Graduates with a PhD in Aerospace Engineering can become leaders in the aerospace design field. This advanced degree is one of the highest academic achievements you can get and a great choice for anyone with a deep interest in aircraft and spacecraft design, dynamics, and development. An aerospace engineering PhD opens the door to high-level, lucrative engineering jobs and to opportunities to enter the field of academia as a professor.
Our guide covers the best PhDs in Aerospace Engineering and the best aerospace engineering jobs. We’ve included a few online degree options for those who wish to earn their degree while working full-time. We’ll end with what you can expect from a PhD in Aerospace Engineering salary and job outlooks in the field.
What Is a PhD in Aerospace Engineering?
A PhD in Aerospace Engineering is the highest academic qualification in the field of aerospace design. Aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering are the two main branches of aerospace engineering, the former involving aircraft that function within Earth’s atmosphere and the latter involving aircraft outside Earth’s atmosphere.
Maintenance engineers, aircraft developers, and spaceship developers are just a few of the career options open to those with an aerospace engineering PhD. Similar fields of study include robotics, automotive engineering, and mechatronics.
How to Get Into an Aerospace Engineering PhD Program: Admission Requirements
The admission requirements for a PhD in Aerospace Engineering are typically a four-year undergraduate degree or, in some cases, a master’s degree. The bachelor’s degree can be in any engineering field with core subjects related to aerospace engineering.
Other typical requirements for admission into this degree program include the submission of academic transcripts, scores from standardized tests like the GRE/GMAT, a letter of recommendation, a thoroughly updated resume, and a personal statement to indicate your dedication. Having a strong research background and articles published in scientific journals may also be required.
PhD in Aerospace Engineering Admission Requirements
- A bachelor’s or master’s degree and an engineering background
- Copies of academic transcripts and published articles (if any)
- Letters of recommendation
- A statement of purpose or personal statement
- A comprehensive resume or curriculum vitae
Aerospace Engineering PhD Acceptance Rates: How Hard Is It to Get Into a PhD Program in Aerospace Engineering?
It is very hard to get into a PhD program in aerospace engineering because it is one of the toughest engineering degrees. Do you know the saying, “It isn’t rocket science”? Well, this literally is rocket science. You need to have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of engineering and mathematical concepts in order to excel in this field.
The acceptance rates for aerospace engineering PhD programs at the top universities are quite low. For example, the California Institute of Technology’s aerospace engineering PhD program has an acceptance rate of about 9 percent. However, this school’s particular engineering graduate program has been singled out as the most selective in the nation. There are other programs that are less challenging to get into if you are motivated and prepared.
How to Get Into the Best Universities
Best PhDs in Aerospace Engineering: In Brief
|California Institute of Technology||PhD in Aeronautics or Space Engineering||No|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||PhD in Aerospace Engineering||No|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics||No|
|Princeton University||PhD in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering||No|
|Stanford University||PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics||No|
|Texas A&M University-College Station||PhD in Aerospace Engineering||No|
|University of Colorado Boulder||PhD in Aerospace Engineering Sciences||Yes|
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign||PhD in Aerospace Engineering||No|
|University of Michigan-Ann Arbor||PhD in Aerospace Engineering||No|
|University of Texas at Austin||PhD in Aerospace Engineering||No|
Best Universities for Aerospace Engineering PhDs: Where to Get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering
The best universities for aerospace engineering PhDs include Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, and Stanford University. If you are wondering where to get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, we’ll take a detailed look at some of the top institutes in the US.
We’ve researched the admissions process requirements, academic coursework, and required semester hours or credits and listed them in the section below to make sure that qualified students can easily get a PhD and start working in the aerospace engineering field. Read on for more information.
Can You Get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering Online?
Yes, you can get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering online. An online program will provide flexibility and convenience for you, which is especially helpful if you wish to pursue your PhD with fewer compromises to your work and personal life.
Best Online PhD Programs in Aerospace Engineering
|Auburn University||PhD in Aerospace Engineering||4 years|
|Mississippi State University||PhD in Aerospace Engineering||4 years|
|University of Alabama||PhD in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics||4 years|
|University of Colorado Boulder||PhD in Aerospace Engineering Sciences||4-6 years|
|University of North Dakota||PhD in Aerospace Sciences||4-7 years|
How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering?
It takes about four to five years to get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, which is the lengthiest timeframe for a degree. The main reason it takes so long to complete these engineering degree programs is that it requires original and authentic research, which takes time and dedication to produce.
The process will train you to be a researcher who can make innovative discoveries. You will first complete advanced courses for the program, then conduct research using professional research techniques, and lastly write a professional and publishable dissertation, which for aerospace engineering can be book-length.
Is a PhD in Aerospace Engineering Hard?
Yes, a PhD in Aerospace Engineering is hard. An aerospace engineer must have a deep understanding of engineering science and technology. The design and construction of aircraft and spacecraft necessitates extensive knowledge of mathematics, encompassing principles like geometry, calculus, and statistics.
