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Aerospace Engineering:Relatively good or not?

  1. Mar 13, 2006 #1
    :frown: I'm a High School junior and I've almost selected aerospace engineering as my career. But I'm still doubtful if this field is better compared to other engineering fields. I just want some suggestions from you people regarding positive and negative sides of choosing aerospace engineering as a career. I've heard much from school peers. But I need some points that are supported by strong evidence!
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 13, 2006 #2


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    Aerospace engineering can be 'iffy' these days.

    Over the past two decades, what used to be more than a dozen aerospace and defense contractors has shrunk to about 4-5 big ones - Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop-Grumman, United Technologies, and General Dynamics. There are a host of smaller companies. Then there is NASA - maybe.

    Programs can get killed without very little warning and whole groups of people can find themselves unemployed.

    The aerospace industry is somewhat cyclical, like several other industries.

    I would recommend that one diversify, so that even if one goes aerospace, take courses in other disciplines - EE, Structural Engineering, Computer Science/Engineering, or Materials Science/Engineering.
  4. Mar 14, 2006 #3


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    I agree with Astro. Pure aerospace jobs are very cyclical. A good portion of the industry depends on large contracts from the government. Like was already mentioned, programs get cancelled in a heartbeat and, in my experience, give you very little warning (although you normally hear murmurs through the grapevine).

    I would strongly recommend you go aerospace if you have two basic qualifications: 1) You love the area you are studying. If you think you're doing it for the money, think again. 2) It is a huge bonus if you think you won't mind moving around. You may get lucky and be able to stay in one spot for your career. Then again, you need to be prepared to move to where the jobs are.

    Personally, I would try to make my education as broad as possible. The more feathers in your cap the better and the more opportunities available to you.
  5. Mar 14, 2006 #4
    So would you recommend, as Astronuc said, to diversify with other areas of engineering to have more success with the same type of career?
  6. Mar 14, 2006 #5


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    Another thing, as a student, get involved in the student chapter of the engineering society of one's discipline. In Aerospace Engineering, it is AIAA. www.aiaa.org

    Upcoming AIAA event -
    24 - 25 Apr 2006 - Washington, DC
    Inside Aerospace... An International Perspective

    I belonged to several societies as a student, then later as a professional. It's a good way to keep track of who is doing what, and it looks good on a resume.

    I also like to monitor the conferences to see what technology or problem is hot.

    The societies also provide a network of contacts which is useful when looking for a job.
  7. Mar 16, 2006 #6
    What's this AIAA

    I've never heard about AIAA.
    I went to the website but I'm not able to understand its purpose well.
    Can you just tell me what are the important things that I should know about it?
    :shy: As I've mentioned before, I'm a high school junior and this is my first year in U.S. because I immigrated in US since @8 months. So, I don't have much knowledge about such organizations and their events. But, I don't want to miss my opportunities as I'm very very concerned about my career.
    -Aakash Patel
  8. Mar 17, 2006 #7


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    AIAA = American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics

    The society provides a venue for aerospace engineers to network and maintain contact. The society sponsors conferences and symposia on various scientific and technical aspects of the aerospace and aeronautical industries.

    About AIAA - http://www.aiaa.org/content.cfm?pageid=189 [Broken]
    History - http://www.aiaa.org/content.cfm?pageid=635 [Broken]


    Many of the top aerospace engineers and scientists are members. At university one can become a student member.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  9. Mar 17, 2006 #8
    Physmaster I would agree with most of what has been said here, pick Aerospace because you love it and you are willing to work hard at it not because it's "good" or can make you some decent money. Again, as has been said realize that it's the nature of the Aerospace world for money and interest to fluctuate greatly both from the Government and at corporations.

    As an AE, I have been lucky in that during my relatively short career so far (5 years) I have worked at the same desk on (generally) the same sort of work, work that I happen to love. At the same time I have technically worked for 3 different companies in those five years, a relatively small company when I started who were then bought by a larger company who were in turn bought by an even larger company last year. We still haven't been swallowed up by either of the two biggest fish but I wouldn't be surprised if it happened at some point. Luckily most of my management and co-workers have remained the same but that isn't true everywhere, during buyouts which are common occurances in Aerospace, turnover rates can be high and many times when companies are bought out they "downsize" workers, move locations, etc...

