The different types of aerospace engineering programs are general aerospace engineering programs, aeronautical engineering programs and astronautical engineering programs. Within these programs, students can receive an undergraduate degree, master's degree or doctorate of philosophy (PhD) degree. Students in any of these different programs eventually plan on having careers as engineers to design, test and oversee the production and manufacturing of aircraft or spacecraft.
Aerospace engineering programs are broken up into two branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. Aeronautical engineering deals with flight technology within the Earth's atmosphere, and astronautical engineering focuses on crafts that operate outside of the Earth's atmosphere. General aerospace programs combine the topics of aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. These general programs are more common at colleges and universities than specialty aeronautical engineering programs or astronautical engineering programs.
There are aerospace engineering programs offered at both the undergraduate level and graduate level. Many colleges and universities have a general aerospace program. Graduate students likely will gain more opportunities to focus on a specialization in aeronautical engineering, astronautical engineering or another sub-specialty topic.
Master's programs in aeronautical engineering or astronautical engineering gear studies toward either specialization. Doctorate programs offer students the opportunity to gain even more focus in sub-areas such as flight mechanics, dynamics and control, fluid dynamics, structural mechanics, propulsion and power. Sample courses include the theory of deformation and flow, hypersonic flows, non-equilibrium flow dynamics and optimal aerospace shuttle design.
Undergraduate aerospace programs are far more common than individual aeronautical engineering or astronautical engineering programs. Typical coursework in an undergraduate aerospace engineering program includes aerodynamics and aerospace propulsion. Courses also include hands-on flight controls and flight mechanics. Students also can complete courses in space-mission design and vehicle design, and they can take lab courses, such as a lab course in robotics.
Other classes include fluid strength of materials, dynamics or thermodynamics. Students are also encouraged to intern at organizations, such as private aerospace companies. Some government agencies that deal with aerospace engineering also offer internships.