When it comes to design and testing, you will need a solid understanding of computers and electronic components. You must also possess a great deal of focus and dedication to complete your research and write your thesis. Strong communication skills come into play in writing articles for publication and defending your thesis.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering?
It costs about $19,792 per year to get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, according to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics. This cost applies to all public and private postsecondary degree-awarding institutions. The average annual tuition for a PhD in Aerospace Engineering from a public institution is $12,410 per year, while the same degree from a private institution costs comparatively more per year, around $26,597.
Most doctoral programs, including those in aerospace engineering, provide ample funding opportunities to subsidize your studies. They include assistantships, fellowships, and external grants, which can sometimes cover the entire cost of your degree.
How to Pay for a PhD in Aerospace Engineering: PhD Funding Options
The PhD funding options that students can use to pay for a PhD in Aerospace Engineering include research assistantships, teaching assistantships, university fellowships, government fellowships, tuition waivers, performance allowances, external grants, and scholarships.
PhD students in the US are generally discouraged from engaging in external employment while pursuing their degree. This is because most schools provide work and research opportunities to help students pay for their degrees. Some schools even offer full coverage of expenses to students accepted into their program.
Some schools offering a PhD in Aerospace Engineering are funded by government agencies or private companies to make sure they produce quality research. This can attract the attention of top-performing students and draw them to these schools.
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What Is the Difference Between an Aerospace Engineering Master’s Degree and PhD?
The difference between an aerospace engineering master’s degree and a PhD is the amount of time spent in class versus the time spent researching. A master’s degree provides further specialization in aerospace engineering through relevant classes and hands-on experience.
A doctoral candidate spends only a small portion of time in class and a large portion of time conducting independent research. Typically, a PhD program teaches you how to conduct your own independent research and how to publish your findings and present them to an audience.
Master’s vs PhD in Aerospace Engineering Job Outlook
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for aerospace engineering graduates are expected to grow by 8 percent in this decade. This applies to entry-level jobs available for those who possess a bachelor’s degree.
In general, the higher your level of education, the more job opportunities will be open to you. For managerial positions like aerospace engineering managers or instructors, which come with an average salary of $152,350 and an expected job growth of four percent according to BLS, having an advanced degree will help you stand out among candidates. A PhD also prepares you to be a postsecondary teacher, which BLS shows has a 12 percent job growth rate in coming years.
Difference in Salary for Aerospace Engineering Master’s vs PhD
There is a considerable difference in salaries for master’s degree holders and PhD holders in the field of aerospace engineering. The average salary for someone with a Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering is about $91,000, according to PayScale. With this degree, you can work as an aerospace engineer, mechanical engineer, research scientist, research engineer, or senior systems engineer with small variations in annual salary.
On the other hand, the average salary for a PhD holder in aerospace engineering is about $111,000, according to PayScale. Many of the same jobs are available to these engineering professionals but with higher starting salaries. With an average difference in pay of $20,000 per year, earning a PhD in Aerospace Engineering should be high on your list of career goals as it can make a big difference in your day-to-day life.
Related Aerospace Engineering Degrees
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Why You Should Get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering
You should get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering if you want to be among the most highly skilled and highly paid engineers in this field. A doctorate in engineering qualifies you to teach at the college or university level. Research and development in a variety of engineering disciplines, as well as managerial jobs, are further great career options.
If you are involved in research and development in the aerospace industry, getting a PhD will place you on a much higher level in your work due to the advanced research and development skills gained in earning your degree. Courses are taught by experienced aerospace and aeronautical engineers and industry leaders in the aerospace industry and aviation industry, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn from them and sharpen your research skills.
There are sectors both inside and outside the aerospace industry where a PhD is considered almost essential for solving complex problems. Having a PhD will help increase your authority and give your peers and superiors more confidence in your work.
Reasons for Getting a PhD in Aerospace Engineering
- Higher salaries. Following this program of study and getting a PhD in Aerospace Engineering results in higher salaries for the same job as compared to having a master’s or bachelor’s degree.
- Funding for research projects. The authority and experience that comes with a doctoral degree vastly increases your chances of winning various government-funded and privately funded research projects. This can help you become a leader and innovator in the field.
- Robust academic career. Many aerospace engineering students who pursue a doctoral degree intend to make a career in academia rather than in the industry. You can publish research papers and grow as a respected researcher in this field.
- More career options overall. In addition to research opportunities, PhD holders in this field have more job options overall. These are usually higher-ranked positions. You are also eligible to become a postsecondary teacher of engineering subjects at colleges and universities.
Getting a PhD in Aerospace Engineering: Aerospace Engineering PhD Coursework
While pursuing a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, you have the opportunity to perform research in the fields of aerospace structures and propulsion as well as aerodynamic systems. As soon as you complete the graduate admissions process, you’ll need to put your previous academic background to good use because doctoral courses require a massive amount of both knowledge and research.
