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Aerospace engineers design, develop, test, and help produce commercial and military aircraft, missiles, and spacecraft. They develop new technologies in commercial aviation, defense systems, and space exploration, often specializing in areas like structural design, navigational guidance and control, instrumentation and communication, or production methods. They also may specialize in one type of aerospace product, such as passenger planes, helicopters, satellites, or rockets.

Aerospace engineers are responsible for developing extraordinary machines, from airplanes that weigh over a half a million pounds to spacecraft that travel over 17,000 miles an hour. They design, develop, and test aircraft, spacecraft, and missiles and supervise manufacturing of these products. Aerospace engineers who work with aircraft are considered aeronautical engineers, and those working specifically with spacecraft are considered astronautical engineers.

Aerospace engineers develop new technologies for use in aviation, defense systems, and space exploration, often specializing in areas like structural design, guidance, navigation and control, instrumentation and communication, or production methods. They also may specialize in a particular type of aerospace product, such as commercial transports, military fighter jets, helicopters, spacecraft, or missiles and rockets. Aerospace engineers may be experts in aerodynamics, thermodynamics, celestial mechanics, propulsion, acoustics, or guidance and control systems.

Two-thirds were in the aircraft and parts and guided missile and space vehicle manufacturing industries. Federal Government agencies, primarily the Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, provided almost 1 out of 10 jobs. Business and engineering consulting firms, communications equipment manufacturing firms, and commercial airlines accounted for most of the remainder.

California, Washington, and Texas, States with large aerospace manufacturers, have the most aerospace engineers.

Those seeking employment as aerospace engineers are likely to face keen competition because the supply of graduates is expected to exceed the number of job openings. Employment of aerospace engineers is expected to grow more slowly than the average for all occupations through 2008. The decline in Defense Department expenditures for military aircraft, missiles, and other aerospace systems has caused mergers and acquisitions among defense contractors. In addition, Federal Government funding for research and development of new systems has also declined. Offsetting these declines, however, is the projected growth in the civilian sector due to orders from domestic and foreign airlines that need to accommodate increasing passenger traffic and to replace the present fleet of airliners with quieter and more fuel-efficient aircraft. Most job openings will result from the need to replace aerospace engineers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force.

Employment of aerospace engineers is growing about as fast as the average for all occupations through the year 2000. Although Defense Department expenditures for military aircraft, missiles, and other aerospace systems are not expected to grow much, faster growth is expected in the civilian sector. Much of the present fleet of airliners will be replaced with quieter and more fuel-efficient aircraft, and there will be increased demand for spacecraft, helicopters, and business aircraft. Future growth of aerospace engineer employment could be limited because a higher proportion of engineers in aerospace manufacturing may be materials, mechanical or electrical engineers. Most job openings will result from the need to replace aerospace engineers who transfer to other occupations or leave the labor force. Since a large proportion of aerospace engineering jobs are defense related, cutbacks in defense spending can result in layoffs of aerospace engineers.