    Certainly getting involved in professional organizations is a good idea, AIAA is a good one because of the large membership, good contacts and as has been said it looks good on a resume. Diversify your knowledge, another good point. When I started my job I was a terrible programmer and was not very experienced with hardware and computer systems. Through my job and on my own motivation I have become a much better programmer and have much more experience and expertise on hardware systems and computer systems now. If I were to switch jobs or career fields I could still manage to be a halfway decent computer programmer or systems engineer. Not only does it apply to switching jobs but also it applies to different jobs still defined as "Aerospace" jobs. Many of the projects I have worked on have had engineers of all disciplines working on them so even though my title was AE, I needed to be able to work with people from other disciplines on projects which required a more broad base of knowledge. Having a more diversified background through coursework in college helped me when these situations arose.

    The bottom line is AE is a job that can be a lot of fun, fulfilling and can earn you a good living but, as with anything there are downsides. So get involved in professional societies, diversify your course work and take it upon yourself, once you get a job, to learn what the computer scientists in the lab next to you are working on and what the structural engineers down the street are building. It all can only help you in the long run. Good luck!
  10. Mar 18, 2006 #9

    Then what about NASA goavs4?
    I know that NASA is not going to be eaten up by any other company and I also know that NASA is not going to hire all AEs, it depends on opportunity and skills.
    But, what are the chances? How long can I work if I'm hired by NASA. What extra qualifications do NASA need that any other company doesn't.
    Also according to what you are saying, I have a lot of interest in many other fields and engineering. And, I always want to know that is other than my basic goal also.
    And by the way, you guys are very helpful.:smile:

    Aakash Patel
  11. Mar 18, 2006 #10
    It is meaningless to talk about your chances of getting hired at any company. It depends on what skills they are looking for and if you have those skills or not. It will depend on what you know, and what they are looking for in a hire. The length of your employment is also up in the air, even at government.
  12. Mar 18, 2006 #11


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    With respect to NASA, one's best chance is to know one or more people within NASA and actually perform research under a NASA program. Even then, 20 years ago, many students I knew had to get jobs at NASA contractors because NASA had a hiring freeze. One of my colleagues did get hired directly at NASA, but he had already worked on several NASA projects with some time spent at a NASA site during one or two summers while in graduate school.

    Cyrus is quite right. One should not think now about what a company wants or needs. Those change in a few years and are dependent on what the industry or NASA or DOD needs down the road.

    The best approach is get the skills, while trying to determine what areas in which you might be interested, e.g. structures, materials, propulsion, avionics/electronics, etc . . . .
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2006
  13. Mar 20, 2006 #12

    Like Astronc says it's usually best to know someone within NASA to be hired there. When I came out of school Aero was hitting a peak and I interviewed with NASA among others and was told they would make me an offer after the hiring freeze in 2000-2001 was lifted. I couldn't really afford to wait a few months for a job, and was considering several immediate offers anyway, so I hired on with a NASA contractor at the same center. Now, five years later, I have worked very closely with many NASA managers and engineers and of the few people who left my company during the buyouts, most are now NASA employees. So I am now in a very good position to be hired there if I chose that path not because I planned on it, but because I took the best job available and focused on my career. I would recommend you do the same, as both posters above have stated, don't try to shape the engineer you are based on the needs of today.

    For example, when I was a high-school senior we were told aerospace was a dead-end job that the people graduating from college at the time were not being hired by aerospace firms etc.... It was true, but I chose it anyway knowing the landscape could change in 4+ years and that it's what I really wanted to do. Indeed by the time I finished grad school 6 years later most of my classmates and I had to fight off companies with a stick. One of the members of my class, a girl with an excellent transcript and who had done a number of internships, had over 25 offers from around the country. So, as Astronuc says, get the skills and find your area to focus on. If you are absolutely set on trying to get hired on by NASA the #1 thing above all others is to get a Co-op job (just google coop nasa, I'm not sure how many centers have this program but JSC does). It's a lot of work and it means you will be in school longer, but it's almost a guarantee hire, not only because they will already think of you based on your work there but also because, again, you will know people well on the inside. Again, it's not a given that you can get a co-op job, just like anything there is limited space and a lot of people who are interested but if your heart is set I would certainly check it out.

    The bottom line is the same though, think first about what you really want to do and get the skills you need to do so without worrying about who you will work for and what they will want 4+ years down the road.
  14. Mar 28, 2006 #13

    OK I'm not looking too far now!:smile:
    But, I am taking ACT and SAT in June this year. Any tips for that?
    Also, for that, I have to mention in the registration, which colleges I prefer, and I have not decided about colleges even roughly. I tried some college searches on different websites, but I get confused! :confused:
    As concerning Aerospace Engin., what things I have to look for while finding colleges? I heard that I would not be allowed to select specific area of engineering(such as Aerospace E) in college till 3rd year! Is it true?
    As I said before, I'm new in US, so I face troubles very often!
    Also, I hope to get in a college such that the economy of that state(region) is good, because my whole family will move with me and so my parents can earn good while we can still stay together! (We are still setting up our lives in US.)
    - Aakash Patel
  15. Apr 5, 2006 #14
    Tips for the ACT and SAT....Study? ;-) No, seriously there are some great online tools and study guides etc... for the ACT's and SAT's now. I would look in to them, many are not too expensive and can give you a head start on the exams. It's been awhile for me, so I don't have any specific recommendations for you.

