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FAQs About Working in the Aerospace Industry

What sort of skills do you need for a job in the aerospace industry?
The skills vary according to the position you are seeking, but generally a vocational degree or higher is required. Being comfortable with computer technology is a must.

Do aerospace jobs pay well?
Yes they do. Because of the high technology nature of the industry, aerospace jobs pay 50 percent greater than other manufacturing sectors.

What parts of the country employ aerospace workers?
Aerospace workers are employed in virtually every state in the United States. There is a higher concentration of aerospace employees in the northwest, southwest, south, and northeast regions. U.S. companies employ workers internationally as well.

What courses should I take in high school to prepare for a career in aerospace?
A well-rounded education is desirable with an emphasis on math and computer technology. Depending if you are headed for vocational school or off to college will determine what courses you should take. Check with your guidance counselor.

Is aerospace a fun career?
Any career is what you make of it, but you can't beat aerospace for all the exciting products. Think about it � fighter planes, space vehicles, unmanned aerial vehicles, and air taxis to name just a couple. The industry operates around the globe and is key to making our economy tick, our borders secure, and keeping our innovative spirit alive.

Is the aerospace industry doing well economically?
Yes it is. Sales are projected to go over $200 billion by the end of this decade. The civil, space, and defense sectors are all growing with exciting projects on the horizon � building a new air transportation system, returning to the moon, and developing products for the continuing war on terror. You can find out more about the industry by visiting www.aia-aerospace.org.

Will there be jobs available when I finish school?
Between the industry's sales growth and the retirement of many workers over the next few years, the industry is facing a shortage of qualified workers in all disciplines. Now is the time to chart your flight plan for a career in the aerospace industry.

What subjects should I study in high school to prepare for a career in aerospace?
Math, science, and computer technology are the most important areas to study for most technical careers, but within a well-rounded education. Check with your guidance counselor on specific courses, depending on what you are most interested in.

Which college would you recommend for an aerospace engineering?
There are many great aerospace engineering schools across the country (link here to our list). Your high school guidance counselor is a good resource to help you. Keeping your grades up and learning the curriculum is more important for landing your first job than the school you attend.

How important is education to getting a job in a good engineering firm?
Education is very important, particularly in the aerospace industry where peoples' lives depend on the products you develop. An aerospace engineering degree can equip you for many different positions in design, testing, verification, project management, or even sales. Complex products require knowledgeable people in many different roles.

How satisfying is this job? Is it fun?
Aerospace careers can be very satisfying and exciting. It is amazing that humans can build and design such tremendous flight vehicles. Engineers conquered powered controlled flight over a century ago, but the vehicles have changed dramatically. It is the inquisitive and creative side of engineers that makes things faster, better, cheaper, more reliable, and safer. These qualities can serve an engineer in all facets of their jobs from designing new propulsion systems to finding a better way to store files on their computers.

Not all engineering work is hands-on, though. There can be quite a bit of paperwork involved in an aerospace project, but this is how you document how you solved problems. The paperwork is like a recipe for a chef. Without it, they can only make the cake once. With it, anyone who knows how to read the recipe can make the cake!

I know that teamwork is necessary in most engineering jobs. How many people are usually on a team?
All complex products have teams with multiple disciplines. Think of a product like a jet engine. A wide range of skills � structural analysis, fluid flow, thermal technology, mechanics, project management, production, and manufacturing � are needed. Some companies use Integrated Product Teams to develop new products. These team usually have a member of each discipline assigned for the length of the project. There could be from five to 50 people on the team who might meet once a week.

How long does it usually take to go from a starting Ph. D salary to a six-digit salary?
Success in aerospace engineering is not always about salary. If you enjoy what you do, you will succeed. Engineers can make six-figure salaries, but most will tell you that the satisfaction is in creating something that no one else has accomplished. Your salary might depend on where you live, what kind of project you're working, and what kind of technology you're handling. You can find current salary information in a variety of places on the Web at sites like www.salary.com.

How many hours are spent inside and what is done during this time?
That depends on your job and your interests. If you prefer being inside, a position as computational fluid dynamics engineer is at a computer desk. A position as a test engineer would put you outside on location testing and verifying new designs.

Are there many opportunities to travel around the world or are most projects local?
Today's economy is a global economy. American aerospace companies send their products all over the world. In 2006, the U.S. sold $85 billion worth of aerospace products to other countries. Additionally, most of the key companies in the aerospace industry have offices and manufacturing sites all over the world. People around the world need airplanes, power generation, locomotives, ships, and any other product you can imagine. Companies that create these products need engineers to create and service these products internationally.

To learn more about the desired attributes of an engineer, check out Boeing's checklist!