Developing an aircraft isn’t quite rocket science, but it’s pretty close. Aerospace engineers must have a strong foundation in mathematics, aeronautical engineering, mechanical engineering and design skills before they enter the job market. Aircraft development typically involves huge teams of engineers, many of whom specialize in one area of aeronautics, and aircraft designers earn relatively large salaries because of their intensive training and many skills.
A mid-level aerospace engineer with four or five years of experience earns a median annual salary of $91,632 as of February 2011, according to Salary.com, and half of all aerospace engineers at this experience level earn salaries between $80,972 and $101,768. Salaries in the field continue to grow, however, as aerospace engineers with at least eight years of experience earn a median annual salary of $119,422, with half of all in the field receiving between $104,214 and $131,439. These figures represent all specialties, from control designers to airframe and communications equipment engineers.
Before an engineer is qualified to receive those six-figure salaries, he must hone his skills in entry-level positions. Upon graduating college with a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, the typical graduate receives a job offer with an average annual salary of $58,936 as of 2010, according to North Carolina State University. While lower than salaries for established engineers, these salaries are still far above the average for college graduates, with aerospace engineers earning the second-highest entry-level salaries when they leave college as of 2010, according to CNN Money.
Salaries Around the Country
Although aerospace engineers’ salaries aren’t uniform across major metropolitan areas, they’re consistently much higher than the average salary. Aerospace engineers who work in Dallas earn the highest average annual salary, receiving $103,940 as of February 2011, according to Salary Expert. The lowest-paid engineers in the survey hailed from Orlando, Fla., where they earned $74,723. Of the cities that reported earnings to Salary Expert, 60 percent had salaries that ranged from $89,399 to $99,177.
Although nearly half of the aerospace engineers in America worked for aerospace parts and manufacturing firms, other, usually more specialized, industries tend to pay the highest salaries in the field. Aerospace engineers who work for professional, scientific and technical services earn the highest average annual salary, of $116,980 as of May 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, though landing a job in this sector may be difficult. Only 130 aircraft designers work in this sector. Aerospace engineers who work for the federal government and research and development firms also earned some of the highest salaries in the nation, earning more than $108,000 each on average.
- aircraft image by Kolas Yauheni from Fotolia.com