Aerospace Engineer Job Description - Tasks, Skills and Career Path
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Aerospace Engineer Job Description
An aerospace engineer is someone who researches, designs and builds aerospace vehicles and systems. Aerospace engineering focuses on the design of vehicles designed to operate within the earth’s atmosphere and vehicles intended for use in space (e.g. aeroplanes, helicopters, drones, missiles, satellites, space stations and spacecraft).
What does an aerospace engineer do?
Aerospace engineers are involved in every phase of the design and construction of aircraft and spacecraft and possess a broad knowledge of all of the various aspects of this process, including structural mechanics, aerodynamics, propulsion systems and the onboard electronic systems used for flight guidance and control.
Typical tasks performed by an aerospace engineer include producing designs using technical drawing applications such as CAD, carrying out technical and financial feasibility studies and running simulations to verify the constructability and viability of projects. They may also build prototypes, which are tested so that any faults or defects can be identified and corrected, and collect data to verify the prototype’s compliance with the applicable technical requirements and standards (in a phase known as verification and validation).
During the production phase, aerospace engineers are responsible for overseeing construction work and coordinating other related activities, including final testing.
Finally, they prepare manuals and other technical documentation relating to the operation and maintenance of the craft or component.
Aerospace engineers often work on research and development projects in teams with other aerospace and aeronautical engineers and technicians. Aerospace R&D projects may be launched to achieve a wide range of aims and objectives, e.g. improving aircraft engine performance and efficiency by reducing fuel consumption, enhancing flight safety, increasing the speed or reducing the weight of aircraft, introducing new flight command and control technologies, testing the use of innovative materials to mitigate an aircraft’s environmental impact or streamlining and optimizing production processes to bring down manufacturing times and costs.
Aerospace engineers are employed by aerospace research centres as well as by other organizations and enterprises operating in the aerospace industry. Employers include companies that manufacture assemblies and components for aerospace markets (e.g. launch systems, propulsion systems, missiles and satellites, flight control software and related systems), companies working in the military and defence sectors, airlines, civil and military aviation authorities and space agencies such as NASA and ESA.
Aerospace engineers may also work in a self-employed capacity for design and consulting firms in the aerospace, aeronautics, aviation or automotive industries.
Depending on the type of work done, the workplace of an aerospace engineer may be an office, a research and development laboratory, an engineering workshop or an aircraft construction plant. Job advertisements often specifically request a willingness to travel at home and abroad.
Aerospace Engineer Responsibilities and Tasks
The tasks of an aerospace engineer can vary widely according to the company and the position. However, some of the common tasks performed by most aerospace engineers include:
- Designing aeroplanes, helicopters, satellites and spacecraft
- Developing and testing aerospace systems and technologies
- Conducting feasibility studies and building prototypes
- Designing on board systems, devices and components (i.e. avionics)
- Supervising production and monitoring progress
- Carrying out tests and inspections
- Preparing maintenance and inspection plans for aircraft and mechanical and electronic components
- Providing aerospace engineering consulting and support services
How to Become an Aerospace Engineer - Education and Training
A significant amount of hard work and study is required to obtain a degree in aerospace engineering - the usual requirement to become an aerospace engineer.
In addition to the traditional core engineering curriculum, aspiring aerospace engineers also study a wide range of other subjects, including aerodynamics, flight mechanics, propulsion, flight guidance and control systems, avionics and aeronautics materials and technologies.
A knowledge of foreign languages is another important requirement, since teams of aerospace engineers are often made up of professionals from all over the world.
Also essential is a willingness to keep up to date with the constant technological innovations that drive the aerospace industry forward.
Aerospace Engineer Skills and Qualifications
Aerospace engineers require the following skills:
- Aerospace engineering skills
- Advanced CAD design abilities
- Knowledge of aerospace industry testing and verification/validation methodologies
- Organizational and planning skills
- Analytical skills
- Communication skills
- Willingness to relocate abroad
Aerospace Engineer Career Path
So, what's the career outlook of an aerospace engineer?
A career in aerospace engineering may unfold in a broad variety of directions. An aerospace engineer may choose to pursue opportunities on cutting-edge projects, such as the launch of an international space station or, alternatively, move into leadership roles, supervising and coordinating teams of engineers and technicians, as a project manager or a director of engineering.
Other possible career options include specializing in a specific field - such as propulsion systems, aerodynamics or avionics - or moving to work in another area in which aerospace engineers are highly in demand, such as the automotive, railway or maritime sector.
Top Reasons to Work as an Aerospace Engineer
The job of an aerospace engineer is among the most complex and demanding roles in the entire engineering industry.
Requiring extensive university study, it is suited to candidates with a real aptitude for the sciences and offers a multinational working environment that is not only stimulating but that also enjoys a certain prestige - after all, not everybody can claim to have contributed to the design of a probe orbiting the earth.
A wide range of career development opportunities are open to aerospace engineers in both scientific research and its industrial application. Frequently, the work done to find solutions to aerospace engineering problems lead to major technological innovations that have a positive impact on people’s everyday lives.
Finally, the salaries on offer are very competitive, reflecting the professional skills and training that the role requires.