Aerospace Engineers: Designing Our Future

Aerospace Engineers: Designing Our Future

The career I have chosen to write about and eventually pursue is aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineers design airplanes and space vehicles, and test them for efficiency and effectiveness. Aerospace engineers represent only a small fraction of America’s population of engineers, and aerospace engineering is considered to be a very small occupation nationwide, but it is a vital one.

Aerospace engineers will lead America into the space age, and I want to be there to help.

Ever since 1903, when the Wright Brothers made powered flight a reality, aviation has played an increasingly important role in American and human affairs. With the Earth rapidly becoming crowded, there is no place to go but up, and the one constant over the past 89 years has been the increasing role of airplanes in both civilian and military affairs.

Lately, the emphasis has been on spaceflight. When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957, the world realized that we could reach beyond the boundaries of our planet, and the space race began. Bigger and better space vehicles were rapidly developed, and the space race began. Bigger and better space vehicles were rapidly developed, culminating in Vostok 1 (which held Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space), Apollo 11, Skylab, and the space shuttles.

The next three major space projects confronting the United States are the building of a permanent space station, the establishment of a permanent base on the Moon, and a manned mission to Mars, and aerospace engineers will be behind each one of them. I have strong felings about the need of the human race to enter space, and I think that the best way to be a part of that is through aerospace engineering.

Aside from such lofty ideas, I expect engineering to be personally fulfilling for me as well. I enjoy designing things and figuring things out, and I like doing and am skilled at math applications, drawing, and working with others. I also find science fascinating.

Also, I am very interested in aviation, and any chance to work within that field would be exciting for me.

Aerospace engineering may be one of the most important careers of the third millennium, and I would be proud to be a part of it.

Engineering is the designing of mechanisms to help humans lead “richer lives” — bridges, automobiles, and every other mechanical thing in our society. Each mechanism you use was designed by an engineer — from your pen to your computer. In a way, engineers are the backbone of our rapidly technologizing society. Without engineers, we would still be cavemen.

Specifically, aerospace engineers design, analyze, test, and supervise the construction of commercial and military aircraft and spacecraft, including missiles and rockets. Aerospace engineers are involved in designing such craft as the Space Shuttle and the vertical take-off and landing jets in the Royal Air Force. Typically, aerospace engineers will specialize in one particular area such as instrumentation or aerodynamics. An aerospace engineer may specialize in aircraft, in which case they would be referred to as an aeronautical engineer, or spacecraft, in which case they would be an astronautical engineer.

In the design of an aircraft or spacecraft, there are many different phases, each of which involves an aerospace engineer. First, the client is consulted as to what kind of craft he is interested in. After a general design of the craft has been agreed upon, a group of engineers makes a more detailed design. After this design has been revised several times, a model is made, which is subjected to a great variety of tests, during which the design is continually revised. After a detailed design is completed, aerospace engineers supervise the production of and installation of equipment on the craft.

Depending upon their assignment, aerospace engineers work under a variety of conditions. Some work in offics, initially designing the craft, while some work in testing areas, supervising various tests being made. Some aerospace engineers are employed by manufacturers, in which case they spend a lot of time in construction areas. A lot of travel is par for an aerospace engineer as they shuttle from design offices to testing stations to manufacturing plants.

Some aerospace engineers may work in a single phase of the production process — they may specialize in, for example, testing or manufacturing. Often, a narrower field of specialization is a result of Master’s or doctorate work.

Aerospace engineers do a lot of work with drafting and revising plans. Work on paper is the foundation of any craft. Also, an aerospace engineer can typically expect to spend a lot of time in testing, as no craft is perfect the first time around. Finally, aerospace engineers spend a good deal of time in a construction setting, supervising the production of their project.

Aerospace engineers work together to produce the most sophisticated vehicles of our time. As they progress from phase to phase of their projects, they are involved in continual revisions and reworkings of their original design, working hard to steadily bring their craft to the peak of performance.

Since aerospace engineers occupy such a crucial niche in the world of aviation, they are involved in a wide sweep of activities, connected with the entire industry. A good aerospace engineer is well-acquainted with all aspects of aviation. Therefore a good education in preparation for aerospace engineering starts many years before college. Future aerospace engineers would be well-advised to stay abreast of all new developments in the areas of aviation and space exploration. There are several ways to do this, but the best is to regularly read related periodicals such as Space News. Since we need to know where we came from to know where we’re going, a good knowledge of the history of aviation is a strong qualification for an aerospace engineer. A strong overall interest in aviation will pay big dividends in a career in this field.

At the high school level, potential aerospace engineers should become familiar with computers and engineering technology, as well as working hard in the areas of math and science. Suggested courses include computer science, drafting, and good English classes (aerospace engineers need to be able to express themselves well using both the printed and the spoken word). That advanced math and science classes such as calculus and physics should be pursued goes without mention.

At college (a bachelor’s degree is the minimum level of education required for entry into the field), one can earn a degree in aerospace engineering or a related field, such as mechanical engineering or engineering technology. Careers, Incorporated outlines an aerospace engineer’s college education:

In a typical college aerospace engineering program, the first two years are devoted to mathematics, physical science, computer science, and basic engineering courses, and liberal arts subjects, such as English, the social sciences, and humanities. During the remaining two to three years of undergraduate aerospace engineering design or in research and development.

A BS is only the bare minimum, though. A smart engineer will continue their education to a master’s degree and even a doctorate, becoming more specialized as they go. A master’s degree typically involves about two more years of study, while a Ph.D. is generally achieved after a good deal of time is spent actually working in the field.

Of course, a good aerospace engineer’s education does not stop after college, or even after a doctorate. Aerospace engineers need to be willing to continue their education for their entire careers by reading periodicals and attending seminars or on-the-job training sessions.

The thorough education of an aerospace engineer is a lifetime preposition, including a strong interest in aviation and a great hunger for knowledge.

I expect many rewards as an aerospace engineer — personal and financial.

The aircraft/missile industry spends more on engineering than any other except automotive and electrical. Thus, the average starting salary for an aerospace engineer is very high — over $30,000. This does not increase with job status as quickly as salaries in other industries do, but an experienced aerospace engineer with a doctorate may make $75,000 a year.

In terms of job status, depending on personal aptitude and enthusiasm, aerospace engineers may be promoted from a technician all the way to a position as a project leader. Project leaders are typically experienced, enthusiastic, well-educated, and very capable.

In terms of benefits and working conditions, engineers generally have a pretty good situation — they usually work in comfortable office settings when they are not testing or supervising production. Hours are generally regular, although long hours may be required around deadline time, and generous time off may be available between projects.

Most of all, what I expect from a career as an aerospace engineer is excitement as I watch designs take shape, a sense of accomplishment at a job well-done, and the pleasure that I would take in the knowledge that I would be helping America grow.

– This post was originally written as a St. Agnes High School essay by Jay Gabler, submitted to American history teacher Mr. Schoen on May 15, 1992.