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A division of aerospace engineering, aeronautical engineering focuses on applying physics, mathematics and other disciplines in order to construct aircraft. Aeronautical engineers work to make sure propulsion systems operate efficiently and that an aircraft's aerodynamic performance is sufficient. Aspiring aeronautical engineers should get their bachelor's degrees in aeronautical or aerospace engineering, though some related majors may be sufficient.
Although entry-level aerospace engineers in general do not require a license, higher-level positions may require a PE, or professional engineering license.
In order to become an aeronautical engineer, prospective candidates must complete a bachelor's degree program, usually in aerospace or aeronautical engineering, that has been approved by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Programs can take 4-5 years to complete. Students typically begin their education by enrolling in core courses in mathematics, chemistry and physics. Additionally, most programs require students to complete introductory labs in which they test engineering principles applied to flight and propulsion.
Once students have completed their core requirements, they may take more challenging classes that cover topics ranging from the aerodynamics of airplane bodies to electrical systems in cockpits. After covering the fundamentals of flight and stability control, students may delve into aircraft sensors and electrical components, as well as wing structure and flaps. Programs may also provide training in power generation for aircraft, including combustion engine design.
During the senior year of a bachelor's in aerospace or aeronautical engineering, students generally participate in lab and design courses. These courses may require research into issues ranging from construction materials to wing design. While completing their assignments, students may be responsible for simulating flight and modifying areas where designs may not function well. Applying their knowledge, students may then alter models, test designs, and prepare class presentations.