Career Profile: Aerospace Engineer
Do you dream of building rockets and spaceships that will explore outer space? Or are you more interested in things a little closer to Earth, such as airplanes and helicopters? Canada has a long history of excellence in both aeronautics (air flight) and astronautics (space flight), and working as an aerospace engineer will let you follow these passions, and can provide a strong and exciting career.
Aerospace engineers are responsible for designing and building airplanes, unmanned aerial vehicles and drones, satellites, rocketry, missiles, communication systems, and other machines and equipment intended for aircraft and spacecraft. They also research and develop the software, hardware and other systems that are used to operate these aerospace vehicles. Since building physical prototypes is both expensive and time consuming, aerospace engineers are also experts in using computers, software and mathematical modeling to create digital simulations of equipment, vehicles or systems in order to test and perfect their design.
Not all aerospace engineering is building things in a lab, however. Many jobs in aerospace engineering involve supervising or coordinating the manufacturing, assembly, and repair of aerospace equipment or vehicles, or being in charge of testing equipment and coordinating test flights. When there are failures, such as a plane crash or failed rocket launch, aerospace engineers are also the ones who will work to determine what went wrong, and how that type of failure can be avoided in the future.
Most Canadian aerospace engineers work inside Canada for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the government, or military and defense contractors. Many also work at one of the many Canadian companies that design and manufacture components for the aerospace industry. Others will pursue research careers at Canadian universities and research laboratories. There are also many international collaborations and organizations, especially in space exploration, where you would have the opportunity to work in another country with scientists, engineers, and researchers from around the world.
In terms of education, a career as an aerospace engineer needs a minimum of a university bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering or a similar engineering field such as mechanical engineering or engineering physics, as well as some practical experience from internships and other work placements. Many jobs only require a bachelor’s, though moving into management, research, or consulting-level positions can require a master’s degree or Ph.D. Engineering in Canada is a licensed profession, which means that after graduating engineers are required to complete supervised work hours and a licensing exam in order to get their Professional Engineer designation, which is required to approve engineering drawings and reports.
Salaries for aerospace engineers in Canada range from around $40,000 at the entry-level, up to $100,000 for experienced positions in high-level companies. The average salary comes in around $76,000 per year.