There is only a very thin line that differentiates the two. Both aerospace and aeronautical engineering work with vehicles/vessels, machines, computers or electronics that can operate in air or outer space. They both perform a lot of similar tasks, such as developing design proposals and assessing their design plans to make sure they are safe and functional, yet there are some differences between the two.
Aeronautical engineers, primarily, work with an aircraft. They are involved in designing the aircraft and its propulsion systems, studying its aerodynamic performance as well as the construction materials. They work with the theory, technology, and practice of flight within the Earth’s atmosphere.
Aerospace engineers, on the other hand, use technological theories to develop various aircraft. They manufacture and test aircraft, space shuttles or weapons. They expertise in developing new technologies for aerospace crafts, satellites or missiles.
The major difference is that aeronautical engineering focuses on a flight and related activities within the atmosphere, while aerospace engineering does not limit itself to just the atmosphere; it works in the outer space as well.
The trouble with distinguishing between the two is however the ambiguity that is seen in the results. This is majorly because scientists are yet to agree on where the aeronautical space ends to have a clear demarcation from the aerospace.
For someone to pursue either aeronautical or aerospace engineering, Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics is the preferred combination of subjects in secondary and higher secondary school.
Understanding the aerodynamics of any aircraft requires complex mathematical abilities coupled with in-depth knowledge of advanced levels of physics.
An aerospace engineer is expected to direct and coordinate the design, manufacture, and testing of aircraft and aerospace products; assess proposals for projects to determine if they are technically and financially feasible; determine if proposed projects will result in safe operations that meet the defined goals.
Meanwhile, an aeronautical engineer must have good oral and written communication skills; the analytical ability to solve problems; good planning and organisation skills. Most importantly, s/he must strictly adhere to safety guidelines laid out by the aviation authority.
Both these forms of engineering are relatively new to India. DRDO and ISRO are the two major organisations leading the research and development (R&D) in them. All the major Indian Institute of Technologies (IITs) and National Institute of Technologies (NITs) offer a bachelors degree. Apart from them, Punjab University and Amity University are the other prominent colleges that offer courses in aeronautical and aerospace engineering.
Internationally, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology lead in terms of R&D.
Tuition fees and job prospects:
The average fees for these streams in most of India’s engineering colleges vary from Rs 4 to 10 lakhs. The private ones have a higher tuition fee as compared to their government counterparts. Specifications at the master’s level increases the costs.
This is mainly due to several reasons. Firstly, the course deals with hands-on experience of extremely sophisticated and expensive equipment; secondly, there are very few universities in the world which have cutting-edge technology to fund research, so the costs rise.
Employment of aerospace and aeronautical engineers is projected to grow 6% between 2016 and 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Aircraft are being redesigned to cause less noise pollution and have better fuel efficiency, which will help sustain demand for R&D.
Both the corporate and government sectors actively hire such engineers. Major international space agencies such as NASA, JAXA, ISRO, and aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing, SpaceX, Airbus offer lucrative job positions to such people.