Likelihood of Being Accepted for Aero Eng MSc without Bachelor's

In short, I am autistic and it took some time for me to be ready to adjust to a college environment. Engineering, particularly aerospace, has long been a special interest of mine and I believe my knowledge to be at the graduate level.

I confirmed this by using my University’s continuing education option to take four (4) graduate-level aerospace and bioastronautics classes as a nondegree student, each of which I passed with high marks and earned credit for. I am now 25 and, with the success, am ready to actually seek a degree. I’m balking at the idea of needing to go back and start as an undergraduate freshman, though.

Additionally, I have been working in the field in some capacity for a couple of years now, so I do have some real-world experience but not a lot.

Is there any precedent for students with demonstrated capacity like me to begin as a graduate student?

There are (at least) two ways to come at your question, so here goes:

  1. you are not the first bright student (autistic or not) to say ‘undergrad is a waste of time / I can prove that I am ready for the harder stuff now’. The undergrad degree says that you have a given body of knowledge. Most people applying for a Masters have an MAE undergrad; the others tend to have majors like electrical engineering, bioengineering, and physics. There are a lot of important building blocks in those classes, and (as in math) the problems of skipping some of them may not show up for quite a while- but they still matter. Another relevant element is that completing an undergrad engineering degree demonstrates that you have not just the intellectual capability for the classes, but the organizational skills and stamina to manage a long, intense program.

  2. go talk to one of the profs at your university. Find out whether they would accept you without a bachelors, if you have completed an agreed set of pre-req classes. And, a word to the wise: keep your own assessment of your level of preparation to yourself. This is a big ask, and you will not help yourself if you come across as superior.

If you’ve been working in the field already, why do you need a Master’s at all? Get a BS at a university big enough to have lots of grad level classes, take as tough and demanding courses as you can handle, get your Bachelor’s, and call it a day… you will be much more employable with a BS than without. If you still want a Master’s, go to work at a company which will pay for your advanced degree. Just because you are a “freshman” doesn’t mean you’ll need to take Calc 1 (assuming you pass the placement tests of course). No college wants you repeating material you already know, so if you’ve completed the core material in physics, chem, math, etc. you’ll just advance to harder classes immediately.