Don’t be fooled by the “space” part. Most aerospace engineers work with planes, not rocket ships. The field includes everything from airplanes to helicopters, missiles and satellites. In Canada, the aerospace sector is dominated by Quebec-based companies, like Bombardier, although Ontario and the West also have significant aerospace clusters.
Money: Aerospace engineering salaries vary heavily. Newcomers who haven’t yet earned their professional engineering certification can expect to start off earning somewhere between $45,000 and $60,000 a year. After 10 years in the field, though, six figure salaries are the norm.
How to qualify: To become an aerospace engineer, you need an engineering degree, full stop. There are no shortcuts. You can get specialist aerospace degrees from Carleton or Ryerson Universities, or try to break into the field with a mechanical engineering degree.
Opportunity: The cyclical aerospace sector is picking up again following a slow decade precipitated by Sept. 11, the rising Canadian dollar and a surge in global competition. Should the tide turn, it can be tricky finding a job in another field: some general engineering firms don’t understand what an aerospace engineer is qualified to do.
What it’s like: Navreet Saini, an associate technical specialist at Bell Helicopters, works in avionics, doing test plans for a new helicopter. The work itself can involve steady 40-hour weeks, but those ramp up when big orders are due. To give an idea of how hot the aerospace field is right now, consider this: Saini didn’t even apply for her current job. She was recruited based on her LinkedIn profile. “I didn’t believe it myself until I came in on my first day.”