Sky, Space and Beyond: All About a Career in Aerospace

Every child who saw Kalpana Chawla board her voyage to Space on November 19th, 1997 was mesmerized at once. Before her, the likes of Rakesh Sharma had made their way into our general knowledge books. Every child at some point or the other has had a fantasy of going into space or being in a space shuttle. Organizations such as the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) make these fantasies to a reality by enabling young space enthusiasts to create a career in this sector.

If you are as fascinated by flying into Space, and wish to work in this sector someday, then you are at the right place. Read on to know the scope of aerospace and aeronautics in India, and how to turn this dream into reality.

What is Aerospace?

Aerospace is a broad term that consists of Aeronautics as well as Astronautics. People engaged in Aeronautics, design and test, systems and parts that are used in missiles, space shuttles, and airplanes. They are responsible for the technical, design, and electrical aspects of the machinery and software that goes into building such complex systems.

Astronautics is more inclined towards the navigation of human or automatic systems into space. They look into systems that help people and machinery survive in space. In India, the scope of Aerospace Engineering (the branch of engineering dealing with developing aircrafts and space crafts including other allied equipment) or going to space is muted, but the opportunities are plenty. Aerospace Engineers work not only in the manufacturing of aircrafts but also in the design and connectivity of these aircrafts.
Average salaries for freshers range from 4 lakhs to 6 lakhs per annum. With increasing research and infrastructure in the Indian Space Programme, these numbers are expected to go higher. Also, since government drives a major part of research in the sector, salaries in the government sector are higher.

Top Institutes for Aerospace & Aeronautical Engineering in India

To study Aerospace or Aeronautical Engineering, it is essential to target the right institutions as they provide a challenging environment, as well as scope for growth for any individual. The subjects needed to study Engineering in class 11th and 12th are – Physics, Chemistry, and Mathematics. Admissions to programs are based on entrance examinations, the most popular being the JEE Mains and Advanced, VITEEE, SRMJEE, GATE, etc.

Here are some of the top programs in the country you should be targeting if Aerospace is the field for you:

Undergraduate Institutes

  • Indian Institute of Technology, Madras – B.Tech. in Aerospace Engineering
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay – B.Tech. in Aerospace Engineering
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur – B.Tech. in Aerospace Engineering
  • Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram – B.Tech. in Aerospace Engineering/B.Tech. in Avionics
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur – B.Tech. in Aerospace Engineering
  • PEC University of Technology, Chandigarh – B.Tech. in Aeronautical Engineering

Postgraduate Institutes

  • Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore – M.E. in Aerospace/ M.Sc. (Engg) in Aerospace
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay – M.Tech. in Aerospace Engineering
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Madras – MS/M.Tech. in Aerospace Engineering
  • Madras Institute of Technology, Madras – M.E. Aeronautical Engineering/ M.E. Aerospace Technology
  • Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology, Thiruvananthapuram – M.Tech. in Aerodynamics and Flight Mechanics
  • Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur – M.Tech. in Aerospace Engineering

How to Pursue a Career in Aerospace

In order to enter this field, there are primarily two directions that one can take. Here is how:

1. The Engineering Route

Since Aeronautics is a technical field, individuals with the knowledge and skills of engineering are preferred.

Educational Qualification – A B.Tech. or BE. Degree in Mechanical, Electrical, or Computer Science is preferred in this sector, especially for Public Sector Undertakings (for example, DRDO, HAL, and ISRO). A B.Tech. in Aerospace Engineering from a top college, and a GATE score (entrance exam taken after graduation) is also required to get hired by a top company.

An M.Tech. or MS degree provides more technical exposure, and in turn, more opportunities in the private as well as public sector. Admissions to undergraduate and postgraduate courses are made on the basis of entrance examinations. The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) are two most popular and crucial exams students undertake.

Opportunities – Individuals who complete their engineering can find work in private as well as public sectors. Private companies such as Mahindra Aerospace, Ford, BMW, Honeywell, etc. hire Aerospace Engineers. In the public sector, the leading recruiters are Indian Space Research Organization, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, Defense Research and Development Organization, and Bharat Dynamics Limited.

