Undergraduate Degrees & Requirements

Degrees

Our two degree programs are a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering (Course 16) and a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Course 16-ENG). Both programs are accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET. [Enrollments | Degrees]

The Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering degree provides a foundation in the disciplines related to engineering aerospace vehicles and systems. If you’re interested in aerodynamics, fluid mechanics, propulsion, structural design and analysis, advanced materials, and dynamics, this may be the degree for you. Additional topics include feedback, control, estimation, control of flight vehicles, software engineering, human systems engineering, aerospace communications, and digital systems.

Students may choose to complete an option in Aerospace Information Technology by taking a minimum of three subjects (36 units) from a designated group of professional subjects specified in the Course 16 degree chart. Note that the Aerospace Information Technology option is not a degree in itself.

The Bachelor of Science in Engineering offers significant flexibility within the context of aerospace engineering. Depending on your interests, in Course 16-ENG you can develop a deeper level of understanding and skill in a field of engineering comprising multiple disciplinary areas (e.g., autonomous systems, computational engineering, engineering management), or a greater understanding and skill in an interdisciplinary area (e.g., energy, environment, and sustainability, or space exploration). This is accomplished through a foundation within core aerospace engineering disciplines, followed by a six-subject concentration tailored to your interests, and completed with hands-on aerospace engineering lab and capstone design subjects. More detail is available on the Course 16-ENG degree chart.

For more detail about the Course 16 and Course 16-ENG degrees, scroll down to “Undergraduate Study” on the MIT Bulletin AeroAstro page. You can also read about the availability of subjects, prerequisites, and the terms that they are offered by visiting the MIT Course Catalogue.

Each incoming sophomore in Course 16 and Course 16-ENG is assigned an academic advisor. Your advisor guides you through your educational endeavors throughout your undergraduate years. Advisors do more than approve registration and add/drop forms. Your advisor should be someone you trust and, as the term implies, whom you can approach for advice, not only with academic issues, but also broader issues such as summer internships, job and grad school applications, and personal matters. Information on our advisors can be found on the Advising page.

All prospective undergraduate students apply through the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, regardless of their intended program of study. Admitted undergraduate students select a major at the completion of the first year. On the undergraduate admissions site, you can learn more about our application process and read student blogs about life at MIT.

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Curriculum

All MIT students must complete the General Institute Requirements (GIRS), which include courses in physics, math, chemistry, biology, the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Our undergraduate curriculum consists of three main blocks:

  • Core Curriculum
  • Professional Area Subjects (Course 16) OR Concentration Subjects (Course 16-ENG)
  • Laboratory and Capstone Subjects

The AeroAstro Core Curriculum introduces students to the fundamental disciplines of aerospace engineering, providing a basic understanding of:

  • materials and structures
  • fluids and aerodynamics
  • thermodynamics
  • physics and dynamics
  • electronic signals, systems
  • circuits, propulsion, control systems, computer programming, probability and statistics (only for the Course 16 degree)

Much of the Core Curriculum is covered in a course called Unified Engineering, which is offered in sets of two 12-unit subjects in two successive semesters, and taught cooperatively by several faculty members. AeroAstro students take Unified Engineering together, building friendships and connections. Laboratory experiments are performed, and systems problems tying the disciplines together are included.

In addition to Unified Engineering, in the Core Curriculum, there are five other courses for Course 16 students and three other courses for Course 16-ENG students. Two courses — Dynamics and Principles of Automatic Control — are typically taken in the first semester of the third year. (Students in the Course 16-ENG program — see below — have the option of taking either Dynamics or Principles of Automatic Control.) The other Core Curriculum courses are Differential Equations; Computer Programming; and Statistics and Probability (required for Course 16, but not Course 16-ENG, students). These courses are usually taken in the sophomore year.

Professional area subjects are courses that treat more completely, and in greater depth, the material covered in the Core Curriculum. Aerospace engineering subjects represent traditional aerospace disciplines integral to the design and construction of modern aircraft and spacecraft. Subjects in aerospace information technology are in the broad disciplinary area of information technology, which plays an ever-increasing role in modern aircraft and spacecraft. Students must take four subjects (48 units) from among the Course 16 professional area subjects, with subjects in at least three areas. Students may choose to complete an option in aerospace information technology by taking 36 units from a designated group of subjects specified in the degree chart.

A significant part of the Course 16-ENG curriculum consists of electives selected by the student to provide an in-depth study of a field. A wide variety of concentrations is possible in which well-selected academic subjects complement a foundation in aerospace engineering and General Institute Requirements. The department has put in place several concentrations in the areas of aerospace software engineering, autonomous systems, communications, computational engineering, computational sustainability, energy, engineering management, environment, space exploration, and transportation. Concentrations are not limited to those listed above. Students can select a pre-defined concentration or may design and propose a technically oriented concentration that reflects their own needs and those of society. All concentrations must be approved by a concentration advisor and by the AeroAstro Undergraduate Office. A student’s overall program must contain a total of at least 1.5 years of engineering content (144 units) appropriate to the student’s field of study. The required core, lab, and capstone subjects include 102 units of engineering topics. Thus, concentrations must include at least 42 more units of engineering topics. In addition, each concentration must include 12 units of mathematics or science. See the Course 16-ENG degree chart.

Culminating the two programs are our aerospace laboratories and capstone subject sequences. These subjects serve to integrate the various disciplines and emphasize the conceive-design-implement-operate context of the curriculum. Several of them also fulfill the requirement for the Institute Lab and CI-M [communication intensive subjects (2) in the major]. View the current planned calendar for laboratory and capstone subjects, 2021-24. (pdf)

The vehicle and system design subjects (16.82 and 16.83) require student teams to apply their undergraduate knowledge to the design of an aircraft or spacecraft system. One of these two subjects is required and is typically taken in the second term of the junior year or in the senior year. Students are expected to complete at least two professional area or concentration subjects to be allowed in 16.82 or 16.83, both of which also satisfy the Institute CI-M (Communication Intensive Subject in the Major) requirement. The rest of the capstone requirement is met by either a 12-unit subject (16.405J) or by one of three 18-unit subjects or subject sequences: 16.621 and 16.622 Experimental Projects I and II; or 16.821 Flight Vehicle Development; or 16.831 Space Systems Development. These subjects satisfy the Institute Laboratory as well as CI-M requirements. In 16.821 and 16.831 students work in teams to build and operate the vehicles or systems developed in 16.82 and 16.83. In 16.621/16.622, students conceive, design, and execute an original experimental research project in collaboration with a partner and a faculty advisor. In 16.405J, students specify and design a small-scale yet complex robot capable of real-time interaction with the natural world.

Note: students must take at least one CI-M subject in the third year and a second in the fourth year, but since the 16.82/16.821 and 16.83/16.831 sequences meet alternate years, third-year students interested in either of these sequences may end up taking both CI-M subjects in their fourth year. In these circumstances, affected third-year students will petition the Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement with endorsement from the department’s Undergraduate Office.

Bulletin/Special Subjects

Scenes from UNIFIED Engineering Flight Competition 2021

Undergraduate Forms

You’ll need the following forms and documents for your undergraduate studies. Copies can also be picked up from the Office of Student Services in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics in Building 33-202. Institute forms such as change of major, double major, drop/add, Committee on Academic Performance petitions to late add or drop a course, and light-load tuition requests, can be downloaded from the Registrar’s office. If you have questions about any of these documents, contact Marie Stuppard.