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What is Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering?

August 18, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Deciding the path to follow after high school education can be challenging. You have to make decisions that affect the rest of your life. One of the challenges you must face is selecting a career path. There are many careers to choose from. You may need guidance and careful consideration to avoid ending up in the wrong profession. You can choose a career based on your passion, abilities, and preparedness to enroll and complete necessary academic requirements.

One of the most lucrative career paths you can follow is engineering. Engineering as a career is wide with several disciplines; among them are aeronautics and astronautics engineering. Aeronautics, or aeronautical engineering, involves the design, construction, and operation of bodies that move in the air. Astronautics engineering mainly deals with the design, construction, and operation of items in space. Although the two seem different, they are closely related. Astronautics borrows many aeronautics concepts since to get to outer space, the equipment must travel through the air. The two fields are generally known as Aerospace engineering.

The most common role of aerospace engineers is the construction of airplanes, space crafts, and other items. Military operations such as the construction of missiles also fall under aerospace engineering. For an in-depth understanding of aeronautics and astronautics engineering career paths, we shall explore the following topics.

  1. What aeronautics and astronautics engineering covers
  2. Careers in aeronautics and astronautics engineering
  3. Schooling requirements for aeronautics and astronautics engineering
  4. Qualities of successful aeronautics and astronautics engineers

What Aeronautics And Astronautics Engineering Covers

Knowing what is expected of you is essential when choosing a career path. It prepares you in all aspects to handle the coursework at school as well as the life after school. Aeronautics and astronautics engineering covers a wide range of subjects. At the introductory stage of your studies, you are likely to cover most of these subjects. However, you can later specialize and get a master’s degree in specific areas that suit your interests and abilities. Here are some of the subjects you might cover while studying aeronautics and astronautics engineering.

  • Mechanics
    The construction and operation of flight bodies involve many movable parts synchronized to achieve flight. Mechanics is one of the most crucial subjects you might cover while studying aeronautics and astronautics engineering. Although some people might study mechanics as an engineering discipline on its own, you will be required to cover sections essential for aeronautics and astronautics. Mechanics in aerospace engineering are concerned with the construction of engines and their operation mechanisms to achieve the desired height, speed, and comfort during the flight.
  • Electrical and electronics
    Electricity is one of the essential components in the operation of flight bodies. To successfully design an airplane or any other flight equipment, you must know about their electronics and how they operate. Understanding how electronic and mechanical components integrate is essential in designing many systems, such as autopilot in airplanes.
  • Computer programming and engineering
    The operation of flight bodies, such as planes and spacecraft, greatly relies on computer programs. As an aeronautics and astronautics engineer, you have to know how to write computer programs that direct parts of the elements you create. A critical element to all flight systems that requires computer programming is the communication systems. Ground officers use these systems to direct the pilots and crew.
  • Meteorology and Geography
    To be an aeronautics and astronautics engineer, you must have in-depth knowledge of different weather patterns to help you predict the risks you may encounter while flying the items you designed. Meteorology and geography knowledge are important in designing flight bodies that can withstand varying weather conditions. Additionally, the design of spacecraft depends on the understanding of the impact of gravity on items. This understanding helps in designing spaceships and other astronautic equipment to withstand outer space conditions.
  • Communication skills
    In every aeronautics and astronautics-related operation, communication is essential. The pilots, flight attendants, and all involved parties need clear communication to execute missions successfully. Control stations and flight bodies exchange critical information about flight conditions, direction, and findings for astronautic activities. If you want to be an astronautical engineer, you will have to study Russian. Russian is considered the standard communication language for all those interested in space exploration missions.
  • Design
    Designing is one of the main roles of aeronautics and astronautics engineers. By joining this field, you will have to develop shapes and properties of flight bodies that are efficient to perform their intended functions. However, design is a broad subject in this field. You might be required to design specific parts or systems in the flight item you specialize in. For instance, you might be tasked with designing the engine if you specialize in mechanics. Experts in aerodynamics usually design the outward appearance of flight bodies, such as jets and spacecraft. The experts in this field understand how air affects the motion of bodies through it. Therefore, the designs achieve the desired comfort, height, and speed without affecting those on board.
  • Fluid mechanics
    Air is an important element for every flight. At high altitudes, air pressure reduces, making oxygen inaccessible by the human respiratory system. Fluid mechanics is covered in aeronautics and astronautics engineering to maintain a normal environment during flight. Since flight bodies are enclosed, you need to understand how air circulates to avoid suffocation. Additionally, fluid mechanics facilitate the use of fuel and oil by engines on flight bodies.

