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Aerospace Engineering vs. Mechanical Engineering

  1. Jan 13, 2013 #1

    I’m a freshman engineering student at CU Boulder and I'm currently majoring in mechanical engineering, but I am seriously considering making the switch to aerospace engineering. I had a 4.0 GPA for the fall semester, but obviously that is not with very difficult classes (calculus, chemistry, physics, etc.). I am planning on doing Space Grant and trying to get internships in aerospace even if I stay in MCEN.

    My ultimate goal is to work in the aerospace industry since that is what I really love. I’m a huge space and aviation nerd and I love the idea of working in that area. If I ever had the chance to be an astronaut I would do it in a heartbeat.

    One of my concerns about majoring in ASEN is the high degree of specialization and the somewhat uncertain job outlook. I like the idea of having a broad base of knowledge and a multitude of options even outside of the aerospace industry, which is the reason I’m in MCEN. As much as I love aerospace, I am 18 and it is difficult to know how I will feel when I'm 40. I don’t want to get stuck in some awful defense job if the aerospace industry takes a plunge.

    In addition to that, I would prefer to work primarily on the hardware side of things, and I am somewhat deterred by the amount of software in ASEN. I also feel like a 4 year degree in ASEN is not very applicable since the aerospace industry is extremely multidisciplinary, and no single person is possibly going to know how to do everything. Other than aerodynamics, it seems to me that a specialist in any one discipline (mechanical, chemical, electrical, computer science, etc.), would have the edge over an ASEN major.

    Ideally I would like to do BS MCEN and MS ASEN. However at CU we have an extremely strong ASEN program (top 10), while our MCEN program is only in the top 40. CU also offers a 5 year concurrent BS/MS program, which is extremely appealing to me, but has to be within the same department. If I stay in MCEN I am unlikely to be accepted to the ASEN program when I graduate since CU’s ASEN grad school is 4th in the nation (above MIT). The ASEN advisor is strongly encouraging me to switch to ASEN since it would be much easier to do my MS.

    I have until April to make my decision. I have it set up so that all my credits transfer regardless of which major I choose. Right now I'm about completely split on what to do. I apologize for the length of this post, but any insight would be greatly appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2013 #2


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    You can certainly make a good career in aerospace without a ASEng degree. Any engineering speciality is fine.

    Your engineering education doesn't stop when you leave university. You will pick up a lot of stuff from specialists in other fields along the way. In fact you will probably be working with people who are specialists in things that you never even heard of at university - and after a few years you will probably be one of them yourself.

    As for the "amount of software in ASEng", it depends very much what you end up doing. If you are working on multi-disciplinary computer simulations, you could spend close to 100% of your time writing and using software if you wanted to do that. On the other hand there are test engineers who are hardly involved with software at all, except for using computers to store the measured data, etc.

    As for the ranking of your courses, it might make a bit of difference in getting your first job, but you will soon get to the point where people look at what have actually done, not what college you went to. Provided your course is in the top half of the rankings, I wouldn't lose any sleep over whether it's ranked 10th or 40th.
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