Aeronautics engineering, or aerospace engineering, applies the principles of mathematics, physics and materials science to the design and development of aircraft and spacecraft. The study of aeronautics engineering begins at the undergraduate level, where many universities offer Bachelor of Science degrees in aeronautical or aerospace engineering. Some students who are interested in pursuing a graduate degree in this area also seek doctoral programs, or Ph.D.s, in aeronautics engineering and pursue original research projects.

Requirements to Begin the Program

Students who wish to apply to a Ph.D. program in aeronautics engineering are required to have, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering or a related field like mechanical engineering or materials engineering. Students with a Master of Science degree in aeronautics engineering might be able to bypass some of the initial course requirements for the doctoral degree. Some programs require a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering or a related field to apply to the doctoral program. All doctoral programs, however, require students to take the Graduate Record Examination prior to application.


For students without a master’s degree, the doctoral program involves intensive coursework during the first year, which covers several distinct topics in aeronautical engineering. These classes include applied physics courses like fluid mechanics and heat transfer, where students study stability and the transition to turbulence, the physics of turbulence and the computer modeling of turbulence. Other courses include advanced thermodynamics, which covers traditional thermodynamics and quantum statistical mechanics of non-reacting and chemically reacting gases.

Examinations and Dissertation

After the completion of the required coursework, students in a doctoral program in aeronautical engineering are required to undergo a comprehensive examination before they can begin writing their dissertation. The comprehensive examination may be oral or written, and is generally related to the subject of the proposed dissertation. The thesis, or dissertation, must be an original, publishable contribution to the field of aeronautical engineering. After the submission of the dissertation, students do a final oral defense in front of an examining committee before being granted their doctoral degree.

Career Options

A doctorate in aeronautical engineering is the primary qualification for a position at a university. These positions involve teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in aeronautical engineering, as well as continuing to conduct original research. Other possible career options include pure research positions at university research facilities or in government or privately funded research institutes. Many candidates with doctorates in aeronautical engineering also pursue managerial and supervisory positions in engineering or design firms.