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disadvantages of being an aerospace engineer


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M.C.’s Answer

Michele Owsley is spot-on. Aerospace Engineers are itinerant. That is, they often but not always have to move to another area, another town or city, or even another state to find new work when the project is done. It is NOT a place for someone seeking stable employment. Perhaps if one works as a manufacturing engineer in the aerospace industry. Some extra stability may be had if you become part of management, but you will likely cease doing much engineering in that case. Even then layoffs can affect you. Who needs engineering managers when they don't need any more engineers at present because the design is complete?

I can speak with first-hand knowledge. I have worked in the aerospace engineering field as a structural design engineer and as a test engineer for the last 37 years. I've worked first for General Dynamics, then McDonnell Douglas (now part of Boeing), Lockheed Martin, Boeing again, Sikorsky Helicopters, Boeing Again, Northrop Grumman, and many others. Each in different cities and three different US States, none of which were my home state.

That being said; It was never ever boring. Quite the contrary. But Aerospace Engineers are always looking for the next project and/or the next company that actually has a new project just about every 2 to 3 years, maybe 4 to 5 years if the company has many projects.

The big aerospace companies have many divisions, albeit often in many different states and you could stay with the same company, but may still have to relocate. Los Angeles used to have the greatest number of different aerospace companies and I believe that may still be true. Seattle, Denver, and Huntsville Alabama are cities with several aerospace companies, so consider those towns if you want to stay in one place, but you will still likely change companies several times over a career.

In Aerospace the most "stable" work is in commercial aircraft. Next is defense work. The least stable but IMHO most interesting area of the Aerospace Industry is Space. It's not like automobile work, where a new model comes out every year, and manufacturing provides steady funds for researching the next big project.

Commercial aircraft orders from airlines tend to follow a 5 to 7-year cycle with LARGE peaks and valleys. This is driven by the retirement of aging aircraft, and to a lesser extent, fuel prices and engine technology advances that bring on the potential for better fuel economy. Defense and Space are mostly driven by government budgets. Space however is becoming more "commercially driven" but it remains to be seen if private space companies can be profitable without government contracts or at all.

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Robert’s Answer

The biggest disadvantage to being and aerospace engineer is all the work you need to put into it upfront in college. The jobs themselves are exciting and rewarding and will be "easy" by comparison if you study at the right school. For reference, I revived my Aerospace degree from Georgia Tech and no job I have ever had has been as tough as that place. At the end of the day I a was better for it. Also, the best colleges will offer Internship and/or Co-Operative education opportunities which is a must in my personal opinion. There is NO "shrinking" job market as some answers may suggests. Aviation globally is in the $100s of billions and growing every year lead by the US. However, depending on what you may want to focus on job-wise, the openings may not necessarily be in the United States. Hopefully you see this as a huge plus since getting out and seeing the world is one of the major benefits we all enjoy thanks to aerospace engineers and the whole aviation community. Also, eventually these jobs will transition into Space thanks to companies leading the way like Space X, Blue Origin and Scaled Composites.

Speaking on $pay$, most aerospace jobs are middle to high earning potential (for engineering) depending on where you live/work and what you focus on career-wise. AE jobs in California pay great, but the cost of living is ridiculous while AE jobs in GA pay O.K. but the cost of living is pretty fair.

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Michele’s Answer

I am a retired aerospace engineer. I have worked in industry and government. I observed that many aerospace engineers are high paid itinerant workers. A company will design a new aircraft, hire lots of aerospace engineers, the product is tested and certified, most of the engineers get laid off. Some people thrive on this uncertainty, but it is hard to raise a family this way.

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Anthony’s Answer

The single biggest issue that I can foresee is a shrinking job market for this role. I may be wrong but my impression is that these jobs aren't that common. HOWEVER, you will learn a lot of knowledge and valuable skills in pursuing such a degree that will help you get other positions. AND if you have a passion for this area of study then you should definitely do it - there's no better work than that which you're interested in.


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