How to Become an Aeronautical Engineer

Aeronautical Engineer Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $121,370
Avg. Pay / hour $58.35
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 2%

An aeronautical engineer is a specialist in the design of aircraft.

You might decide to become an aeronautical engineer if you have a keen interest in aviation and flight, a good head for academic work, and a desire to work on exciting projects.

Building an airplane is a very complicated process, and involves a long and detailed procedure of design, manufacture, and testing.

Aeronautical engineers will also contribute to the maintenance and repair of working aircraft.

While the first planes to soar through the skies a century ago were simple in their design, the planes of today are very complex.

Most aeronautical engineers specialize in a particular area, and work within a larger team of engineers on a project.

As new technology is developed, the work of an aeronautical engineer is constantly changing.

This is certainly a challenging role.

Education Requirements to Become an Aeronautical Engineer

To become an aeronautical engineer, you’ll need to be prepared to complete several years of college, which may at times become competitive.

In high school, you’ll need to get good grades, especially in math and science.

Courses in physics, algebra, and calculus will be particularly helpful.

At college, you will need to complete a four year bachelor’s degree that specializes in aeronautical science and engineering.

Make sure your course has been accredited by ABET, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.

Your coursework will again include subjects in math, science, engineering, physics, and aerospace, just to name a few.

Your education isn’t over yet! To get a role as an aeronautical engineer, you’ll also need to attend graduate school.

A masters degree in aeronautical engineering is the best choice of postgraduate degree, and will take anywhere between one and three years to complete, depending on the school you enroll in.

The coursework will be much more specific to aircraft design.

While a master’s degree is adequate to become an aeronautical engineer, many in the field eventually complete a doctorate.

After you complete your postgraduate degree, you’ll need to take the Professional Aeronautical Engineer Exam, which will allow you to be fully licensed and certified to practice.

Since this is a field which is constantly seeing the introduction of new technology, you will need to stay on the forefront.

Continuing education will be a part of your job.

Aeronautical Engineer Job Description

An aeronautical engineer designs and oversees the manufacturer of aircraft.

They test prototypes, and also oversee the maintenance and repair of planes.

They work with both civil and military aircraft, and also may work to develop related technology involving missiles, weapons, or radar.

The purpose of an aeronautical engineer is primarily to develop an aircraft which is safe.

They also need to take into consideration the cost effectiveness of such aircraft, as well as their impact on the environment.

An aeronautical engineer will often focus on one stage of the development process.

For instance, they may work exclusively in research, design, or manufacture.

Some could work in the testing stages, while others in maintenance and repair.

Here are some of the job requirements of an aeronautical engineer:

  • Researching aircraft design
  • Applying the principles of science to aircraft
  • Overseeing the manufacture of aircraft, including small components
  • Attending flight tests
  • Taking measurements and readings during tests
  • Aircraft maintenance
  • Accident investigations

Aeronautical Engineer Salary and Career Path

Most aeronautical engineers will begin their career working under the supervision of a more experience engineer.

With experience, you will be able to move on to more complex roles, and in turn earn a higher salary.

There are many different fields that an aeronautical engineer could work in.

Some are employed by aircraft manufacturers like Boeing.

Others work for airlines performing maintenance and testing.

Some work for the military, while others work as teachers or researchers in colleges.

Some similar roles to an aeronautical engineer include:

Aeronautical engineers are the highest paid of any of the engineering career paths.

According to, they earn a median wage of around $99,000 a year.

The highest 10% of earners take home in excess of $140,000 a year.

While it may be challenging to become an aeronautical engineer, after you have completed your education, you can look forward to an exciting career that will always be changing and expanding.

There are excellent salaries available, as well as good job security for those who are successful.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$137,390
Maine- NA -
New Jersey$125,230
New Mexico$120,590
New York$105,780
North Carolina$109,020
South Carolina$115,480

The top earning state in the field is Nebraska, where the average salary is $149,860.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

Nebraska - $149,860
Colorado - $140,690
Arizona - $140,430
District of Columbia - $137,390
California - $134,120
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Aerospace Engineers, OCC Code 17-2011, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an aeronautical engineer?

Aeronautical engineers are aerospace engineers specialized in the design of aircraft and propulsion systems.

They also study the performance of aircraft and various construction materials.

Aeronautical engineers create and test prototypes to make sure that they function according to the design.

They can specialize in a specific field, such as commercial and military airplanes and helicopters or remotely piloted aircraft.

Those who work on projects that are related to national defense may need a security clearance.

When designing aircraft, engineers need to take into account the environment where it will operate, the technical aspects of the aircraft design, and the basic principles of physics.

Aeronautical engineers typically work full time, and they may need to work extra hours if they have to supervise a project.

How much does an aeronautical engineer make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual pay for aerospace engineers, in general, was $115,220 as of May 2018.

How much an aerospace engineer makes depends on a number of factors, including his or her expertise, the field of employment and level of experience.

For example, engineers employed in the field of engineering services earned around $110,000 a year, while those who work in research earned a median wage of $124,000 a year.

How much does it cost to become an aeronautical engineer?

Aeronautical engineers must hold a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field.

If you are interested in becoming an aeronautical engineer, you should take courses in science, math and computer programming courses in high school.

After graduating from high school, the next step is to enroll in a bachelor’s degree program.

Bachelor’s degree programs in this field include classroom, laboratory and field studies and cover topics such as engineering, principles, propulsion, mechanics, and aerodynamics.

Some colleges have partnerships with regional businesses in order to give students practical experience.

Intensive five-year programs are also available at some colleges, leading to both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree.

Bachelor’s degree programs in aeronautical engineering cost, on average, around $45,000 a year and can be completed in four years.

What is the demand for aeronautical engineers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for aerospace engineers, in general, is projected to grow 2 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Those who are trained in software programming or are experienced in stress and structural engineering should have the best job prospects.

How long does it take to become an aeronautical engineer?

Aeronautical engineers need a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field.

Bachelor’s degree programs in this field can usually be completed in four years.

Obtaining state-licensure is not required for entry-level positions but obtaining a Professional Engineer license can help you later in your career because it gives you a greater level of independence.

Each state issues its own license and has its own requirements but you will usually need at least four years of experience in the field in order to become a fully licensed engineer.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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