The first Airbus A380 flew into history when it was delivered to Singapore
Airlines in October 2007. It is the biggest and most efficient airliner ever.
And aerospace engineers made it happen.
"Aerospace engineering involves both aeronautics (aircraft) and astronautics
(spacecraft). Different universities and programs may emphasize one or the
other -- so look carefully at the curriculum and courses to see which will
better meet your interests," says Keiko Nomura. She is an aerospace engineering
professor at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD).
Aerospace engineering is a large and diverse field. Academic programs reflect
that diversity, so make sure the school you choose offers what you are interested
A number of universities offer degrees in aerospace engineering at all
levels -- bachelor's, master's and doctorate. The specific entrance requirements
vary, but they are generally high.
"High ACT scores and particularly good grades in math and science are needed,"
says Amy Lang. She is an aerospace engineering professor at the University
But you need more than just math and science skills to succeed.
"More recently, more emphasis in aerospace programs on communication skills
is becoming evident," says David R. Greatrix. He is an associate professor
and the associate chair of a department of engineering. "Speaking, writing
and communicating within a team environment are aptitudes that can be just
as important in the aerospace world."
Admission can be very competitive.
"We typically receive around 800 applications per year, and ultimately
admit around 120 students into first year," says Greatrix.
Although engineering is traditionally a male-dominated field, there are
great opportunities for women. Lang says she has had a lot of support in
the workplace throughout her career.
Although they are outnumbered by male students, women usually do well academically
and are usually ranked high in class, says Bo Tan. She is an aerospace engineering
professor. "Young women who are interested in aerospace engineering should
not be discouraged by the male-dominated work environment," Tan says.
She adds that there are many engineering associations specifically for
women, and these associations can provide a great support network.
When you choose a post-secondary institution, look for a low student-to-faculty
ratio. "That personal contact with the faculty can make all the difference
in your appreciation of the course material and ability to perform well,"
Check out the research being done by the faculty, too. "If faculty are
active in research, you can get exposed to the most advanced technology and
ideas -- and there may be opportunities to work on a research project in a
faculty lab," says Nomura.
There are many activities that can help you prepare for these programs.
Pursue your interest in model aircraft and rockets. Or try flying recreational
gliders and airplanes. Participate in mathematics and physics contests, like
the Science Olympics.
"Tinker. Do woodworking, metalworking," says John Enright. He's an aerospace
professor. "Build radio-controlled cars, planes and boats. Build electric
circuits. Get an amateur radio license. Learn to fix your parent's car."
Nomura was recently impressed by a group of women students at UCSD who
got involved with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Formula Race Car
"Through their hard work and dedication, they successfully built a car
-- and they were the first SAE all-women's team in the nation," recalls Nomura.
Costs vary for programs. Tuition is generally higher for aerospace engineering
than for many other fields. And books can be expensive.
"A typical figure for textbooks and materials is around $1,000 per year,"
estimates Greatrix. "You need a good calculator, typical number of books,
and sometimes schools will apply an additional laboratory fee per semester,"
A laptop and software are an optional expense.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Aerospace
Check out this cool site, with lots of activities for kids
Discover Engineering Online
This site includes online games
Women in Aerospace
A great support network