What Can Aerospace Engineers Specialize In?

An advanced rocket launching into space with a bustling atmosphere.

Are you curious about the aerospace engineering world? This expansive field offers a myriad of specializations, from designing aircraft systems to developing propulsion technologies.

Aerospace engineers often specialize in: aerodynamics, aircraft systems, avionics, propulsion,structural analysis, materials, manufacturing, space systsems, or autonomous systems. They can even specialize in more targeted fields such as sustainability or hypersonics.

Our insightful guide will navigate through the various areas an aspiring aerospace engineer can delve into, making your career choice less overwhelming. Let’s take off and discover the exciting roles and opportunities available in this innovative industry!

Key Takeaways

  • Aerospace engineers can specialize in various areas, including aerodynamics, aircraft systems, avionics, propulsion systems, structural analysis, materials and manufacturing, space systems, and autonomous systems.
  • Aerodynamics focuses on how air moves around flying vehicles like planes and rockets.
  • Aircraft systems involve designing and maintaining the parts that make a plane fly and stay in the air.
  • Avionics deals with the electronics used in spacecraft and planes.
  • Propulsion systems focus on improving engines for better performance in aircraft and spacecraft.
  • Structural analysis ensures that designs are safe for flight by evaluating their strength and reliability.
  • Materials and manufacturing specialization selects materials for aerospace engineering projects while overseeing manufacturing processes like welding or component assembly.
  • Space systems involve designing spacecraft to explore outer space beyond Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Autonomous systems focus on creating independent mechatronics systems for navigation without human intervention.
  1. Aerospace engineers have various specializations such as aerodynamics, avionics, propulsion system design among others related to aircrafts and space craft technologies
  2. These specializations involve important tasks like testing new designs in wind tunnels or using computer tools to predict airflow
  3. Aerospace engineers play a crucial role in ensuring safety compliance of aircraft components through structural analysis

Aerospace Engineering Specializations

A fighter jet with colorful smoke flying in a bustling sky.

Aerospace engineers can specialize in various areas, such as aerodynamics, aircraft systems, avionics, propulsion systems, structural analysis, materials and manufacturing, space systems, and autonomous systems.


Aerodynamics is a key part of what aerospace engineers do. It’s about how air moves around things that are in flight. Think about planes, rockets, and drones. This helps decide how much fuel is used, how stable the vehicle is, and how it moves in the air.

Some engineers who focus on aerodynamics might test out new designs in wind tunnels or use computers to predict how air will flow around them. Working with these tools can lead to better performing and more efficient flying vehicles.

Aircraft Systems

Aerospace engineers keep planes safe in the sky. One area they work on is aircraft systems. These are all the parts of a plane that make it fly and stay in the air. Some big parts are engines, controls, and autopilot systems.

They also work on smaller things like landing gear or backup power units.

The job of an aerospace engineer is to make sure these parts do their jobs right. They have to design new models or find ways to fix old ones when they break down. Sometimes they use computer tools for this work.

Other times, they get hands-on with actual hardware from real planes during tests and checks.


Avionics is about the electronics used in space crafts and planes. In this field, you will design, build and keep these systems working well. You might work in different places like labs or at a school.

This work is very important for aerospace engineers. It helps make sure that all parts of an aircraft can talk to each other. The more you know about avionics, the better off our skies and space will be!

Propulsion Systems

Propulsion systems are a crucial area of specialization for aerospace engineers. These engineers focus on understanding and improving the performance of engines that power aircraft and spacecraft.

They work on tasks like designing propulsion systems, which involve creating innovative designs to enhance efficiency and reliability. Aerospace engineers collaborate with other professionals, such as mechanical engineers and materials scientists, to develop new technologies for propulsion systems.

By specializing in this field, aerospace engineers play an essential role in advancing the capabilities of aviation and space exploration.

Structural Analysis

Structural analysis is an important specialization within the field of aerospace engineering. It focuses on evaluating designs to make sure they meet engineering principles and can withstand the demands of flight.

As an aerospace engineer, you will use your knowledge of structural design to ensure that aircraft and spacecraft are safe and reliable. Structural analysis involves studying theory, making calculations, conducting experiments, and solving implementation issues.

