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Which is the best school to choose for a career as an aerospace engineer?

I am very interested in a career as an aerospace engineer. I have visited 3 schools in the mid Atlantic area that have a good reputation in engineering. When I ask each one which makes your school standout over the other ones I got pretty vague answers.

I have been told to ask questions to these schools like what is your retention rate for students interested in a career as an aerospace engineer once a student graduates? Only one answered that question in length. It is hard to try and see the future and select which path to take to get to your goal.

Besides having to be exceptional in math and physics what else can I do to raise my chances of making it in the aerospace engineering field? Is it better to work for NASA or a private company like Space X or Boeing?

I love physics and math and most of all anything to do with space. I just want to make sure I am making the right choices in my education. #aerosapceengineeringcareer #aerospaceengineering #aerospaceengineeringeducation

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Spruce’s Answer

Jonathan,
You have two good answers already, but I want to address cost. Usually in-state tuition is much lower than out-of-state tuition. In addition, if you stay in-state you're slightly more likely to find people you already know and perhaps could split the cost of renting an apartment or house. Those were my choices in Washington state: University of Washington where I went for mechanical engineering, and Washington State University where my kids went (one mechanical and one civil engineer). Penn State is the best public school for engineering (although check which campus offers it, main or specific satellite campuses) and Carnegie Mellon is the best private school. Of course all this is moot if you have enough scholarships.

With a mechanical engineering degree I worked in aerospace as a system engineer for Boeing for 35 years. Programs include spacecraft to launch vehicle integration on Titan and shuttle, space station, development of sea launch system and then four commercial spacecraft launches as mission manager, U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon development, and acting system engineering manager for P-8I India development.

My point for listing all this is that a solid mechanical, electrical, computer science, or aerospace engineering degree, and a little luck, can put you smack dab in the middle of aerospace work or many other industries. There's an old saying that unless it's Harvard or MIT, after four or five years of work, your work performance speaks louder than your school on work performance reviews.

Pick a school that you like and that you can afford, work hard, try to get an internship the summer after your Junior year or anytime really, and the world is yours. Please leave it in better condition than my generation did. Good luck.
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Ratheesvar (Theesh)’s Answer

Hey Jonathan,

As for which universities are best for aerospace engineering, I would say most lists of rankings are a reasonable place to start. You can supplement that with details of the curriculum, opportunities for undergraduate research, flexibility to choose classes in various disciplines within aerospace engineering (orbital dynamics, payload integration, etc.), quality of the research done by professors, ability to minor in other fields of study, and so on. A lot of this research can be done simply by perusing the university's website. In addition, continue trying to speak to current students and alumni to learn about their experiences.

The question you mentioned (what is the retention rate within aerospace post graduation?) is a great one. It's definitely a very difficult question to find a reliable answer to, but it's still one worth asking.

Math and physics are great subjects to be good if you're looking to study aerospace engineering. I would recommend at least surveying math (primarily calculus and linear algebra) and physics (e.g. statics and dynamics) topics beyond what you learn in high school, if it's feasible in terms of available time. Even glancing through these topics may bring some familiarity that could go a long way in your first two years at college. Additionally, programming is a very useful skill to have these skills, regardless of field of study. Picking up the fundamentals of programming (and maybe a language or two) will be very beneficial in the years to come.

As for whether it's better to work for NASA or a private company, I'd say that really depends on your area of specialization (which you'll likely identify only during your time at college/grad school) and other factors such as salary, work location, etc. That's a decision to be made towards the end of your program. Until, keep working hard and enjoy aerospace! :)

Good luck!

-Theesh Mohan

(Source: I studied aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech, which I would highly recommend)
Thank you comment icon Thank you for the information! Jonathan
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L. Najeeb’s Answer

Look at University of Michigan, University of Washington, and M.I.T. (or course)

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Deborah’s Answer

I'd recommend schools with
1. programs in the areas you want (fixed wing, space, rotorcraft, etc.). Some only do aircraft, and not space.,
2. hands on courses in machining, wind tunnel testing, etc., and
3. great co-op and career placement programs. Ask which companies recruit there, and how many students get placed each year. Plan in time for internships and co-ops. They'll give you a really good sense of what engineering is really like (and typically pay well).

Consider schools with other majors as well in case you decide aero is not what you want, or if you want more breadth. Engineering theory can be really dry. (I did aero, mechE, and art in undergrad and now work in mechanical, aerospace, robotics, and medical devices).

Above all, check how the staff and instructors support the students.
Find a place that will treat you well. Scholarships are a huge plus.

Best of luck.
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Rich’s Answer

Take a look at Virginia Tech. Great school and good aerospace program (look for schools which have their own wind tunnel - that's a pretty good sign they are invested in aerospace -https://www.aoe.vt.edu/research/facilities/stabilitytunnel.html) . Besides being a great public university in a great location, VT has a long history of producing great names in aerospace - Chris Kraft, Charles Camarda (astronaut), Homer Hickam (October Sky).

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Andrew’s Answer

Great question. Similar to Virginia Tech, take a look at Texas Tech. It is a Big 12 school that remains affordable and Lubbock, while smaller, offers a great quality of life and again, remains affordable. Tech is known as a petroleum engineering school but they do have a few astronauts that attended!! Regarding prestige, I would agree with you assessment, prestige is not a HUGE deal. Always be on the lookout for alumni support groups and from there, get to know the engineers and see who can help get internships, etc.


Thanks and good luck!!!

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