sealPurdue News

December 1998

Students with 'right stuff' can get right starting salary

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Studying to become an astronautical engineer may not necessarily launch students into space, but it may very well land them a lucrative career.

"Astronautical engineering isn't just about being groomed to become an astronaut, although Purdue is proud to have many of its graduates go on to 'clock-in' among the stars," says Kathleen Howell, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue University. "Our program is designed to make students employable in every aspect of space research, development and exploration."

According to industry experts, one area in particular is booming -- satellites. Pagers, cellular phones, direct TV and syndicated radio all depend on satellites to do their jobs. And before anyone can get beeped, buzzed or zoned-out in front of the tube, these satellites have to be built and launched into orbit. Industry reports indicate that more than 1,500 satellites -- mainly commercial -- will be launched in the next 10 years. Getting them built and launched is where astronautical engineers come in.

"And demand far exceeds supply," says Stephen Heister, Purdue associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics. "This year alone, our office at Purdue received inquires for more than 400 jobs, and we know these companies could only find enough astronautical engineering graduates to fill half the positions. The 43 students graduating from the program in May received, on average, two to three job offers apiece."

The average starting salary for those who accepted employment was $41,388, according to Purdue's Center for Career Opportunities.

Sources: Kathleen Howell, (765) 494-5786

Stephen Heister, (765) 494-5126

Writer: Jeanine S. Smith, (765) 496-3133; e-mail:

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail,

* To the Purdue News and Photos Page