To be successful in this field, it’s crucial to have a deep understanding of materials and structures. So if you’re interested in how things are built and want to play a vital role in ensuring the safety of aerospace vehicles, structural analysis could be a fascinating career path for you!

Materials and Manufacturing

Aerospace engineers specializing in materials and manufacturing play a crucial role in the aerospace industry. They focus on selecting and creating materials that meet specific requirements like strength, durability, weight, and resistance to extreme conditions.

These engineers are responsible for overseeing manufacturing processes such as precision machining, composite fabrication, welding, and component assembly. The materials used in aerospace engineering must go through rigorous testing to ensure they meet the high standards set by engineering principles.

By collaborating with professionals from different disciplines, aerospace engineers develop innovative aerospace systems that push the boundaries of technology. As the industry continues to grow and evolve, the demand for skilled aerospace engineers specialized in materials and manufacturing is expected to rise.

Space Systems

Space systems are an exciting specialization in aerospace engineering. Aerospace engineers who specialize in space systems work on designing and developing spacecraft and satellites.

They focus on creating technologies that will enable us to explore the vastness of space. They play a crucial role in advancing technology and pushing the boundaries of human exploration.

So, if you have a passion for space and want to be part of incredible missions beyond Earth’s atmosphere, specializing in space systems could be the perfect choice for you as an aerospace engineer.

Autonomous Systems

Aerospace engineers specializing in autonomous systems play an important role in the field. They focus on designing and controlling mechatronics systems that can operate independently, without human intervention.

These systems are crucial for navigation and guidance in aerospace engineering. To work with autonomous systems, engineers need knowledge and skills in areas like aerodynamics, materials and structures, propulsion, and vehicle dynamics.

Robotics and autonomy go hand-in-hand with aerospace engineering, making it an exciting specialization for those interested in pushing the boundaries of technology in the aerospace industry.

Job Opportunities for Aerospace Engineers

A futuristic rocket launching into space surrounded by stars.

Aerospace engineers have various job opportunities such as aircraft design and development, space exploration, defense applications, aviation maintenance, research and development, and consulting.

Aircraft design and development

Aircraft design and development is a crucial area of specialization for aerospace engineers. In this field, you will focus on creating new aircraft and improving existing designs. You will use your knowledge of aerodynamics to ensure that the planes have optimal performance in terms of speed, efficiency, and safety.

You will also work on developing avionics systems, which are the electronics that control an aircraft’s functions. Additionally, you may specialize in propulsion systems, which involve designing engines that provide power to the aircraft.

Overall, working in aircraft design and development gives you the opportunity to contribute to advancements in aviation technology and make flying safer and more efficient.

Space exploration and satellite technology

Aerospace engineers play a vital role in space exploration and satellite technology. They are responsible for designing, developing, and maintaining satellites that are used for various purposes, such as communication, weather monitoring, and scientific research.

These engineers work on projects related to space exploration and satellite technology for organizations like NASA and the US military. For example, they may design propulsion systems that allow satellites to maneuver in space or develop technologies that enable satellites to gather data about distant planets.

Aerospace engineering offers exciting opportunities for those interested in contributing to the advancement of our understanding of space and how it can benefit our lives on Earth.

Defense and military applications

Aerospace engineers specializing in defense and military applications have an important role in designing and developing military aircraft and aerospace equipment. They use their expertise to focus on areas related to defense and military operations.

These engineers may lead research programs specific to defense, testing and evaluating aircraft and aerospace equipment for military purposes. They can find job opportunities in both government agencies and private defense companies.

Aviation maintenance and operations

Aerospace engineers are essential in maintaining and operating aircraft and spacecraft. They help ensure that these vehicles are safe, reliable, and efficient. In aviation maintenance and operations, aerospace engineers work on tasks such as inspecting equipment, conducting repairs, and making sure that all systems are functioning properly.

They may also be involved in developing maintenance schedules and procedures to keep the aircraft or spacecraft in optimal condition. Aerospace engineers who specialize in aviation maintenance and operations can find job opportunities with aerospace companies, government agencies, or research institutions.

It’s an exciting field where you can contribute to the safety and reliability of aerospace technology.

Research and development

Research and development play a crucial role in the field of aerospace engineering. It involves exploring new ideas, testing theories, and creating innovative solutions for various challenges in the aerospace industry.

