Aeronautical and aerospace engineering technology programs prepare people to help aerospace engineers design aircraft. Students learn how to help build and test flight systems. They also learn to maintain and repair tools and instruments.
People have been building airplanes for over 100 years, but they are still employing the latest technologies. Airplanes use modern metals, engines, and navigation systems. Even the seats and entertainment systems use the latest technologies. Recently the airlines have been in financial trouble, so there is pressure to lower the cost of airplanes without lowering their quality.
As an aeronautical engineering technologist, you are the bridge between the engineer and the technician. The engineer imagines a new design. It might be a different structure for a landing gear or a new way to vent vapors from the fuel tanks. The technician will install the landing gear or the ventilation system once the new device goes into production. Your role is to help take the design from concept to production.
You might test the concept, using a computerized simulation. You might construct a prototype and test it in a lab, gathering and analyzing data. With what you learn, you report back to the engineer. You suggest ways to make the design more practical. You might translate the design into specifications within a computer-aided manufacturing program. This allows a factory to produce and assemble the parts of the new product.
To do this work, you need a mix of theoretical and practical knowledge. So you study physics and math to understand principles of heat, motion, and pressure. You study how materials behave when subjected to these forms of energy. You learn about electric circuits to understand controls and instrumentation. Your courses cover all the various systems that make an airplane work. You may also study spacecraft, which are subject to different forces and conditions.
With four years of full-time study beyond high school, you can earn a bachelor's degree in this field. This is the normal route to job entry. (Two-year aeronautics programs are for technicians. Usually you cannot transfer from one of these into a four-year program in engineering technology.) Fewer than 15 colleges offer this major, and even fewer of these are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
You may also use the bachelor's to prepare for a graduate program in engineering. In that case, make sure your program is ABET-approved.