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What does a Rocket Scientist do?

If that easy, simple task you're doing isn't rocket science, then what is? What exactly does a rocket scientist do, and why has this field become so widely used as the common cliche?

Take your career to new, educational heights

The term "rocket scientist" is actually earthling-speak for "aerospace engineer." These highly specialized scientists are responsible for the design, construction of, and science behind air crafts and spacecrafts. To become an aerospace engineer, you must complete a high level of education, undergoing a rigorous roster of coursework along the way that may include any of the following classes:
  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Mechanical engineering
In order to be hired as an aerospace engineer, you'll be expected to have earned at least a bachelor's degree, though people with higher-level degrees such as a master's or a doctorate might have an advantage in this field.

Up, up, and away: where the rocket scientists are

Since this field is so specialized, you might have to relocate for a position in aerospace engineering. The highest concentration of available work in the aerospace engineering field is in the following U.S. states:
  • Washington
  • Kansas
  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Maryland
  • California
As a "rocket scientist," you may find yourself working for a university, a government agency, or a private company. Some aerospace engineers get to live out their childhood dreams and work for a NASA research center, though competition for those jobs can be fierce. The salary of an aeronautical engineer can vary, depending upon location and position.

Mission quest

NASA's educational website NASA Quest features profiles of people who work as aerospace engineers, and it's a great resource for down-to-earth information that's straight from the rocket scientist's mouth. For example, Rubén Ramos, an aerospace engineer who designs communications systems, writes that a background in math in science is incredibly useful in his field.

With all of the hard work it takes to achieve your career goals, why would you want to become an aerospace engineer? Ramos writes: "I like knowing that we, at NASA, are doing some things that have never been done before, and that have the potential to benefit humanity." Sounds like a pretty good reason to shoot for the stars.

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