As an aerospace engineer, you may have the opportunity to be part of research projects that aim to improve aircraft performance, develop new materials, or enhance space exploration technologies.

This field accounts for around 12% of job opportunities for aerospace engineers, highlighting its significance in advancing the industry forward. Through research and development, you can contribute to groundbreaking discoveries and advancements that shape the future of aviation and space exploration.


Aerospace engineers can specialize in consulting within their field. This means they have the opportunity to provide expert advice and guidance to companies and organizations on various aerospace-related projects.

As a consultant, you may be involved in assisting with the design and development of aerospace systems, providing technical expertise on specific components or processes, or helping to solve complex engineering problems.

Consulting opportunities for aerospace engineers can be found in both the private and public sectors, offering a wide range of industries to work with such as aviation, defense, space exploration, and more.

Skills and Qualifications Needed

Aerospace engineers need strong mathematical and analytical skills, proficiency in computer-aided design (CAD) software, knowledge of aerodynamics and fluid mechanics, an understanding of materials science, problem-solving and critical thinking abilities, as well as strong communication and teamwork skills.

Strong mathematical and analytical skills

Aerospace engineering requires strong mathematical and analytical skills. These skills are crucial for the math and science aspects of this profession. You have to be comfortable using advanced topics like calculus and trigonometry for analysis, design, and other tasks.

Analytical thinking is also important as it helps you analyze data, solve problems, and come up with new designs or improvements. In addition to math and analysis, aerospace engineers need skills in problem-solving and design too.

So if you enjoy working with numbers, thinking critically, and solving complex problems, then aerospace engineering might be a great fit for you!

Proficiency in computer-aided design (CAD) software

Proficiency in computer-aided design (CAD) software is really important for aerospace engineers. This software helps them create detailed designs for aircraft and spacecraft. Aerospace engineers use tools like Autodesk AutoCAD to make 3D models of their designs, which allows them to visualize how everything will fit together.

It’s a crucial skill because it helps engineers communicate their ideas and collaborate with other team members. To get good at using CAD software, you can take certificate or associate’s degree programs in CAD design or drafting.

Employers often look for aerospace engineers who have experience with CAD software when hiring for jobs in the field.

Knowledge of aerodynamics and fluid mechanics

Aerospace engineers need to have a good understanding of aerodynamics and fluid mechanics. This means they study how air moves around objects like wings or through them. They also learn about the principles of aerodynamics, which help them design efficient aircraft and spacecraft.

One important aspect is knowing how fluids behave under different conditions and how they affect the performance of the vehicle. For example, when designing an airplane wing, engineers need to consider factors like lift and drag, which are influenced by airflow over the surface.

Understanding these concepts helps aerospace engineers create better designs and improve flight efficiency. So if you’re interested in this field, make sure to build your knowledge in aerodynamics and fluid mechanics!

Understanding of materials science

Aerospace engineers need to have a good understanding of materials science. This means they know about the different types of materials used in aerospace engineering, like glass, ceramics, plastics, and chemicals.

They also learn about how these materials work and perform under different conditions. By studying materials science, aerospace engineers can make better decisions when choosing the right materials for their projects.

Having this knowledge is important because it affects things like safety, durability, and performance of aircraft and spacecraft. So if you want to be an aerospace engineer, make sure you have a solid grasp of materials science!

Problem-solving and critical thinking abilities

As an aerospace engineer, problem-solving and critical thinking abilities are crucial skills that you need to have. You will encounter complex challenges and obstacles throughout your career, and it’s your job to find innovative solutions.

Whether it’s designing a new aircraft or solving technical issues with existing systems, you will need to think analytically and critically assess different options. It’s important for you to be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, so you can make informed decisions.

Communication skills are also essential as you’ll need to clearly explain your designs and ideas to colleagues and clients. So remember, honing your problem-solving and critical thinking abilities is vital in the field of aerospace engineering!

Strong communication and teamwork skills

Being an aerospace engineer requires more than just technical knowledge. Strong communication and teamwork skills are essential for success in this field. Aerospace engineers often work on complex projects that require collaboration with other professionals, such as scientists, technicians, and designers.

Effective communication is crucial to ensure that everyone involved understands the project goals and requirements. It also helps in effectively conveying ideas, presenting research findings, and discussing solutions with team members.

