Aerospace Engineers Careers: Employment & Salary Trends for Aspiring Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace Engineers at a Glance

Aerospace engineers perform a wide variety of engineering work ranging from simple to complex. On any given day, aerospace engineers will do everything from maintain records and write technical reports to design aeronautical and aerospace systems based on customer needs.  Aerospace engineers use scientific methods to solve problems as well as manage engineering and technical personnel during the design, fabricating, testing, and modifying of aerospace and aircraft commodities.

Aerospace engineers make up the 6th largest area of engineering. Civil engineers are number one, followed by mechanical engineers, industrial engineers, electrical engineers, and electronics engineers. Overall, engineers hold over 1.5 million jobs. Many engineers work in machinery manufacturing, but the highest paid engineers (aerospace) work in federal, state and local government as well as professional, technical, and scientific services.  

Most aerospace engineers work 40+ hours per week. Roughly 20% work part-time. Self-employed engineers account for 3% of the aerospace engineering pool.  

Schools to Consider:

Employment Trends

Job Outlook: Average increase
Annual Openings: 6,498
Percent Growth: 10.2%
Total Jobs Held: 90,000
Projected Employment: 99,000  
The Best 500 Jobs Overall Ranking: 171

Source: “Best Jobs for the 21st Century,” JIST Publishing 2009. Farr, Michael and Shatkin, Laurence, Ph.D.; “Salary Facts Handbook,” JIST Publishing 2008. Editors @ JIST.

Aspiring aerospace engineers can expect average job growth thanks to advances in technology for commercial aircraft. In addition, job growth will continue as a result of an increase in military projects involving aerospace.  
Graduates with a degree in aerospace will a significant number of job openings as aerospace engineers retire or leave the field.

Salary Trends

In 2009, aerospace engineers earned an average salary of $90,930 per year. This figure represents a 1.8% increase over 2008 ($89,260). Aerospace engineers in the 90th percentile can expect to earn around $124,550 per year, while 75th percentile aerospace engineers can expect to earn $106,450 per year. Entry-level aerospace engineers can expect to earn a starting salary of around $59,610 per year.

Aerospace engineers working in federal, state, and local government currently earn the highest annual average salary ($97,740), followed by professional, scientific, and technical services ($93,590). Engineers that work in administrative and support services earn the third highest average annual salary -- $92,990.

Degrees and Training Programs

A bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, aerospace technology, or related field is the minimum requirement for entry into this field, but a master’s degree or higher is preferred. Currently, 9.8% of all aerospace engineers have a doctoral degree, 18.6% have a master’s degree, and 46.1% have a bachelor’s degree. Bachelor’s degree holders typically hold entry-level positions while working on a master’s degree.

There are more than 1,830 accredited engineering programs at colleges and universities across the U.S. These programs have been accredited under guidelines established by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology or “ABET.” In addition, there are more than 700 ABET accredited programs in engineering technology.

Coursework Required

Undergraduates should have a strong background in chemistry, physics, biology, calculus, and trigonometry before entering a, engineering degree program. Aerospace science engineering majors will take a number of “basic” and introductory courses for this degree program. Courses such as introduction to aerospace science, physics, calculus, general chemistry, differential equations, are on the menu as well as thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, aerospace structures, and aerospace analysis. Courses such as propulsion, engineering math, flight vehicle design, and auto controls are also on the menu.

Did you know that the aerospace industry is the second largest industry in the United States? It is also one of the largest employers of engineers in the nation. Aerospace engineers work with aircraft manufacturers, airlines, and even with NASA.