Although the above-named subjects are common in both aeronautics and astronautics engineering, the rate at which they are covered is slightly different. Some subjects are covered more in aeronautics engineering than in astronautics and vice versa.

Astronautics focuses on the design of flight bodies to be operated in outer space. For this reason, subjects such as mechanics and computer programming are taken a little deeper than in aeronautics engineering. The communication and mechanical systems of space crafts are more complex since they have to attain greater heights and communicate over longer distances.

On the other hand, aeronautics engineering deals with the design and construction of flight bodies that operate within the earth’s atmosphere. These include planes, helicopters, and missiles, among others. The most significant difference between the mechanics covered by aeronautics engineering is that they design bodies to operate under the effect of gravity.

Being an aerospace engineering graduate comes with many benefits. Other than the skills and self-satisfaction, it sets you up for lucrative jobs in the aviation industry. Understanding your potential job description is important before you start working. Here are some common duties you might handle while working as an astronautics engineer.

  • Designing- During your career as an astronautics engineer, you might be tasked with coming up with concepts and ideas of how certain flight bodies could work. Since you are dealing with flight bodies such as spacecraft and satellites, you should have a good understanding of how they can move under minimal gravity. In astronautics engineering, the design work includes coming up with shapes and operation mechanisms that fall under your expertise.
  • Construction- Implementation of designs is one of the main roles of astronautics engineers. You have to bring concepts and ideas to life for the execution of different activities. For instance, once an aerodynamic engine is designed, you will assemble the necessary parts required to make it a real and working engine. Putting together different parts of a flight body according to design concepts requires adequate knowledge of the design process. Understanding how parts are labeled helps you place the right components in the right place.
  • Operation and maintenance of flight bodies- The operation of flight bodies in outer space is carried out by astronauts. However, to be an astronaut, you must have a background in aeronautics engineering. Operation of astronautic bodies includes flying space crafts and launching and maintaining satellites. The International Space Station is one of the most common outer space flight bodies. The station floats in space under zero gravity with experiments and communication equipment from different countries.
  • Communication- Communication determines the survival of astronauts while on a mission. Astronauts have to communicate with control stations about their flight conditions and report findings while on their missions. As an astronautic engineer, you are required to share your findings through reports or verbal presentations to relevant authorities while on duty. Communication includes presenting design ideas and concepts and controlling the launch, flight, and landing of spacecraft. Although most of the aeronautics field communication is computerized, it still requires human input to interpret and direct the message accordingly.
  • Research and experiments- The astronautic engineering field is fast-growing, which implies that it constantly faces new challenges. As an astronautics engineer, you have to research the best solutions for the problems encountered. For instance, astronautics engineers must perform research to determine the most secure materials to use when constructing spacecraft. Using the right material is essential for the safety of the crew and equipment. Aircraft design is faced with frequent challenges, one of them being weather conditions resulting from climate change. Astronautic engineers have to research how best to maneuver in such conditions. It could be through the design of more weather-resistant engines and launchers.

The above roles apply to all industries that require aeronautics and astronautics engineers. However, these roles could be slightly different for those practicing in the military. For example, different people design missiles than use them. To be an astronautics engineer, you might be required to have flying experience in normal airplanes.

Careers in Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering

Aeronautics and astronautics engineering are among the most lucrative career paths in the engineering field, which is the main reason why the courses are offered in the best engineering schools around the world. Graduating with a degree in aeronautics and astronautics engineering places you in a place to work in a wide range of industries. The subjects covered during the course study of these two engineering disciplines cut across almost all fields. Here are some highly demanded career opportunities for aeronautics and astronautics engineers.