Additionally, teamwork skills enable aerospace engineers to work together efficiently to solve problems and overcome challenges. By collaborating effectively with others, aerospace engineers can enhance their effectiveness in designing aircraft systems or analyzing structural components.

Importance of Internships and Work Experience

Internships and work experience are crucial for aerospace engineers, as they provide a hands-on opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom and gain practical skills.

Gain insight into the industry, build valuable connections, and increase your chances of landing your dream job by reading more about the importance of internships and work experience in aerospace engineering.

Gaining practical experience

Gaining practical experience is crucial for students studying aerospace engineering. Internships and work experience provide opportunities to apply classroom knowledge to real-world projects, develop technical skills, and build industry connections.

Industrial placements and summer placements can give valuable exposure to different aspects of the aerospace industry. These experiences allow students to learn from professionals, enhance problem-solving abilities, and improve teamwork skills.

Building experience in a related job after graduation can also help engineers connect with industry professionals and advance their careers. Additionally, pursuing additional education or obtaining certifications can open doors to more specialized roles within the field of aerospace engineering.

Building industry connections

Building industry connections is crucial for aerospace engineers. It helps you meet important people in the industry and opens doors for career opportunities. One way to do this is through internships and work experience.

These provide valuable opportunities to connect with professionals already working in the field. By building these connections, you can gain insights into the industry, learn from experienced individuals, and even find job prospects after graduation.

Building industry connections can give you an edge in your aerospace engineering career and help you advance in the field.

Applying classroom knowledge to real-world projects

UNC Pembroke students and recent graduates have a great opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world projects through internships and work experiences at Cummings Aerospace.

These internships provide valuable skills such as time management, accountability, organization, and teamwork. By participating in team-based design challenges and interacting with working engineers, students can enhance their understanding of aerospace engineering.

These practical experiences prepare aerospace engineering students for the real world by teaching them how to apply what they’ve learned in class to solve actual problems. Internships play a crucial role in shaping the future of young change-makers in the aerospace engineering field.

Future Trends in Aerospace Engineering

Electric and hybrid aircraft, hypersonic flight, space tourism and colonization, autonomous aircraft and drones, and sustainable aviation are all emerging trends in the field of aerospace engineering.

Electric and hybrid aircraft

In the future of aerospace engineering, electric and hybrid aircraft are becoming increasingly important. These types of aircraft use a combination of electric power and traditional fuel systems to reduce emissions and improve efficiency.

The development of hybrid electric propulsion technology is advancing rapidly, with aircraft being redesigned to be quieter and more environmentally friendly. This growth in the electric airplane industry has led to analysis on market size and economic viability, particularly for regional electric aircraft.

The hybrid-electric architecture also offers potential advantages like enabling heavier payloads and new flight capabilities. As an aspiring aerospace engineer, this is an exciting field to explore as it leads us towards more sustainable aviation solutions.

Hypersonic flight

Hypersonic flight is a really exciting area in aerospace engineering. It’s all about going really, really fast! We’re talking about speeds faster than Mach 5, which is five times the speed of sound.

This kind of flight poses a big challenge because there aren’t many efficient propulsion systems that can handle it yet. But don’t worry, engineers are working on it! Companies like Lockheed Martin are specializing in hypersonic technology and developing things like missiles that can travel at these incredible speeds.

Imagine how this could change transportation – it has the potential to revolutionize things like long-distance travel and even space exploration. So if you want to be part of this cutting-edge field, you could specialize in hypersonic technology and help develop the next generation of super-fast aircraft and vehicles.

Space tourism and colonization

Space tourism and colonization are exciting areas of future development in aerospace engineering. Companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic are already paving the way for space tourism by offering opportunities for people to travel to space.

In the near future, going to space could become as common as taking a flight! As an aerospace engineer, you could be involved in designing spacecraft that can safely transport tourists to and from space.

In addition to tourism, there is also increasing interest in colonizing other planets, such as Mars. This raises complex questions about how we can sustain human life in harsh environments beyond Earth.

As an aerospace engineer specializing in space systems or autonomous systems, you may play a crucial role in developing technologies for sustainable living on other planets and exploring new frontiers of human existence.

Autonomous aircraft and drones

Autonomous aircraft and drones are becoming increasingly important in the aerospace industry. These unmanned vehicles can fly on their own, without a pilot onboard. They offer many benefits, such as the ability to access hard-to-reach areas or disaster zones where it may be dangerous for humans to go.

