Aeronautical Engineering/Career Questions
I am a high school student doing a project on aerospace engineering. One of the requirements is interviewing an actual engineer, so it would be great if you could answer these questions. Thanks.
1.Why did you choose to become an aerospace engineer?
2.What is your work environment like?
3.What is your typical day like being an aerospace engineer?
4.What are some of the things that you have worked on?
5.Do you think that your work has made a difference in the world?
6.What are some skills that are essential to being an aerospace
engineer, as opposed to other fields of engineering?
7.What is the worst thing about being an aerospace engineer?
8.What is the best thing about being an aerospace engineer?
9.Where do you think the industry will be like in the future?
10.What are the best places to get an education in aerospace engineering in your opinion?
I get so many of these interview type questions that I have a canned response I hope will suffice:
I loved math and science in high school. After high school I studied at Oregon State University engineering school for two years and then got B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aeronautical Engineering at U. of Washington - Seattle after another four years. After I did graduate studies at Standford U. Along the way I started my career with NASA as an aeronautical engineer.
Generally, aeronautical engineers design and develop aerospace devices such as aircraft, missiles, race cars, jet engines, etc. I was in research at NASA Ames Research Center for 38 years where I was responsible for planning and executing wind tunnel studies aimed at improving our understanding of aeronautics and related technologies. My latest job title was Aeroacoustics Group Leader.
A normal day involved examination of scientific literature, planning experiments, writing code for data analysis, analyzing experimental results, meeting with my peers, requesting support from management, writing reports, etc. I traveled 4 to 6 times a year to various laboratories or scientific conferences.
The quality of work was high. The pay was good, not exceptional, but government employees have good benefits such as excellent vacation time, sick leave and pensions. Hours were good, we had the option of working 9 nine hour days and getting a three-day weekend every other weekend. Job locations in aerospace are limited by the few number of organizations in the field, but jobs do exist all over the country.
Research is never boring, not counting the occasional meetings on team morale or time efficiency that we had to attend. The work is very rewarding.
I often worked with engineers with different expertise such as electronics engineers, mechanical designers, software programmers, system control engineers, etc.
The projects I worked on can be found in engineering libraries - search on my name. One project I was proud of was the investigation of the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. I did the aero design of the gas sample instrument. We found what causes the hole, which led to the worldwide banning of fluro-hydrocarbons.
For this job you must be expert in math and physics as well as computer programming, electronics, and so on. A license is not required but an engineering degree from an accredited institution is usually required.
I knew in high school I wanted to be an engineer, either to build bridges or aircraft. I chose aircraft and am glad. High school students should take all the math and science they can get, especially physics. English studies are also very important. If I had to change anything, I might choose to spend some time studying abroad. Once you are in college, the engineering departments will specify the required courses. You can take optional courses as well, time permitting.
The factors involved in choosing an engineering school are many and will have to wait for another time.
Starting salary depends on many factors such as academic performance, skill set, experience, location, and more. Usually, one starts at $60,000 per year plus or minus. Generally, engineering jobs are readily available to anyone with a decent record in school and/or job experience. This country runs on technology that is little understood by the non-scientific population at large, but well understood by engineers and other science professionals.