Aeronautical engineering, closely related to aerospace engineering, involves the design, testing and maintenance of aircraft. Sometimes aeronautical engineering is defined as involving aircraft which fly within the earth’s atmosphere, while aerospace engineering is for crafts that travel beyond the earth’s atmosphere. These distinctions, however, are not rigid. Aeronautical engineers generally work in industrial settings where they design and build aircraft for national defense contractors, the government, or private companies who build aircraft for the airline industry. A bachelor’s degree is generally required for a position as an aeronautical engineer.
Aeronautical Engineering Degrees
Many universities offer combined Bachelor of Science degrees in aeronautical and aerospace engineering. Generally, engineers specialize in either aeronautical or aerospace, but this specialization will occur in a graduate program or through work experience. Most bachelor’s programs take four years to complete and combine classroom lecture with laboratory or field work. Like other engineering programs, aeronautical engineering requires prerequisite courses in math and natural sciences, as well as elementary engineering.
Because mathematics is the core of all engineering and natural sciences, it is important for high school students to have a strong background in high school math. Most aeronautical engineering programs have a number of math prerequisites like calculus, linear algebra and differential equations, which form the basis for upper-division courses. High school math classes, such as pre-algebra, algebra 1, algebra 2, trigonometry, pre-calculus, as well as advanced placement calculus AB and BC and advanced placement statistics, help students prepare for the rigor of college-level mathematics.
Aeronautical engineering involves studying the movement of air over the structure of the aircraft, as well as the movement of all of the aircraft’s internal systems. As a result, different aspects of physics are of major importance to aeronautical engineering degree programs. High school students interested in a career in aeronautical engineering should take introductory physics classes and advanced placement physics B and C, if available, as an introduction to the advanced physics courses they will encounter in the degree program.
High school students can also prepare for the aeronautical engineering degree by improving their skills with computers and technical software. While courses in computer science may not be directly applicable to the coursework in aeronautical engineering, skills in computer-assisted design are critical to succeeding in the majority of engineering courses because much of the actual design work is done using computers. In particular, computer-assisted design software allows engineers to build and test a design within a three dimensional virtual space. High school students interested in aeronautical engineering can take classes like introduction to computer science or advanced placement computer science, if available, to develop their computer literacy and design skills.
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics: Undergraduate Program
- Purdue University College of Technology: Aeronautical Engineering Technology Plan of Study
- University of California at Davis: Aerospace Science and Engineering Program
- Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Outlook Handbook: Aerospace Engineers
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