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Aerospace Engineering(Structures) question

  1. Nov 19, 2009 #1
    Lockheed Martin was at our school last night giving us an overview of what an aerospace engineer mainly does and what subdisciplines include such field like structures, propulsion, program management etc.

    I found the area of Structures quite interesting, especially after taking Engineering Statics i became quite fond of it.

    My life plan kinda goes like this, When im done with my ME Degree with a specialization in AE, i want to continue graduate studies in Structural Engineering. After working 10+ years in any aerospace company i would like to return to work with my dad and help him out with his construction company doing structural plans and analysis.

    After the conference was over last night, i approached the Structures expert from Lockheed and asked him if one can work in structural designs of bridges/buildings after studying aerospace structures. He told me "yeah, If you can do Aerospace Structures which is harder you can do bridges/buildings. So if you have a business plan go with structural engineering as graduate but if you want to become a scientist go with aerospace engineering as a graduate. "

    Now i ask, is this true ??

    Can i move from the aerospace industry to a "civil engineering" industry if i have that academic preparation?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2009 #2
    You'll basically be starting over if you switch. Designing aircraft qualifies you to design aircraft. If you want to do construction, why not just go that route?
  4. Nov 19, 2009 #3
    It's not like im going to act as a "civil engineer", structural analysis is structural analysis is would say...
  5. Nov 19, 2009 #4
    Not really. You may or may not pick up some similar methods in aerospace, but someone with 1 year of experience in civil would probably be in better shape than you with your 10 in aero. Also, if this weren't your dad's business, you'd have a very hard time making the switch. Why should a company pay you the salary of an aerospace engineer with 10 years of experience when they can pick up some cheap new guy with the same experience level?

    You would also have an issue with the Professional Engineer designation. If you major in mechanical and get a PE in that field, you would not be licensed as a Professional Engineer for structural design. In construction, that is a big deal.

    What's the point of doing aerospace if it's not where you want to be?
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2009
  6. Nov 19, 2009 #5


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    I believe it would depend on the State. I'd check with your State Board.


  7. Nov 19, 2009 #6
    Ah, you looked at a state site :smile:. I checked the national information. There are different PE exams for mechanical and structural engineering. The structural exam tests bridges and buildings etc. I believe that pretty much any type of work that an ME would be doing in aerospace would be mechanical rather than structural, per the exam content.

    It looks like you may be able to pick up relevant experience and qualifications after switching, but the experience and exam for aero engineering (mechanical) would not directly apply to structural.
  8. Nov 19, 2009 #7


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    I can't imagine that I would want to "downgrade" to analyzing buildings after being in the aerospace industry for 10 years.

    My advice: if you want to analyze buildings, get a job in that. If you want to be in aerospace, go that route (it's more competitive). The only crossover between the two disciplines is basic stress calculations; beyond that, they're miles apart. The materials and methods used in each area are completely different, and the design constraints and practices are completely different as well. Aerospace structures are all about high strength to weight ratio metals, weight optimization, dynamic loading, fatigue limits, etc. etc. Civil engineering structures on the other hand use materials like cement that behave completely differently under stress, you have to pay close attention to conforming to codes for the city, county, federal, etc.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2009
  9. Nov 19, 2009 #8

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    This is particularly so as a PE designation has pretty much zero worth in aerospace engineering but is absolutely essential for civil engineering.
  10. Nov 19, 2009 #9


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    It is not unheard of, of people going this route. Although I fail to see why you would want your masters would be in aerospace - this is very specialized.

    You should probably stay within ME and go into the aerospace industry and see what its like first. Because an AE is just a specialized ME.
  11. Nov 20, 2009 #10
    Thanks everyone for there input.

    My ME program has a AE minor which is basically takes up the ME-Technical electives and my plan would be to Master in Structural Engineering.

    Also, i don't see the long stretch between ME/AE and Structural Engineering, prolly concrete and steel classes would be the difference and would be enforced by completing a masters degree in SE.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2009
  12. Dec 12, 2009 #11
    It takes years to develop deep intuition in a certain field. No field is harder than the other. Also, in career, it is not just about the technical aspect. You need to develop contacts and develop a knowledge of the industry. You can certainly change fields, but you would need to pretty much start from scratch again. I would suggest that you stay focused in your field of your interest, whatever that may be. You probably want to focus on learning right now. It is okay to think about what you want to do next semester, but 10 or more years is probably kind of unrealistic.
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