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How exciting is it being an aerospace engineer? How practical?

I have been interested in engineering for a while and I am most interested in aerospace engineering. Am I better off getting a degree in electrical or mechanical engineering? And what opportunities are out there for an aerospace engineer?

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Jessica’s Answer

Hi Caelyn, I love that you're interested in engineering!

Aerospace engineering is a great field that will open up a wide array of opportunities for you. There are a plethora of large aerospace companies like NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin as well as smaller companies. Many colleges / universities have Aerospace Engineering degrees that would be specifically tailored for career in the aerospace industry. With that being said, a degree in any engineering field could allow you to pursue a job in the aerospace industry. I majored in Materials Science and Engineering and interned at UTC Aerospace.

I suggest you think about which focus interests you more - do you like working with physical parts, ensuring they move in a certain way? Or does development, power generation, or electrical design excite you more? If you work in the aerospace industry, do you want to work on the electrical sensors or the mechanical fittings? What kind of job do you want to do within the aerospace industry?

I recommend choosing your major based off of the main focus that interest you the most (i.e. aerospace, electrical, or mechanical). Your engineering major is not limiting. You can choose electives outside of your core curriculum that will help you reach your goals, and pursue internships / co-ops in the aerospace industry.

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rene’s Answer

In my organization, there are engineers with aerospace, mechanical, and electrical engineering degree. The managers look to hire bright, capable young engineers and try to match your interest to available jobs. Your degree is a starting point because you will learn new specialized knowledge for your work assignment.

Examples of work assignment to create a new airplane. There are a lot more jobs not listed.
- Aerospace engineers will draw up a wing shape. They create computational fluid dynamic analysis to predict the lift and drag performance.
- Mechanical engineers will draw up the detail parts that will be manufactured and assembled into two actual wings.
- Mechanical engineers perform stress analysis on the parts.
- Electrical engineers buy and install instrumentation that can measure performance (like air pressure, load, and speed), collect data, and display it.
- Aerospace engineers will fly on the airplane and analyze the data to see if the real airplane works as predicted.

rene recommends the following next steps:

Find mentors working in the areas you're interested in.
Some companies have "job shadow" day where you can follow an engineer around or tour different locations.

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Cynthia’s Answer

Hi Caelyn,
According to my engineer friend (who helped me answer this question), this is a great time to get into Aerospace Engineering.
There are many private companies (space x), Sierra Nevada Corp (not the beer, out of Reno) and more.
There is a revival of space missions happening. Nasa isn't your only play. Plus the military also has need for aerospace engineers.
He recommends that you look into Engineering Physics as it is a broad knowledge base. (Cornell offers a degree program). This path allows you to do a very broad study which can help you find your passion and equip you for the future.

Cynthia recommends the following next steps:

Explore schools that have broad engineering degrees (Apply Engineering Sciences/Physics)
Informational internships (or volunteer positions)
Explore what goes on a research labs. Here's a good website, www.lbl.gov

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John’s Answer

Mechanical Engineering allows the most flexibility. Every industry hires mechanical engineers. Most of the engineers at the aerospace companies are mechanical engineers. Now, if you're interested in electrical engineering, again, many industries have a need for this and adding computer programing, etc. helps as well. You can take electives to add aerospace training etc. If you're really interested in aerospace and want to work at an aerospace company then pursue this.

John recommends the following next steps:

Contact aerospace engineers via social media or through the companies and ask them more about the job.