Autonomous aircraft and drones also provide quick and efficient mobility, making them useful for various missions. For example, they can be used for aerial surveillance or transporting supplies to remote locations.

With their practical applications and potential advancements in technology, autonomous aircraft and drones are considered future trends in aerospace engineering.

Sustainable aviation

One important area of focus in aerospace engineering is sustainable aviation. This means finding ways to make flying more environmentally friendly. Jet aircraft are responsible for a large percentage of the greenhouse gas emissions in the aviation industry.

To address this issue, aerospace engineers are using new technologies like powerful software, alternative fuels, and advanced engines. The goal is to reduce CO2 and other harmful emissions from flying.

Hydrogen fuel is also being explored as a potential solution for sustainable aviation. Additionally, sustainable aviation fuel is being developed to help make air transportation more environmentally friendly.

Education and Training Requirements

To become an aerospace engineer, you generally need a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, although some employers may also consider degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering.

Higher-level positions and specialized roles typically require a master’s degree or higher. Additionally, obtaining professional certifications and licenses can further enhance your career opportunities in this field.

Continuous education and professional development are essential for staying up-to-date with the advancements in aerospace technology and maintaining your expertise as an aerospace engineer.

Bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering

To become an aerospace engineer, you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a related field. This typically takes around four years of study. Some programs even offer five-year programs that include both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in aerospace engineering.

In your studies, you’ll learn about topics like design, control systems, flight mechanics, and aerodynamics. It’s also common for aerospace engineering jobs to require a degree in mechanical engineering or another relevant field.

So if you’re interested in designing and developing aircraft or working on space exploration projects, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering is the first step toward your exciting career path!

Master’s degree or higher for specialized roles

To pursue specialized roles in the field of aerospace engineering, such as research or teaching positions, it is important to obtain a master’s degree or higher. While a bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum requirement for entry-level positions, further education will provide you with advanced knowledge and skills needed for more specialized and complex tasks.

A master’s degree program in aerospace engineering offers practical and theoretical training using the latest techniques and technologies. By earning an advanced degree, you can enhance your qualifications and increase your chances of securing higher-level job opportunities in this exciting industry.

Professional certifications and licenses

To become a licensed aerospace engineer, you will need to earn a degree from an engineering program. Licensed aerospace engineers are called professional engineers (PE). In addition to a degree, you will also need work experience in the field.

Once you have completed the required experience, you can take the Professional Engineering Exam to become certified. This certification is important because it shows employers and clients that you have met certain standards of expertise and professionalism.

Some aerospace engineers may choose to specialize in research and development, where they focus on finding new technologies and materials for aerospace applications.

Continuing education and professional development

To keep up with the latest advancements in aerospace engineering, it’s important for you as a student to continue your education and pursue professional development. This field is constantly evolving, so staying updated will give you an edge in your career.

Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, consider pursuing a master’s degree or higher for specialized roles. In addition, certain positions may require licenses, certifications, or registrations.

By investing in further education and training, you’ll enhance your skills and increase your chances of landing advanced positions in the industry. Remember that continuing education is crucial for professional growth and development in aerospace engineering.


In conclusion, aerospace engineers have a wide range of specializations to choose from. They can focus on aerodynamics, aircraft systems, avionics, propulsion systems, structural analysis, materials and manufacturing, space systems, or autonomous systems.

By specializing in a specific area, aerospace engineers can become experts in their field and contribute to advancements in the aerospace industry. So whether it’s designing airplanes or exploring outer space, there are plenty of exciting opportunities for specialization in aerospace engineering.


1. What are the top things aerospace engineers do?

Aerospace engineers work on planes, spacecraft, and even weapons systems. They design, test, and build these machines for companies or agencies like NASA.

2. What types of engineers work in the aerospace industry?

All sorts of engineers can work in the aerospace industry! This includes electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, computer software engineers and more.

3. Does NASA hire aerospace engineers?

Yes! Aerospace Engineers play a big role at NASA where they help to create and send rockets into space.

4. What other jobs do people with an Aerospace Engineering degree have?

People who study Aerospace engineering also often work as professors, research scientists or analysts in industries where buildings need to be very safe like car manufacturing or construction.

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