1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Engineering Aerospace Engineering outlook (also security clearance question)

  1. Jul 11, 2012 #1
    I've gotten most of my math, gen ed, and basic physics classes out of the way and this August I am jumping headfirst into engineering classes, either Electrical or Aerospace. Money is not a motive for me, although employability is.
    Aerospace design and rocket propulsion just seems so much more intersting to me than electrical design, but I'm trying to be realistic and practical about my decision so I have a few questions I was hoping to get answered:

    1) Am I glamourizing the actual work that an AE does? The coursework looks so much more interesting than electrical engineering coursework, but I know that AE's usually don't design new methods of propulsion everyday, play with rockets every day, etc...

    2) If I have trouble finding work in the Aerospace sector, is it still very employable elsewhere? I am usually told that I would be pigeonholing myself into a small group of employers. Yet, others tell me that it is still a degree that is very applicable all across industry. I also thought that recent successes by Space-X and others, along with the privatization of the space industry, would open up a lot of jobs, but it seems that is not necessarily the case.

    3) As a teenager and in my early 20's I got in trouble a few times. It was small, misdemeanor stuff and I had it all expunged off of my record (meaning it is erased at the local and state level and I can legally say that I never got in trouble). However, in a job that requires a security clearance, that stuff would probably show up in an FBI check. Again, it was a long time ago and I would be truthful about it, so I hope it would not affect me, but it is still something that sits in the back of my head. Do the majority of AE jobs in the Aerospace sector require high-level security clearances?

    To reiterate, I am comforable financially and I am open to moving around the country, but I also don't want to earn an AE degree and have trouble finding work in the Aerospace sector. I have many connections in the electrical field ( I was an electrician for 13 years), so I know if I earn an EE degree and strike out in Aerospace I could find work elsewhere. Ofcourse, my whole plan in going back to school was to do something that I really loved....

    Thank you for any help.
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 11, 2012 #2
    Adressing your questions:

    1) Probably. It depends on what you get into though. Don't expect to design the newest VTOL system. Do expect lots of number crunching.

    2) If you are worried about employability, check to see if your school offers an Aerospace and Mechanical dual major. Mechanical is extremely employable, even if the aero market takes a dip. The recent surge of commercial space companies is exciting (especially for aero guys), but the majority of the work that goes into getting a rocket into space is not done by aero's. It's choosing the right fuel, it's mechanical, it's ALOT of electrical and systems engineering, and it's a lot of process control and computer science.

    With that said, aero's are still plenty employable. Probably just not as much as others.

    3) As you said, BE HONEST. That is the biggest thing. You can't help it if something you did turns them off of you; sometimes that will just happen. In all likelihood, those offenses will not prohibit you from getting clearance (at least the most common clearances). However, lying about it is certain to get you rejected. I don't think most entry level jobs require clearance (though many government contracted ones do). Much of the more interesting and proprietary stuff will (mostly because they are government contracted).
  4. Jul 11, 2012 #3
    Do keep in mind that the Aerospace Engineers, more so than other types of engineering, tend to go through boom and bust cycles. Be prepared to chase some of the work around the country.

    Travis King's suggestions are right on target. I suggest getting a degree in mechanical engineering, possibly even a master's degree. It will serve you very well, if and when you decide to settle down.

    In particular, regarding Travis's third point: answer all questions as literally and truthfully as you can, while volunteering as little information as possible. Juvenile records happen. Some people learn from their mistakes. Others don't. Be honest.

    I deal with many people with less than stellar pasts. I really don't care what they did back then or even what strange things they do now as long as they are up-front and honest about what they're doing on the job.
  5. Jul 12, 2012 #4
    Thank you for the input; every bit of info I get helps out. Being an older student, I plan on picking a path and absolutely sticking to it, thus the stress to make sure I make the right decision.
  6. Jul 12, 2012 #5
    Sorry to hijack, but I am in a similar situation. I too got in trouble in my early twenty's. A DWI to be specific. Employment is something that concerns me. I was like to get a security clearance and was wondering what effect that would have.
  7. Jul 12, 2012 #6
    It is almost certainly not a problem. If you lie about though, you won't get the clearance and you will probably be fired on the spot.

    Be open and honest, that's the key.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook