Aerospace, Aeronautical and Astronautical/Space Engineering  Program Description

 
 

Insider Info

dotThe first Airbus A380 flew into history when it was delivered to Singapore Airlines in October 2007. It is the biggest and most efficient airliner ever. And aerospace engineers made it happen.

"Aerospace engineering involves both aeronautics (aircraft) and astronautics (spacecraft). Different universities and programs may emphasize one or the other -- so look carefully at the curriculum and courses to see which will better meet your interests," says Keiko Nomura. She is an aerospace engineering professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).

Aerospace engineering is a large and diverse field. Academic programs reflect that diversity, so make sure the school you choose offers what you are interested in.

A number of universities offer degrees in aerospace engineering at all levels -- bachelor's, master's and doctorate. The specific entrance requirements vary, but they are generally high.

"High ACT scores and particularly good grades in math and science are needed," says Amy Lang. She is an aerospace engineering professor at the University of Alabama.

But you need more than just math and science skills to succeed.

"More recently, more emphasis in aerospace programs on communication skills is becoming evident," says David R. Greatrix. He is an associate professor and the associate chair of a department of engineering. "Speaking, writing and communicating within a team environment are aptitudes that can be just as important in the aerospace world."

Admission can be very competitive.

"We typically receive around 800 applications per year, and ultimately admit around 120 students into first year," says Greatrix.

Although engineering is traditionally a male-dominated field, there are great opportunities for women. Lang says she has had a lot of support in the workplace throughout her career.

Although they are outnumbered by male students, women usually do well academically and are usually ranked high in class, says Bo Tan. She is an aerospace engineering professor. "Young women who are interested in aerospace engineering should not be discouraged by the male-dominated work environment," Tan says.

She adds that there are many engineering associations specifically for women, and these associations can provide a great support network.

When you choose a post-secondary institution, look for a low student-to-faculty ratio. "That personal contact with the faculty can make all the difference in your appreciation of the course material and ability to perform well," says Lang.

Check out the research being done by the faculty, too. "If faculty are active in research, you can get exposed to the most advanced technology and ideas -- and there may be opportunities to work on a research project in a faculty lab," says Nomura.

There are many activities that can help you prepare for these programs. Pursue your interest in model aircraft and rockets. Or try flying recreational gliders and airplanes. Participate in mathematics and physics contests, like the Science Olympics.

"Tinker. Do woodworking, metalworking," says John Enright. He's an aerospace professor. "Build radio-controlled cars, planes and boats. Build electric circuits. Get an amateur radio license. Learn to fix your parent's car."

Nomura was recently impressed by a group of women students at UCSD who got involved with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Formula Race Car Competition.

"Through their hard work and dedication, they successfully built a car -- and they were the first SAE all-women's team in the nation," recalls Nomura.

Costs vary for programs. Tuition is generally higher for aerospace engineering than for many other fields. And books can be expensive.

"A typical figure for textbooks and materials is around $1,000 per year," estimates Greatrix. "You need a good calculator, typical number of books, and sometimes schools will apply an additional laboratory fee per semester," says Lang.

A laptop and software are an optional expense.


Links

Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Aerospace Engineers

NASA Kids
Check out this cool site, with lots of activities for kids

Discover Engineering Online
This site includes online games

Women in Aerospace
A great support network

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this program is about? Check out Just the Facts for a simple description.