If you want to work with aircraft and spacecraft, you may want to look into a degree in aerospace engineering. This degree allows you to work for private and public employers that create and test aircraft. There are two schools in Virginia that offer aerospace degrees—one in Charlotte and one in Blacksburg. The average cost of tuition in Virginia is $10,500 per semester. Virginia has an average class size of 16 students—this is much smaller than average class sizes in many other states. With such small classes, you can work closely with your peers.
There are many steps to becoming an aerospace engineer, starting with earning a Bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering. This is the lowest degree required for licensure as an engineer. You can plan on spending four to five years in school as a full-time student. You'll need to complete 120 credits to graduate.
You may be amazed at how many different classes you have to take as an aerospace student. Some of the courses you may have to take include Aerospace Design, Engineering Materials, Aerospace Dynamical Systems, and Mechanics of Materials.
There are many ways you can get hands-on experience while you're a student. Your school's engineering lab will become a second home to you, since it will be where you learn about engineering materials and how they work together. You may also have the chance to complete an internship in your senior year of school.
If you have the chance to conduct research as a student, you should definitely seize the opportunity. At the University of Virginia, you can conduct research in the Aerospace Research Laboratory.
Tuition rates in Virginia are dependent on your residency status. Virginia Tech is one of the most affordable schools in the state. Tuition is $4,808.50 for residents and $12,384.50 per semester for non-residents. Virginia State University is slightly more expensive. Tuition for residents is $5,008 per semester and $18,360 per semester for non-residents.
You can apply for school-specific and statewide scholarships to help offset the cost of your tuition. The Gloria Wille Bell & Carlos R. Bell Scholarship awards up to $80,000 to Virginia engineering students. The Virginia Department of Transportation funds the Engineer Scholar Program, which can also set you up for employment with the state after graduation.
Upon graduating with your aerospace engineering degree, you can take the final step in starting your career—applying for licensure through the Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers, and Landscape Architects. You must pay a $75 application fee and then take the Professional Engineer exam. Passing this exam gives you the title of Professional Engineer.
This field is constantly changing and developing, so ongoing education is absolutely essential. You may want to attend educational classes and go to seminars to learn more about new technology in the field. One great way to keep up on your professional development is joining the Virginia Society of Professional Engineers. In addition to the educational opportunities, you can network with other engineers and learn about legislative changes.