  • Pilots or Crew Members of Airplanes or Spacecraft
    One of the skills you acquire while studying to be an aeronautics or astronautics engineer is flying planes. You can perfect this skill to be part of piloting and crew teams sent to space. You can equally become a licensed pilot to fly commercial airplanes and earn from it. Planes, spacecraft, and satellites require maintenance services, which is the main reason that an engineer is on board every flight as part of the crew. Engineers are usually available to handle technical problems that might arise in the course of the flight.
  • Technical Communicators
    Communication in the aviation and astronomical fields is a complicated process. It requires someone with adequate knowledge and skills to communicate certain pieces of information effectively. To be an aeronautical or astronautical engineer, one of the skills you learn is communication. The ability to communicate in and understand technical terms used in this industry is an employment opportunity you might exploit.
  • Design and Construction
    Designing is one of the most important skills you obtain from an aeronautics and astronautics engineering school. With adequate knowledge of how different aspects affect bodies moving in the air, you can practice in both the aviation and automotive industry. Manufacturers of fast cars require people who can generate feasible designs and concepts to suit their targeted market. Implementation of generated designs is one of the main roles of engineers in almost every industry. In aerospace engineering, you can specialize in the construction of certain parts of aircraft and space crafts.
  • Research Technicians
    Research is an essential element in all industries. In aeronautics and astronautics engineering, research is necessary to develop flight bodies to fly under changing conditions. To make flying easy, people in this field perform research to develop systems that can operate without human control. An example of these systems is the autopilot feature in modern aircraft and spacecraft. Due to climatic changes, weather conditions have become more intolerable and unpredictable. Research is done to develop aircraft parts and systems that can operate under adverse weather conditions. You can secure a position as a research technician in this industry and help find solutions to arising problems.
  • A Career in The Military
    One of the biggest players in the aviation industry is the military and defense forces. Various missions require reconnaissance operations which are done by airborne equipment. As an aeronautics and astronautics engineer, you can work as a military pilot or maintenance engineer for military jets and equipment. The design of missiles depends on aerospace engineering concepts. Therefore, you can work in the design and construction of missiles within the defense forces. Military training, such as conditioning exercise, will be required before you are approved to work in the military.
  • Space Exploration
    Astronautics engineering mainly focuses on flight items to be used in space. Once you complete your studies, you can explore careers in space exploration organizations such as NASA and SpaceX. These organizations focus on exploring resources in outer space to improve human life. Space exploration activities are complex and require additional studies before you get accepted to work. For instance, you have to learn Russian as an extra language for efficient communication while on missions.

There are many more career opportunities for aeronautics and astronautics engineers. The career you choose depends on your preferences and abilities. Although aerospace engineers have many employment opportunities, it’s not a guarantee that one benefits from their employment. Focus on your goal of employment to live a satisfying career life. For instance, certain career opportunities require a lot of time investment which means you won’t have much time for other activities like people in other careers do.  

Due to differences in priorities, you might find some aerospace engineers in professions that are less demanding of their skills. For example, an engineer with this training may work in economics. In this role, the engineer’s purpose is to determine the financial impact of aeronautic and astronautic projects. However, some advance their studies to become academicians or quality inspectors. Academicians are essential in ensuring a consistent supply of aerospace engineers in the job market. Quality inspectors ensure the items manufactured for aerospace operations meet the safety and operational requirements.

Schooling Requirements for Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineering

Aeronautics and astronautics engineering is a technical field that requires complex skills. For this reason, the selection of students to enter the career is stringent. There are many schooling requirements that you must fulfill before being admitted into aerospace engineering. Some of these requirements are:

  • Academic requirements- To be certified as an aeronautics and astronautics engineer, you must have a minimum academic qualification of a bachelor’s degree. The process of earning a bachelor’s degree varies depending on the institution you study in. However, most institutions take a maximum of five years before awarding a degree. The long duration ensures you master all the necessary concepts needed while working. During the study period, you will undergo internships in critical divisions of the field. These include mechanics, electricals, software, and computer engineering, among others.
  • Professional certification and licensing- Before working as an aeronautics and astronautics engineer, you must be certified by relevant professional bodies. These bodies include the Professional Engineering (PE) licensing board. To obtain a PE license, you must work for at least four years in a recognized aeronautics and astronautics engineering organization. You will be subject to two tests which you must pass to get the license to practice. Before being licensed, you will be required to use the title Engineer In Training (EIT). Professional certification bodies ensure the supply of skilled and competent engineers in the job market.

