Welcome to Aerospace Engineering at the Naval Academy!
We offer an exciting and challenging curriculum which is one of the top Aerospace Engineering programs in the country!
All Aerospace Engineering students take the same courses during their sophomore year, but at the start of their Junior year, the students may choose one of two specific tracks of study in either Aeronautics or Astronautics. Those students who select "aero" study topics including aerodynamics, structures, propulsion, and flight vehicle performance. Students in the "astro" track focus their studies on the space environment, astrodynamics, spacecraft systems, and spacecraft attitude dynamics and control. Both tracks conclude with a culminating design course where Midshipmen apply their engineering knowledge to the design of an aero or space flight vehicle to emphasize the hands-on aspects of conceiving, designing, building, and operating flight vehicles.
The department faculty includes both civilian and military professors from a variety of backgrounds. The Naval Academy's aerospace laboratory facilities are some of the most advanced and extensive in the country and include structures labs, propulsion and rotor labs, simulation labs, subsonic and supersonic wind tunnels, computer labs, and the Satellite Ground Station.
Upon commissioning, there is ample opportunity for students to apply their skills and background in aerospace engineering. These skills are demonstrated when the graduates are faced with everyday technical problems in areas such as flight testing, aircraft and space vehicle design, propulsion tailoring and weapons systems integration.
Graduates from the aerospace engineering major are also fully prepared to undertake postgraduate education programs in engineering disciplines at the Naval Postgraduate School, Air Force Institute of Technology, or even civilian universities. Naval officers with advanced degrees in the Aero/Astro fields may be assigned to billets involved with the research, development, testing, and evaluation of Navy/Marine Corps aircraft or spacecraft projects. Organizations with technically challenging billets include the Naval Air Systems Command, Naval Research Laboratory, Test Pilot School, the Naval Network Warfare Command, the United States Strategic Command, of course, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) where more than a dozen graduates of the Naval Academy's Aerospace Engineering program have become astronauts.
FAQs for Plebes considering Aerospace Engineering
Will being an Aerospace Engineering student improve my chances at becoming a pilot in the Navy or Marine Corps?
The short answer is no. The best way to become a pilot is to earn solid grades in whatever major you choose, so selecting a major in which you are honestly interested and in which you will be willing to work hard is the most important part in securing your service selection first choice. That being said, the Aerospace Engineering major provides students with a more in-depth understanding of the systems they will work with in aviation than any other major, and certainly helps prepare students for a career in that field.
Do I have to want to fly to be an Aerospace Engineering student?
Certainly not. This major will provide you with an understanding of the principles that govern all aerospace systems, not just airplanes. Such systems exist broadly throughout the Navy and Marine Corps, especially in weaponry-- just think of the Tomahawk Cruise Missile or any of the other smart weapons in use today.
I've been told that Aerospace Engineering is a narrow field that will limit my future options. Is this true?
No. Aerospace Engineering combines a long list of disciplines. Take a look at the course descriptions for either of the tracks here: Aeronautics or Astronautics. These course combine the disciplines of aerodynamics, astrodynamics, propulsion (both jets and rockets), stability and control, performance, computer programming, system integration...; in short, you will be well versed in a variety of topics because it takes an understanding of many principles to design a complete vehicle for either space or air travel. Specialization or "narrow" study is not possible, the Aerospace Engineer must be broadly educated.
What are my job opportunities out of the Navy?
The aerospace industry is booming. In fact, it is one of the only industries in America that has both a positive contribution to the national economy and a sizeable research and development budget. That means that you can be sure that your degree will go to use at one of the many industry companies. The job descriptions available to Aerospace Engineers include research, design & development, management, field service, marketing & sales, software development, or of course teaching the next generation of "Aeros."
Can I be a varsity athlete and an Aerospace Engineering student?
Yes. Much like plebe year, your next three years at USNA are all about balance. You have learned to make priorities and properly manage your time already. Those same principles have helped countless previous midshipmen graduate from the department with both impressive class standings and varsity letters.
Will I have a life if I select Aerospace Engineering?
Yes, of course--but this is a ridiculous question. This major is not "easy." It will expand your mind and you will have to work, but with proper time management you will certainly not have to give up all of your free time.; Just like the Varsity Athletes, even the Intramural Warriors will simply need to continue those same time management skills they developed as plebes. Think about what experiences you hoped to gain from the Academy when you applied; the Aerospace Engineering major offers many impressive opportunities that most find worth the hard work. Look at the research or internship pages, or the Small Satellite Program or D-B-F pages for an overview of those opportunities.
When do I have to decide between "aero" and "astro"?
This decision will happen at the end of youngster year. If you're not sure which track is right for you, check out the Small Satellite Program or D-B-F pages. These pages give you perspective on the final design products each track completes 1/C year and might help spark your interest in one of the directions.
Do aircraft, rockets, satellites, missiles, or spacecraft interest you? If so, take a further look at what our students study, build and fly...