Candidates choosing careers in aeronautical engineering are generally interested in both engineering and aviation, which makes sense since they'll be spending a great deal of time developing and designing machines that fly. Working at the forefront of cutting-edge technology, aeronautical engineers use robotics, computer-aided design (CAD), advanced electronics and lasers to meet the constantly-increasing global travel designs. Aeronautical engineers have the responsibility to create newer, safer, more economical and energy-efficient travel methods.

See our ranking of the 30 Best Values for Aerospace Engineering.

What is Aeronautical Engineering?

This engineering field deals with the creation, design, and maintenance of travel machines, including airplanes missiles, helicopters, satellites and spacecraft. They not only create the machines but also use their knowledge of technology and aviation to create the most energy-efficient machines on the market. They utilize sophisticated technologies for defense systems, aviation and space exploration. They're also the professionals responsible for ensuring the machines meet environmental and safety regulations. Aeronautical engineers inspect the parts and make recommendations for any necessary changes.

Aeronautical Engineering vs Aerospace Engineering

Aeronautical engineering and aerospace engineering are similar disciplines that are often confused, yet there are significant differences between the two disciplines. Here are some of the similarities.

  • Both use similar technology.
  • Both disciplines require similar knowledge and skill sets.
  • Both careers focus on flight.
  • Both disciplines require the candidate to earn a typical degree in engineering before pursuing an advanced degree in aeronautical engineering or aerospace engineering.
  • Both programs require study in aerodynamics, flight stability, aircraft control, and basic engineering.
  • Salaries are similar.

There is one major difference between the aeronautical and aerospace engineering. Aeronautical engineering focuses mostly on flight and flight activities with an atmosphere while aerospace engineering may also include activities within an atmosphere, but it also focuses on space applications where there is no atmosphere. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that aerospace engineers generally specialize in either aeronautical engineering or astronautical engineering.

How to Become an Aeronautical Engineer

To become an aeronautical engineer, an individual must earn a bachelor's degree program in aeronautical engineering or aerospace engineering. These programs generally take four to five years to complete and must be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Because there are so many similarities and such an overlap between aeronautical engineering and aerospace engineering, many colleges are melding the programs together by offering double majors.

  • Aeronautical engineers can specialize in various areas.
  • Flight mechanics and control systems
  • Structural design
  • Manufacturing and maintenance
  • Aerodynamics
  • Instrumentation and communication

During the final year of college, the student participates in lab studies and design courses. Before the graduate can work as a licensed engineer, he or she must pass two engineering examinations. Passing the first exam, the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, allows the candidate to work as an engineer in training (EIT). After passing this exam and obtaining four years of on-the-job training the engineer can take the Professional Engineer (PE) exam.

Career Outlook for Aeronautical Engineers

The BLS puts aeronautical engineers in the same category as aerospace engineers in terms of career outlook and wage potential. They predict these engineers should expect an employment growth of six percent between 2016 and 2026. Aerospace engineers earned annual wages ranging from $70,740 to $162,110 with an average wage of $115,300 as of May 2017. The average hourly wages was $55.43.

Candidates interested in flying and designing the large machines that provide industries and customers with aircraft often choose to become aerospace or aeronautical engineers. The field of aeronautical engineering offers career choices in many industries and jobs that are rewarding yet very challenging.