Aerospace engineers design, analyze, test and operate spacecraft, aircraft, satellites and missiles. They're involved in research, development, design, production and management in programs related to space exploration and flight. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says aerospace engineers need only a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or a related field to begin work. A bachelor's in aerospace engineering typically takes four years to complete, and it includes advanced coursework in math, science and engineering, with extensive lab time.
The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics says a typical aerospace engineering program will include advanced-level math classes such as calculus and linear algebra. Concepts such as vector calculus and differential equations are learned in the program. These courses are typically taken during the first two years, as they provide a foundation for later science and engineering courses that students must take.
A variety of engineering courses form the bulk of training that aerospace engineering students will take in their undergraduate training. The AIAA says that students will take basic engineering courses with concepts in materials science, solid mechanics and thermodynamics, as well as advanced courses such as aerodynamics, flight mechanics, orbital mechanics and rock propulsion. These classes typically begin the sophomore year and make up the bulk of coursework in the junior and senior years. Some specific courses at Iowa State University include Aircraft Flight Dynamics and Control, Aerospace Engineering Problems, and Aerodynamics I and II.
Classes in the Sciences
Most programs in aerospace engineering require at least one year in physics and one year in chemistry, according to the AIAA. These courses are typically taken in the first two years of the program since they, like the math classes, provide an academic foundation for the more advanced engineering courses taken in the upper levels of the program. Requirements may be broken into several semesters or units, like at the University of California at San Diego. First-year chemistry and physics are both broken into two classes, and a third class in physics is taken in the second year.
Laboratory work is included in most classes in an aerospace engineering program, as it provides the hands-on training that students will need to learn the skills used on the job. Lab work can begin in the first year with the physics or chemistry class, and it's a standard feature in upper-level courses in engineering. Lab work helps students see aerospace concepts in action, such as flight dynamics and missile behavior. It also allows students to practice their skills in building delicate circuitry and other mechanical parts.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook: Aerospace Engineers
- AIAA: What Types of Classes Do Aerospace Engineering Students Take?
- The University of Tennesse Knoxville: Aerospace Engineering Major Guide for 2012-2013
- Arizona State University: What Is Aerospace Engineering?
- Iowa State University: Aerospace Engineering
- University of California San Diego: Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (MAE)
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