Before starting your bachelor’s degree program, you need to focus on relevant subjects in high school. These subjects are essential since they determine your ability to undertake the aeronautics and astronautics engineering program successfully. Important subjects you should major in are mathematics, physics, chemistry, and geometry. Most of the concepts in aeronautics and astronautics engineering undergraduate degree programs revolve around the stated subjects.

After completing your bachelor’s degree, you can advance your studies to perfect your skills and become an expert in your field of interest. Advancing your studies increases your career options as an aeronautical engineer. Advancing to the master’s degree level makes you an expert in your field. In aerospace engineering, you can pursue a master’s in fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, among others. If you intend to be a resource person, you can advance to the Ph.D. level, which is the highest attainable academic qualification. With a Ph.D., you can teach at prestigious colleges and universities. You may also be employed as part of policymakers in aerospace engineering organizations.

Qualities of Successful Aeronautics and Astronautics Engineers

Attaining degrees does not necessarily make you a successful aeronautics and astronautics engineer. Many factors determine how successful you are as an engineer. Most of these factors are related to your personality. However, the soft skills you acquire during school and while working in a professional capacity determine how successful you are. Some essential soft skills you must have include:

Mathematical, Analytical, And Problem-Solving Skills

Aeronautics and astronautics engineering involves hundreds of mathematical problems per project and a deep understanding of math. To be a successful engineer, you should be sharp enough to compute and give accurate solutions to mathematical problems. Certain problems encountered in the line of duty require urgent solutions. To prevent extensive damage to programs and physical components, you must have accurate problem-solving and analytical thinking abilities. These skills allow you to make sound judgments, especially when working as a software engineer.

Creativity and Innovative Thinking

In the changing aeronautics and astronautics engineering field, you must be creative to keep up with modern technological changes. You are bound to run into roadblocks and design problems when coming up with something new, and many critical things can influence these designs, such as weather. Therefore, you must be creative to find viable solutions to problems that arise with time. Innovative thinking helps you come up with safer and convenient methods of carrying out activities.

Project and Time Management Skills

If you plan to hold managerial positions in aeronautics and astronautics engineering organizations, you must be a good manager. Project management skills place you in a position to oversee design and construction activities without overusing available resources. Time management skills allow you to complete projects within the required deadlines.

Communication Skills

One of the main factors affecting the execution of projects in the aeronautics and astronautics engineering projects is communication. Communication skills facilitate the efficient flow of information between people working in an organization. If you work in the military, communication skills make it easier to give and receive orders from officers in different ranks.

There are many aeronautics and astronautics engineers in the world today. Although most of them work in different environments, several factors can be used to identify them. One of these factors is their work ethic. Most aeronautics and astronautics engineers can focus and work for long hours due to their training while at school. Another factor is precision while working on certain projects. Aeronautics and astronautics engineers understand how important their duties are. Most of them pay attention to details since slight errors could lead to disastrous outcomes.

If you love traveling, you might enjoy working as an aeronautics or astronautics engineer. This profession requires people to travel to different countries for exchange programs and research. You can specialize in flying a commercial aircraft or work as part of the crew. This allows you to visit various countries during your career life.

In Summary

Aeronautics and astronautics engineering is a great career path to choose. Other than personal benefits, the career plays an important role in keeping the world connected through communication and travel. However, before choosing this career, there are many factors you must consider. These include financial considerations and expectations from the career. Financial considerations prepare you for the costs of attaining the necessary qualifications to be an engineer. Knowing how much you are likely to spend during the course will make your study period comfortable. Understanding what is expected of you during and after the course prepares you psychologically. Going into a career without proper knowledge of the expected workload could strain your mental health.

Attaining a degree in aeronautics and astronautics engineering does not guarantee you employment after school. Other factors determine how fast you get absorbed into the job market. Your networking skills are essential for your employment. Networking allows you to make connections with potential employers and learn more from your peers. Additionally, it opens your mind to other ideas and opportunities within your field of practice.

Once you are licensed and employed to practice as an aeronautics and astronautics engineer, advancing your education is important. It increases your chances of getting promoted to supervisory or managerial positions. Consequently, you earn higher salaries. The technology used in this field keeps evolving from time to time. New systems and programs are developed to ease how things are done. You must keep updating your skills according to the latest technology to remain relevant.  

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