plane being built in hanger

Aeronautics and Astronautics

Aeronautical engineering and Astronautical engineering are the two major branches of Aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineering is a branch of engineering concerned with the construction, design, and science of spacecraft and aircraft. Aeronautical engineering deals with aircrafts that operate within the Earth’s atmosphere, while Astronautical engineering deals with spacecraft, and is often referred to as “rocket science”. Many people predict the Aerospace engineering field will boom over the next few decades due to new airplane technologies.

Program Information

Stanford University has one of the top Aerospace engineering programs in the world. Students at Stanford usually don’t specialize in Aero/Astro until graduate school, although Stanford undergraduates can declare an interdisciplinary Major in Astronautics and Aeronautics which leads to a Bachelor of Science degree in General Engineering. Coursework includes 24 units of Mathematics (including some statistics), 18 units in Science (with a strong foundation in classical physics and mechanics), 1 course in Technology in Science, 3 courses in Engineering Fundamentals (including Engineering Thermodynamics and Programming Methodology), and 39 units meeting the Departmental Requirements, including Introduction to Aero/Astro. MIT also has an excellent aerospace engineering program. The AeroAstro program offers three Bachelor of Science degrees: B.S. in Aerospace Engineering, B.S. in Aerospace Engineering with Information Technology, and B.S. in Engineering as recommended by the Aero/Astro Department. Sophomores start with Unified Engineering, which provides the fundamental disciplines of aerospace engineering, including materials and structures, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics and propulsion, and signals and systems. Students in their junior year study the dynamics and principles of automatic control, and will also work with a partner and faculty advisor to propose and perform an original experiment project.

aeronautics student

Pros & Cons

Most entry-level jobs in aerospace engineering require only a bachelor’s degree. This means students do not have to attend graduate school, saving tuition money. Aerospace engineering also offers very good paying jobs, and internships can help provide on the job experience. Aerospace engineering can also be a very exciting field to work in. Working on aircrafts and spacecrafts can be very exciting and a lot of fun. There isn’t expected to be much job growth for aerospace engineers over the next decade however, meaning competition for entry level positions may be fierce. Getting your foot in the door by networking may be required, which can be difficult for some people. Also, some jobs may require security clearance, especially if you are working with military aircrafts or in the space program. The coursework can be incredibly difficult as well, and will require a lot of dedication and studying.

Graduate School & Career

The California Institute of Technology, MIT, and Stanford University have the best Aerospace engineering graduate programs in the country, according to U.S. News. Those who graduate with an Aerospace engineering degree may become Commercial Aeronautical Engineers, working for airline manufacturers, design firms, and various companies servicing these industries. Commercial Aeronautical Engineers work on prototype building and airframe design, propulsion, flight control systems, flight testing and mission systems. Some might become Military Aeronautical Engineers. They provide high tech weaponry and defence to help support military troops, and work on issues such as weapons, aircraft guidance, and propulsion systems. They may also work on surveillance devices such as unmanned drones, or work with missile development. Those who enter the Aeronautical field may become Spacecraft Designers, and can find work at NASA or other venues such as other countries developing their own space programs or private companies. This work is highly specialized and sensitive.