace engineering can pursue the Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering or Master of Engineering with an aerospace concentration, depending upon the institution.
Once accepted into an aerospace engineering masters program, students will complete 30 to 40 hours of coursework over 2 to 3 years before graduating. Applicants to the program may be required to earn a qualifying score on the GRE and to have shown competency in science and mathematics.
The highest degree offerings for aerospace engineering are the PhD in engineering and ScD or Doctor of Science degrees. An aerospace engineering PhD program will likely focus upon a research project or dissertation, and can take from 2 to 8 years to complete depending upon the chosen trajectory. Credit hours differ per institution, requiring between 50 to 120 hours beyond a bachelors degree for completion.
Are there any online programs?
Colleges and universities in the private and nonprofit sectors are increasingly offering aerospace engineering degree programs online. As you search for a program, be sure to distinguish between those that are offered fully online and those that are partial or hybrid programs, which may require you to attend some classes on campus.
You can find dozens of colleges and universities that offer an aerospace engineering associates degree online, but it may be useful to know that the entry-level credential for employment in this field is a bachelors degree. It may be worth your time to research accredited aerospace engineering online colleges that offer the opportunity to transition into a bachelors program upon completion of your associates.
Committing to an online aerospace engineering bachelors degree will require a great deal of investment in time and financial resources. While some online programs offer significant cost savings, there are brick-and-mortar institutions that offer a more affordable education. Most online programs have a similar cost structure per credit hour as campus-based programs, and you will want to be sure to budget for the cost of high-speed Internet and other technology costs that online programs incur.
One of the challenges of earning an aerospace engineering online masters degree is the potential barrier to professional networking. Students earning degrees at campus-based institutions will interact regularly with faculty members and other professionals in the field who may connect them with potential career opportunities. Be sure to make networking a priority by interacting with engineering professional organizations and accepting internship opportunities as they arise in order to make connections that may be useful to you in your career.
Earning a PhD in aerospace engineering will likely require a great deal of research, and 1 of the challenges of attending aerospace engineering schools online is the potential lack of laboratory resources that will be available to you. The best aerospace engineering online program will accommodate your research needs and will work with you to ensure that you have access to the necessary facilities.
What kinds of classes will I take in my program?
You will likely spend the first portion of your bachelors program taking core classes such as chemistry, physics and calculus. As you progress in your program, your on-campus or online engineering courses will focus more on your major, covering topics such as aerodynamics, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics during your junior and senior years.
Online aerospace engineering courses and campus-based graduate studies will offer intermediate, advanced and specialized graduate courses in aerodynamics, propulsion and combustion and flight mechanics.
Finally, as a PhD or ScD candidate, your work will focus upon independent research on a topic related to aerospace engineering. Your earned credit hours during this program will likely focus on taking a doctoral qualifying examination in addition to your dissertation project proposal and dissertation defense.
What careers can I choose from?
Aerospace engineering jobs are typically categorized as aeronautical engineering jobs and astronautical engineering jobs. Considered the best careers in aerospace engineering, the 2 disciplines have distinct responsibilities with a great deal of overlap between them.
The primary function of an aeronautical engineer is to design and oversee the building of commercial airplanes and military aircraft. While the entry-level credential for engineering jobs in this field is the bachelors degree, many employers voice a strong preference for a graduate education. Salaries for aeronautical engineers range from $48,000 to $117,000.
Where aeronautical engineers create airplanes, astronautical engineers are tasked with the design and oversight of aircraft created for spaceflight. While jobs are available to astronautical engineers with a bachelors, many astronautical engineers have a masters degree or higher. The average aerospace engineering salary for astronautical engineers is $87,000 but will vary widely depending upon education and experience.
Is there anything else I should know about getting a degree?
Jobs in aerospace engineering do not typically require engineers to pursue a Professional Engineer license as most rely on education and aerospace engineering training.
However, some engineers opt for engineering certification in order to stand out in the field. The first step toward this licensure is to take the Fundamentals in Engineering exam in order to be considered an engineer in training until you become eligible to sit for your licensure exam and eventually acquire your aerospace engineering certification.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics offers extensive continuing education to engineers in this field. Opportunities include distance learning courses on topics that range from an introduction to space flight to the fundamentals of aircraft performance and design. The institute also offers dozens of onsite courses for a wide variety of specializations and interests.