How to Become a Rocket Scientist
Rocket Scientist Careers & Degrees

Aerospace Engineers, commonly referred to as Rocket Scientists, are professionals who work with aerospace aircraft, spacecraft, missiles or satellites.

These professionals are experienced in the design, prototyping and testing of the complex aerospace equipment they are specialized in.

Individuals who would like to become a Rocket Scientist may already find that they have an interest in building and designing intricate equipment and have a natural ability to problem solve and fix similar devices.

Education Requirements to Become a Rocket Scientist

Individuals who want to become a Rocket Scientist must have a combination of innate skills and a postsecondary degree in order to enter this profession.

In addition, some individuals have the option of entering a 5 year program that leads to a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering.

An individual must focus on aerospace engineering or a closely relate field when entering their college career.

An aerospace engineering degree will give individuals the opportunity to learn in a classroom and a laboratory environment while studying some of the following areas:

  • Aerodynamics: they study of how air works with moving objects
  • Mechanics
  • Structures
  • Stability and control
  • Propulsion
  • General Engineering principles

Some aerospace engineering programs may also offer cooperative opportunities in which there is a partnership providing hands on experience to students enrolled in an internship.

Through these cooperative programs, schools and programs have agreements with organization in the aerospace engineering field.

Finally, individuals who want to become a Rocket Scientist will also have the option to sign up for a 5 year program offering a bachelor’s and master’s degree in aerospace engineering.

Attaining this type of degree will also give an individual the opportunity to become an instructor at a college or university as well as go into research to perform research and development.

Rocket Scientist Job Description

Rocket Scientists, professionally known as Aerospace Engineers, are responsible for designing, building, prototyping and testing aerospace equipment such as aircraft, spacecraft, missiles and satellites.

Rocket Scientists will first gather information, design, direct and coordinate the design of aircraft and aerospace products.

During this stage, Aerospace Engineers will research a suggested design to determine if it is possible to build and construct both financially and technically.

They will also determine if the design is safe to build.

Rocket Scientists will also assess the designs to assure that engineering principles are being adhered to, meet client’s requests and are adhering to environmental requests from the public.

When building designs, these professionals will assure that the prototype is meeting quality standards.

If not meeting quality standards, a Rocket Scientist will inspect any products that are malfunctioning or damaged, identify the problem and create a possible solution to fix any problems.

Rocket Scientists may also create new technologies to use in aviation designs including systems for defense.

These professionals may focus on the following aviation mechanisms: airplanes and helicopters, both commercial and military, missiles, rockets, rotorcraft, spacecraft, launch vehicles and satellites.

Rocket Scientist Salary and Career Path

The 2012 annual median wage for Aerospace Engineers, most commonly referred to as Rocket Scientists, was approximately $103,720.

Exact wages will depend on a variety of factors including years of experience and industry.

For example, the average salary for these professionals at the entry level is approximately $71,859 while individuals who work for the federal government can expect a median salary of approximately $110,860 per year.

The job outlook for Aerospace Engineers is expected to grow by 7 percent through the year 2022.

This growth is considered a slower than average growth when compared to other professions and is impacted by the decline in the manufacturing industry.

However this profession will be impacted less because of the demand for aircraft that are more fuel efficient and that produce less noise pollution causing more opportunity for research and development.

Individuals beginning a career as a Rocket Scientist can look forwards to a profession that is challenging and promotes problem solving, researching and designing a variety of aircraft equipment.

This is also one of the few professions that don’t typically require an advanced degree but whose income is one of the highest among other professionals.

Frequently Asked Questions

QuestionWhat does a rocket scientist do?

A rocket scientist is an aerospace engineer who specializes in the manufacture and design of spacecraft.

The specialists that work in the United States are employed by NASA or a similar organization.

Rocket scientists can specialize in a certain area of aerospace engineering (defense systems or space exploration vehicles) and on particular components of spacecraft (propulsion, aerodynamics, guidance systems, acoustics, etc.).

The typical duties of a rocket scientist usually include designing aerospace vehicles and systems; developing quality criteria for spacecraft systems; devising testing methods; overseeing the fabrication and manufacture of projects; developing reports and handbooks; determining the most efficient and effective placement for controls and instrumentation, and so on.

QuestionHow much do rocket scientists make?

On average, an aerospace engineer (including rocket scientists) can make a little more than $115.000 per year in the United States.

In case you decide to follow this career path, you can expect to earn anywhere between $68.000 and $159.000 annually.

The salary would certainly depend on a variety of factors – your education and experience level, the employer, and so on.

Rocket scientists that work in the aerospace parts and products manufacturing industry typically earn a little less than those in scientific research and development (the annual salary of the latter is around $129.000).

QuestionHow much does it cost to become a rocket scientist?

You would certainly need at least a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, in order to become a rocket scientist.

A year in a university can cost you anywhere between $8.000 and $45.000 (and more); the cost depends on a variety of factors (the books, supplies, and accommodation expenses are not included).

However, the majority of candidates choose to go for a master’s degree (over $11.000) or a doctorate degree (a Ph.D. will cost you around $20.000 per year).

You would have to earn a professional engineer’s license (over $430).

QuestionWhat is the demand for rocket scientists?

Between 2018 and 2028, the rocket scientist job market is expected to grow by 2%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a lot slower than the national average for all occupations in the United States.

The candidates that possess a master’s or a doctorate degree might have better employment opportunities.

The competition in the aerospace industry is extremely high; that’s why a lot of specialists choose to start working in the motor vehicle industry.

QuestionHow long does it take to become a rocket scientist?

It will take you 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree, 2-3 years to earn a master’s degree, and anywhere between 4 and 6 years to become a Ph.D.

Even though a graduate degree is not required, a lot of aspiring rocket scientists choose to earn one.

You would then have to work as an engineer-in-training (for at least 4 years).

To pass the advanced professional engineer exam, you should be working with a licensed engineer for at least 4-5 years (the requirements vary by state).

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