What are Some Different Aerospace Engineer Careers?

T. Briseno
T. Briseno
The Lockheed SR-71, which was designed by aerospace engineers.
The Lockheed SR-71, which was designed by aerospace engineers.

Having an aerospace engineering career generally involves selecting a specialized path within the aerospace field. Creating and updating aircraft is a multidisciplinary effort with inputs from a variety of engineering support teams. From the hardware that makes up the physical parts of a project to the software that controls its functions, a trained professional may focus on one segment of the design. Aerospace engineer careers can lead to work in safety, testing, materials, manufacturing, training, and quality, among other areas.

An engineer who works for a light aircraft company like Cessna may be tasked with designing a new crop duster.
An engineer who works for a light aircraft company like Cessna may be tasked with designing a new crop duster.

Software and hardware engineers typically comprise part of an aerospace engineering project team. Functions for each of these aerospace engineer careers roles can be quite different, and the education and training likely will focus on the needs of both individually and in conjunction. A hardware engineer, for example, may be responsible for the instrumentation on an aircraft, while the software specialist focuses on the coding needed to communicate between the data entry panel and the instruments themselves.

Aeronautical engineers who work for defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, which built the stealthy F-22 Raptor, must usually pass background checks.
Aeronautical engineers who work for defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, which built the stealthy F-22 Raptor, must usually pass background checks.

Materials, testing, and safety engineering are distinct but complementary aerospace engineer careers. Meeting often stringent requirements for what goes into the making of an aircraft within international codes and standards can be an important part of each of these areas. Achieving a completed product involves identifying and using materials that are within cost goals, can perform the needed functions capably and reliably, and can pass the required testing safely. An engineer or team of engineers from each of these areas works to ensure a coming together of all aspects.

During each stage of design, upgrade, or implementation, support and advisory functions usually develop. Quality Assurance (QA) is an aerospace engineer career field with representatives who review all aspects of the project for compliance to customer quality standards. In order to perform a comprehensive QA, it is generally necessary to review all associated project documentation. Technical writing staff, who often are trained aerospace engineers, are tasked with documenting each stage of a program’s design and development. Training specialists in aerospace may have dual roles as writers because they may have the experience of writing the manuals detailing how to use and repair the product supplied to a customer.

Numerous support staff have aerospace engineer careers with roles that can include change managers, engineering assistants, flight testers, and manufacturing employees. Overseeing many or all of these departments and as head of all engineering staff is typically an Engineering Program Manager (EPM). An EPM may have experience in one or several engineering specialties as well as the skills and experiences needed to manage the budget, personnel resources, and project deadlines.

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    • The Lockheed SR-71, which was designed by aerospace engineers.
      The Lockheed SR-71, which was designed by aerospace engineers.
    • An engineer who works for a light aircraft company like Cessna may be tasked with designing a new crop duster.
      An engineer who works for a light aircraft company like Cessna may be tasked with designing a new crop duster.
    • Aeronautical engineers who work for defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, which built the stealthy F-22 Raptor, must usually pass background checks.
      Aeronautical engineers who work for defense contractors like Lockheed Martin, which built the stealthy F-22 Raptor, must usually pass background checks.