    As far as selecting a major, my college made us pick "General Engineering" or whatever it was called during our freshman year. The first year classes and many times most of the second year classes are general engineering type classes, you basically cover all the things any good engineer should know. I would be surprised if you couldn't select a specific major in engineering until your 3rd year anywhere, usually by that point you are already taking classes more specific to a particular engineering major. I believe I selected Aero as a major during my sophomore (2nd) year.

    You can look at many factors for selecting a good engineering school, and a good Aerospace program in particular. I can give you a list of schools where I know they have good Aero programs and I am sure others here could add to this list:

    Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    California Institute of Technology
    Stanford University
    University of Texas
    University of Colorado at Boulder
    University of Michigan
    University of Illinois
    Purdue University
    Georgia Tech University
    Princeton University
    University of Washington
    Penn State University
    Cal Berkeley
    Virginia Tech
    University of Maryland
    Texas A&M University
    Ohio State University
    University of Florida

    If you want to join the military you can't go wrong with the Air Force Academy or the US Naval Academy either

    There are many more that have excellent programs as well but those are among the very best.

    EDIT: As far as how to choose between schools you can consider a lot of things: Can you get into them? What do you want to focus on aeronautical engineering in particular, aerospace in general, a focus on spaceflight, other? How much do they cost? Like you said where they are and what kind of economy and job opportunities exist in that region will also be important to you so that can help you narrow the choices down.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2006
  16. Apr 6, 2006 #15


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    Check out the sites of various NASA centers to see what each is doing.

    For example - Glenn Research Center near Cleveland, OH.

    http://www.nasa.gov/centers/glenn/projects/aeronaut.html [Broken]

    Office of Space Flight or Space Operations - http://www.hq.nasa.gov/osf/

    NASA Homepage - http://www.nasa.gov/home/index.html - look for dropdown menu of various NASA Centers on lower right side of page.

    Check - http://www.nasa.gov/about/career/index.html

    And all is subject to massive change with little notice.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  17. Apr 7, 2006 #16
    Just as a note:

    NASA very rarely hires anyone who was not brought up through their student opportunities (NASA academias, GSRP, etc.) or has a very close tie to a NASA scientist (or bureaucrat) already. So if you want to work for NASA (a notion one should really, really think through), you need to get into the network early.

    Just a friendly heads up.
  18. Apr 7, 2006 #17
    How to point out differences?

    I'm already thinking of applying for Penn State at Erie. goavs4, u mentioned Penn State University. But do all of its branches have equally good Aero Programs?
    Also I found about 10 colleges which fits my considerations in a college-search-engin. I neglected a few of them but some 4-5 are confusing me (all are located in suitable regions). I mean, how can I identify about 3 of them which are most suitable for me when I have already searched by applying all the criteria?
    By the way,according to the way I think of myself, I think I am extremely good at academics, specially in science-related courses. I have almost all "A"s and about 2 "B"s. But, still I sometimes doubt if I would get good scholarships or not and doubt if I'll be able get in college of my choice or not, b'coz I may have miss-beliefs about colleges!
    How do I know which of the Univ. are good at which branch of AE?

    NOTE: I live in Ohio. (So, how about OH State Univ.???. It is in my list.)
  19. Apr 7, 2006 #18
    Thanks for making me aware of that!
    What r those student opportunities exactly? Does it start when one is in High School?!
    What is "bureaucrat"?
    What and when is the earliest opportunity to get into the "network"?
    I am :confused:
  20. Apr 10, 2006 #19
    Well the place to start with any NASA education program is:
    http://education.nasa.gov/home/index.html [Broken]

    You can look up "bureaucrat" in the dictionary and you should be able to figure it out.

    Either way, there are a lot of opportunities at NASA to get involved early. The way I started was through my states Space Grant Consortium with an undergraduate scholarship and research grant. (google your states name with Space Grant Consortium and it will show up) As far as timing... as soon as possible I would think.

    Please remember that all federal programs are extremely competitive and if you don't get it the first time you apply, apply again.
    Good luck,
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
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