Astronautical engineering is a very unique field that allows individuals to engage in tasks that some can only dream about. This type of engineering is also known as rocket science and can seem almost unrealistic as those who work in the field actually create products such as rocket ships. The field has a reputation for being filled with highly intellectual individuals, and understandably so, as the subject matter involves some of the most commonly known challenging academic subjects.
See our ranking of the 30 Best Values for Aerospace Engineering.
This branch of engineering is one of the two types of aerospace engineering, with the other being aeronautical engineering. Aerospace engineering is a specific branch of engineering that focuses on developing spacecraft and aircraft. Some may confuse astronautical and aeronautical engineering. While they do have some similarities, they are notably different in that astronautical engineering deals primarily with aircraft that function outside the atmosphere of Earth while aeronautical engineering deals with aircraft that only function inside the atmosphere of Earth. In this field, concepts of engineering and science are applied to aerospace operations with a focus on a variety of related areas that include thermodynamics, aerodynamics, celestial mechanics, materials, acoustics, propulsion, guidance and control systems, and flight mechanics.
Individuals working in this field are referred to as astronautical engineers or, more generally, aerospace engineers. They are responsible for overseeing the entire process for developing aircraft and aerospace products such as rockets, missiles, communication satellites, space launchers, space vehicles, direct broadcasting satellites, space navigational systems, reconnaissance satellites, planetary probes, and remote sensing satellites. Responsibilities include designing the products that use the appropriate engineering principles, meet quality standards, adhere to environmental regulations, and that fulfill the customer's requirements. Astronautical engineers must also test the developed products to check for malfunctions. If they exist, the engineers must determine the source of the problem and develop solutions to rectify the problem.
How to Become an Astronautical Engineer
Individuals desiring to become an astronautical engineer need at least a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering or a field related to aerospace systems. Those interested in teaching or conducting research must obtain a graduate degree, usually with a major of aerospace engineering. A number of universities offer programs that allow for students to obtain a bachelor and master degree in this field in five years. Due to the hands-on nature of the field, aerospace engineering programs offer plenty of opportunities for laboratory and field work surrounding the subjects of general engineering, stability and control, mechanics, propulsion, aerodynamics, and structures. Select universities also offer students the opportunity to complete cooperative programs that allow students to gain practical experience as they work for the businesses included in the partnership. Aerospace engineers, which encompass both astronautical and aeronautical engineers, are some of the highest paid engineers with a median annual salary of $113,030 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Some people seek challenging work in their careers to keep their minds alert and active. Working with a variety of related areas to the field and the high level of the comprehension of complex material that's needed in astronautical engineering make working in this field a very satisfying career choice for many individuals.