Get Promoted – A Master's in Aerospace Engineering Is Your Ticket to Six Figures

Lawren Henderson
Staff Writer at Cluster

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So you’re hitting year four in your entry-level position at a SoCal aerospace company like SpaceX, JPL, Boeing, or an imaginative startup doing innovative, possibly revolutionary work in the field. Not only do you have an exciting gig building rockets for space tourism or designing satellite constellations, it’s also lucrative as the region offers some of the highest industry salaries in the country.

According to Payscale, an early career Aerospace Engineer with 1-4 years of experience earns an average salary of $73,935 in the Los Angeles area. That’s a solid paycheck, but you’re ready to level up – a higher position, greater responsibilities, and a nice pay raise to go with it. A surefire way to signal to employers and recruiters that you’ve got the right stuff for a promotion is with a master's in Aerospace Engineering.

Is a master's degree required for a career jump? Of course not. You probably know a few senior engineers who’ve made it to the top with just a bachelor’s. But higher level aerospace engineering jobs are competitive; so many talented people want to be leading projects that will make possible refueling in orbit, landing on Mars, and other groundbreaking developments.

A master's degree not only advances your education, it raises your resume to the top of the pile and in SoCal, helps you land that mid-career position with an average salary of $98,160. Add to that an average bonus of $3,094 and profit-sharing of $4,750, and congrats, you’ve made it to the six-figure club!Southern California is home to a number of well-respected institutions where you can get your master's degree in Aerospace Engineering. We’ve compiled a list so you don’t have to.  

California Institute of Technology


The Department of Aerospace at CalTech offers master's degrees in Aeronautics and Space Engineering. The one-year programs have no research or thesis requirements. The deadline for applications is December 15, and students are admitted only for the academic year beginning in September. The latest estimated cost of attendance ranges from $77,967 to $86,247 depending on housing.

California State University – Long Beach

Long Beach

If you’re working a full-time job then the CSULB graduate program in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanical Engineering could be for you. You can earn your degree with evening courses in Space Systems Engineering, Aircraft Systems Engineering, Aerodynamics and Computational Fluid Dynamics, and Aerospace Structures and Material. The Spring 2020 deadline is October 1, 2019; Fall 2020 deadline is April 15, 2020. California resident cost of attendance for one year is estimated at $19,912 for commuters, $26,858 with on-campus housing, or $28,830 with off-campus housing.

University of California – Los Angeles

Los Angeles

UCLA states on their website that admissions to their Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department is “quite competitive,” but you probably already knew that. Admissions are offered only in the Fall and a master's is typically earned in four quarters. The deadline is December 1. Cost of attendance for California residents ranges from $33,316 to $42,874 depending on housing.

University of Southern California

Los Angeles

You’ll need to maintain a 3.0 cumulative GPA if you want to receive your master's degree from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. The school offers specialization tracks in Propulsion, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Aerospace Design, and more. Final deadline for Spring 2020 is Sept 15, 2019; and Fall 2020 is Jan 15, 2020. Tuition, fees, and insurance are estimated at $61,842 (not including housing).

University of California – Irvine


UC Irvine allows aerospace graduate students to select their course of study from the following thematic areas: Design Engineering, Dynamics and Control, Fluid Dynamics,  Solid/Structural/Material Mechanics, or Transport & Thermal Sciences. Deadline for Fall 2020 is expected to be Jan 15, 2020. Estimated expenses for California residents range from $37,471.63 to $48,612.63 depending on housing.

San Diego State University

San Diego

The master’s program at SDSU hosts a mix of full-time students and part-time working engineers concentrating in either Aerodynamics/Astronautics or Structural Mechanics. To ensure well-rounded graduates, the program requires students to take courses outside their specialization. SDSU begins accepting applications for Fall 2020 on October 1, 2019. The latest estimated cost of attending the 9-month academic year for California residents is $29,958.

University of California – San Diego

San Diego

Consider UCSD if you’re interested in specializing in Aerospace Engineering, Applied Mechanics, Applied Ocean Sciences, Computational Science, or Engineering Physics and Mechanical Engineering. Can’t go full-time? The school offers a Master of Advanced Study Degree Program for working professionals. Candidates are admitted only during the Fall quarter, with an expected mid-December 2020 deadline. Estimated cost of attendance ranges between $30,675 and $42,060 depending on housing.

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Published on
August 21, 2019