You will be required to complete a specific number of minimum credit hours in your graduate-level coursework on topics such as the fundamentals of fluid mechanics, aerospace engineering design, and advanced computational aerodynamics. Below are examples of the types of courses you can expect during your formal coursework.
Fundamentals of Fluid Mechanics
This fluid mechanics course typically spans everything from air reentry at hypersonic speeds to particle transport and biofluid flow. Classes like this one provide opportunities for students to learn the wide range of experimental, computational, and theoretical approaches that are used to solve issues with fluid dynamics and mechanics.
Aerospace Engineering Design
This graduate study course deals with aeronautics, astronautics, and design concepts that address the essential principles and methodologies of aerospace engineering. The course promotes active learning by making use of exploration technologies.
Advanced Computational Aerodynamics
This course helps you understand and make sense of flow physics and numerical methods to identify and create solution algorithms for ordinary differential equations (ODEs) and partial differential equations (PDEs). It also helps you with the ability to pick and design solution algorithms for flight dynamics that can be described as vicious, inviscid, compressible, or incompressible.
Spacecraft Optimal Estimation
This course teaches conventional and new estimate techniques and links them to modern dynamic systems encountered in aeronautical specialties. It emphasizes the mathematical thinking and modeling of physical problems. The course applies to both spacecraft and aircraft systems.
Computational Multibody Dynamics
In this course, you will study the theoretical, numerical, and methodological foundations that will allow you to build your first model-based designs (MBDs) before you proceed to more complicated ones.
Best Master’s Degrees
How to Get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering: Doctoral Program Requirements
Getting a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering involves having a solid background in the fundamentals of aerospace engineering, represented by a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the field. This knowledge is assessed by a preliminary exam.
A PhD dissertation must also be completed and defended, requiring you to demonstrate your ability to investigate and provide a solution for an original research problem. Below is a more thorough list of the steps that are required to complete all doctoral program requirements. We’ve done the research for you on how to get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, so read on to find out more.
Potential Careers With an Aerospace Engineering Degree
PhD in Aerospace Engineering Salary and Job Outlook
The PhD in Aerospace Engineering salary and job outlook is reasonably high, between four and 12 percent with most jobs. With a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, you will be among the most sought-after candidates in a wide range of engineering professions. You can either become an engineering professor in a university or college or work in the research and development sector of a company.
What Can You Do With a PhD in Aerospace Engineering?
With a PhD in Aerospace Engineering, you can have a successful career as a post-secondary engineering teacher, an aerospace engineer, an industrial engineer, a mechanical engineer, or a senior research officer. You can have a rewarding career in many leadership positions in academic- or industry-related jobs.
Best Jobs with a PhD in Aerospace Engineering
- Post-secondary engineering teacher
- Aerospace engineer
- Industrial engineer
- Mechanical engineer
- Senior research officer
What Is the Average Salary for a PhD in Aerospace Engineering?
The average salary for a PhD in Aerospace Engineering is about $112,000, according to the data collected by PayScale. A PhD holder earns the most among people with educational and professional backgrounds in aerospace engineering.The average fluctuates slightly according to the actual job, so read on for more information.
Highest-Paying Aerospace Engineering Jobs for PhD Grads
|Aerospace Engineering PhD Jobs||Average Salary|
|Architectural and Engineering Manager||$152,350|
Best Aerospace Engineering Jobs with a Doctorate
The best aerospace engineering jobs with a doctorate include aerospace engineer, mechanical engineer, industrial engineer, materials engineer, and architectural and engineering manager. These are all among the highest-paid jobs in the country with a good job outlook.
Is a PhD in Aerospace Engineering Worth It?
Yes, a PhD in Aerospace Engineering is worth it. The salaries and job outlooks in this field are strong, especially with the private sector’s entrance into space exploration through companies like Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX).
If you want to learn how to solve unique problems in science and engineering, pursuing a PhD in Aerospace Engineering may be a more worthwhile investment of your time. You will have the exciting opportunity to use your sharp scientific skills to make innovative research discoveries and become a leader in the field.
If you wish to work in academia as a professor, obtaining a PhD is almost always required. This is because having a PhD gives you authority in your field.
Additional Reading About Aerospace Engineering
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PhD in Aerospace Engineering FAQ
According to US News, the best university for a PhD in Aerospace Engineering is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Caltech gets second place. They are both included in our list, which is based on key factors like tuition, quality of research and innovation in the aerospace field, laboratory facilities, and available funding for prospective students like PhD candidates.
Some universities do require GRE scores for admission into their PhD program in aerospace engineering. However, due to COVID-19 and its repercussions, most universities have waived the requirement.
Yes, aerospace engineers make good money. According to BLS, aerospace engineers earn on average $122,270 per year. The lowest 10 percent of aerospace engineers made less than $77,440, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $168,370. Aerospace engineers can get employed by major aerospace tech companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and SpaceX.
No, you cannot get a PhD in Aerospace Engineering for free. However, with funding opportunities like assistantships and fellowships, you can make getting your PhD quite affordable. Some programs even cover all of your costs with funding.
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