2. The Defense Route

Defense services, mostly the Airforce, are a popular choice for individuals wanting to join ISRO as a Vyomanaut. Vyomanauts are Indian scientists launched into space by ISRO. This is a distinction many people are not aware of, as it is often confused with the term “Astronaut”, who are launched into space by NASA, USA.

Educational Qualifications – To become a fighter pilot, one needs to clear the NDA examination (to be taken after completing class 12th) which consists of Physics, Chemistry and mathematics, apart from a medical fitness test. After that, a 3-year training takes place at the National Defense Academy at Khadakwasla.

Opportunities – Individuals who complete their training as a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force can expect to be recruited for a manned mission to space. Test Pilots who are great at their jobs, and wish to be recruited for a mission can express their desire to ISRO as well as the IAF. If such an opportunity comes up (depending on when ISRO requires a Pilot), they are required to go through rigorous training and tests before they can become Vyomanauts.

Critical Skills Required in the Aerospace Industry

There are certain areas one needs to be adept at, so as to make it in the Aerospace industry. With competition getting tougher, and opportunities still growing at a slow pace in India, it is important to inculcate these skills to land a core-sector job:

Technical Skills – Most of the work is related to manufacturing, which is why a strong hand in mechanical knowledge is required. Generally, students who wish to go into this field opt for mechanical engineering, or electrical engineering, since it helps them create such complex systems. Knowledge of computers/programming is also appreciated.

Problem Solving Skills – To be an Aerospace Engineer or a Vyomanaut, one needs to be excellent at problem-solving and critical thinking. Thinking out-of-the-box and applying these skills to real life practical situations is what makes a candidate suited to this field.

Attention to Detail – Since the domain is related to making advances in the way we travel and discover different worlds, there is zero scope for mistakes. Paying attention to the minutest of details is crucial, as the lives of many depend in the aerospace experts’ hands.

Psychological and Emotional Strength – Whether you wish to work as an engineer in this industry, or wish to become a Vyomanaut, mental and emotional stability is one of the major deciding factors for your selection.

Personality – There are certain traits that are highly required for entering into this industry, such as inquisitiveness, willingness to learn new things, resilience, perfectionism, etc. People who are enthusiastic about innovation, and have a high level of intense pursuit are well-suited to this domain.

A lot of students ask me about becoming an astronaut and working with an organization like NASA. Judging their enthusiasm, I feel compelled to share how students can make their dreams of becoming an astronaut true.

Getting to NASA: Here’s How to Do It

Astronaut and NASA are two terms that we hear most often as NASA enjoys international media coverage. So here is everything you have need to know to get in:

The Scope of a Career at NASA

NASA sends regular manned missions to the International Space Station for Research. The crew consists of engineers, pilots and specialists in the areas they wish to find out about (Physics, Geology, Chemistry, Oceanography, etc.) Other than astronauts, aerospace designers (experts who design space shuttles and airplanes) are also employed in this sector, and not only NASA but other international aerospace companies as well. A few of these companies being Airbus, Boeing, Rolls-Royce Holdings, United Technologies, Lockheed Martin, etc.

NASA is also actively involved in research missions pertaining to climatic conditions on Earth, current atmospheric issues, continental drift and geodynamics etc., which require professionals from varied fields, including Aeronautical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Astronautical Engineering, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Biomedical Engineering, Ceramic Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Electronics Engineering, Geology, Geophysics, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering, Meteorology, Nuclear Engineering, and the likes.

Education Required to Get into NASA

NASA employs highly-qualified scientists for their missions. Most scientists have completed their Master’s as well as Ph.D. in relevant subjects. Here are the some of the top institutes across the world, offering programs in aeronautics:

Here are the some of the top institutes across the world, offering programs in aeronautics:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Undergraduate and Graduate AeroAstro Engineering Program
  • Stanford University – BS/MS/Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Georgia Institute of Technology – BS/MS/Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering
  • California Institute of Technology (GALCIT) – Minor in Aerospace Engineering; MS/Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering; Master’s in Space Engineering
  • University of Michigan- Ann Arbor – U-M Aerospace Engineering (undergraduate); MS/ME/Ph.D. in Aerospace
  • Purdue University – BS/MS/Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • The University of Texas at Austin – BS/MS in Aerospace Engineering

If you are sure that your love for learning science and innovation can take you places, then aerospace might be the right field for you.

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