Advice: EE to work in Aviation Industry

1. Jun 17, 2007

DefaultName

Hi, Im currently an EE and soon will be entering the workforce. My primary goal is to work for Boeing/Sikorsky/etc... for those of you that are in the industry or know of it -- what courses are absolutely crucial to succeed?

Obviously, the EE fundametals, such as circuit design, signals and systems, etc... but for those technical electives you get to choose - which will be of most value in that field?

For example, my school has these courses as upper-level electives:

* Laser Communications
* Digital Communications
* Electro-Optics
* CMOS VLSI
* Digital Signal Processing I
* Analog Circuit Design
* Control Systems II (I have to take Control Systems I, no matter what)
* Linear and Sampled Data in Control Systems
* Information Theory
* Systems on a Chip Design
* VLSI Systems Design
* Robust Multivariable Control

2. Jun 17, 2007

chroot

Staff Emeritus
Individual undergraduate courses are not going to materially affect your chances of being accepted to Boeing, or of being successful at Boeing. That said, the courses that sound most applicable are probably the communications and control classes.

- Warren

3. Jun 17, 2007

DefaultName

Oh, but if you take those courses, you'll be fit for some entry level position with a certain group, no?

4. Jun 18, 2007

mgb_phys

As chroot said, at most big companies the HR dept does the hiring - they aren't going to know what any of the above words mean. They will look at school GPA and references from the teachers.

Take courses that interest you - at entry level it isn't going to matter exactly what you know because you are soon going to realise you don't know enough about anything ;-)

5. Jun 18, 2007

ranger

I've had a bunch of engineers tell me this. It makes me so scared and confused

6. Jun 18, 2007

mgb_phys

Don't worry - a degree isn't about learning everything so much as learning how to learn!
Knowing the simple example case of a particular system isn't going to help in reality - knowing how to solve a differential equation ( or even recognising that it is a differential equation) will!

Anyway, all your co-workers are equally scared that they are going to be replaced by this young hard working hot-shot straight from a presitigous engineering program who can remember what XYZ's law is!

7. Jun 18, 2007

Staff: Mentor

Don't worry ranger, I disagree with what mgb is saying. Entry-level EE hiring is not done by HR -- they may screen the candidates initially to get to a practical number of good candidates for the first engineering interviews, but as long as you have a reasonable resume and a few key things (see below), you will make it past that first HR screening.

As I've said in other threads, it is extremely helpful for you all to have some practical experience building projects or working at internships, summer jobs, RA positions, etc. It stands out on your resume, and it also helps to show you what really is important in your studies, and what really is not all that important. Working on real projects and building things with your knowledge helps you to start to learn to "ask the right questions", both of yourselves and of your instructors.

Anyway, to the OP, I agree with chroot's comments, although I am by no means an expert in the aerospace applications of EE. However, from what I have seen from the outside, and from thinking about what kinds of projects you would work on, I would single out the following areas from your list:

(* Laser Communications)
* Digital Communications
(* Electro-Optics)
(* CMOS VLSI)
* Digital Signal Processing I
(* Analog Circuit Design)
* Control Systems II (I have to take Control Systems I, no matter what)
* Linear and Sampled Data in Control Systems
(* VLSI Systems Design)
* Robust Multivariable Control

The selections in parenthesis would be useful if you knew of projects or project teams at the company who actively were using those technologies. Do you have a pretty good idea of the different jobs that the aero companies have?

8. Jun 18, 2007

mgb_phys

I would agree that internships, clubs, projects etc are a better indication of someones interests and usefulness in a job than pure exam results.

I don't work in aerospace but any sort of control systems course is useful - it is one of the areas where some knowledge of the theory usually pays back the effort. VLSI etc isn't directly relevant in most applications because you are using bought in parts instead of making them.
Laser and digital comms is mostly a follow-the-protocol-specs area, there isn't a lot of deep background knowledge in writing to an I2C bus.

I would suggest looking at analog circuit design - all electronics is analogue and as circuits get faster RF and transmission line stuff becomes more relevent even for digital signals.

9. Jun 18, 2007

chroot

Staff Emeritus
Generally, "analog design" refers to analog integrated circuit design, not board- or system-level design.

The bottom line is that you're going to gain nothing of relevance to the aerospace industry in a class on integrated circuits -- since, as mgb says, the aerospace industry doesn't design integrated circuits.

On the other hand, planes are basically one giant exercise in control systems, so I would bone up on control theory. Communications (including avionics and radio navigation) is definitely another very large component.

The thread also seems to have overlooked another very large application of electrical engineering in aviation: power electronics. Modern aircraft have fuel cells and very elaborate power-distribution and conditioning systems that certainly take some skills to design.

There was a time when I really, really wanted to be involved in designing glass cockpits. My career has since taken me in a wildly different direction, but I wish you luck in this direction.

- Warren

10. Jun 18, 2007

Cyrus

Id agree with warren, but keep in mind that there is not much new stuff in way of controls for manner aircraft. Most of the controls work is done on UAVs these days. The bigger airplanes are working on control systems for mission sucesss. I.e., if an engine or system fails, how to optimize the flight systems still working to make it to your destination. (Reliability and Robustness).

Either way, I think you can have a lot of fun as an EE in aerospace.

11. Jun 20, 2007

DefaultName

Thanks for the all the information!!

12. Jun 30, 2007

DefaultName

Well, here's an update: I just got an internship with a company that works in aviation... it's a short one, 1 1/2 months until the middle of September. I accepted, even though it's more industrial/manufacturig engineering. I think that it'll be a good experience overall, rather than working a minimum wage job somewhere. Plus, I get to play with planes =D

13. Jun 30, 2007

turbo

All students here should heed mgb_phys's words. When I was a process chemist in a pulp mill, the company would hire CEs, MEs, etc, directly out of school (paying them a lot more money than me) and I had to spend a good deal of time educating them about the mill's processes, process control systems, functional bottlenecks (sometimes hard to quantify, but BIG  in a manufacturing environment), and on and on. Much of what you will need to thrive as an engineer in a manufacturing environment, you will have to learn as you go. Much will be rather general, but industry-specific, much will be specific to your location/plant, and a surprising amount will turn out to be specific to a particular project or process. When you hit the job market, don't expect to breathe a sigh of relief and stop the intensive learning of school - the learning is going to continue and depending on your boss/supervisor you may be introduced to some forms of motivation that you're not accustomed to. The best thing a prospective engineer can do for themselves is secure summer internships in their target industry, or a related environment. My nephew did this, performed well, learned a lot of valuable job skills, and had several nice offers on the table by the time he graduated.

14. Jun 30, 2007

turbo

That's great! Especially if you are fortunate enough to be assigned to assist an engineer with interesting projects who will give you some responsibility and some goals to meet.

Last edited: Jun 30, 2007
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