Aerospace/mechanical engineer/engineering student help wanted

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Hi everybody-

I've been having trouble choosing between aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering for a long time now and now that I'll be leaving for college (Virginia Tech) soon a certain sense of urgency has spurred my desire to find as much background on the concerned topics as possible.
I was wondering if any mechanical or aerospace engineers or engineering students could help me out? Perhaps relay personal experiences or advice on the topic...?

My problem is that I'm really worried that I'll be missing out on certain important topics if I pursue one discipline rather than the other (just as far as the university degree programs are concerned).

I've gotten all the seemingly stereotypical responses ("do what interests you" and "give it time") and I'm very thankful for the help, I'm just starting to wonder if there is some method or idea I could use to sleep at night... haha...
(yeah I know I'm starting to worry about this a little too much I guess...)

I guess my question is somewhere along the lines of "With a bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering will I be more/less qualified than a person with a mechanical engineering degree (and vice versa)?"

I'm very interested in aircraft design, but I'm also very interested in the design of renewable energy systems and resources. Generally does a bachelor's degree in one or the other (mechanical or aerospace engineering) bar me from pursuing a career in both of these fields?
I'm under the impression that an aerospace engineering major gets more background in fluid mechanics/aerodynamics and vehicle dynamics- while a mechanical engineering major may get a more "diverse" background (in anything from FEM to structural design and vehicle dynamics) -- Is this true?

At this point I've heard some talk stating that an aerospace engineering major can pull off anything a mechanical engineer can do, as well as other statements implying that aerospace engineering is just a sub-discipline of mechanical engineering and is therefor more imited in application. I'M SO CONFUSED!!!
Looking at the classes at Virginia Tech offered in both majors, the ones in the aerospace engineering program seem to hold my interest more than the mech ones do. The problem is that, as an engineer, I don't want to "put myself in a box" and I really believe in the power of drawing from many different and diverse sciences to accomplish a task (in this case the design of whatever it may be that im working on). I'm concerned that aerospace engineering doesn't draw on a wide enough scope of other applicable ideas and fields (or atleast not as extensive as what mechanical engineering calls into play). Then again-- I've also heard that an aerospace engineer has to do some of the most creative and stringent engineering and design as well (since many times the design criteria is so harsh and unforgiving -- by this I mean the vehicle has to fly- potentially into space...). I'm just not sure what out of this sounds accurate.

I'd really appreciate any feedback, preferably from those of you in one of/both of the fields (aerospace and/or mechanical eng).

Sorry for the long post- and thanks for any help!

Disclaimer: I'm a mechancial engineer and this may bias the following response.

To be honest, when it comes to an engineering degree there are a number of subjects that all engineering students must complete. So you can usually start any of the streams and then transfer to a "major" later down the track - 2nd year (this is the case in Australia, i've no idea if this is the same in the US).

Once you've had a chance to get a good cross section to the subjects on offer for each stream you can make a more educated decision as to what better suits you.

My opinion is that Mechanical is much, much broader. You learn a greater spread of differing subject streams. Some may say that makes you a jack of all trades and master of none, however it does place you in good steed to learn what you want... i.e. it gives you a place to look to solve a greater cross section of subjects.
As stated in the disclaimer, i'm a mech. eng. but that doesn't stop me from learning more about other eng. streams - i'm currently doing some research on electric cars (i completed very few electrical/electronics subjects at uni, however i know the fundamentals and the "way you think" that you're taught in engineering allows you to teach yourself to a certain degree).

On the Aerospace degree, you're dead right about the need for specialising in fluid mechanics, particularly high speed fluid mech.

I firmly beleive that if you're a good engineer you can probably get a job in any 1 of the many streams... you're prob more likely if you're going for one that you're qualified for though i guess.

Mechanical is certainly the most broad of streams, a good example of this is the people that i finished university have ended up in the following positions (all of which completed mechanical or mechatronic degree):

- mine site analytical equipment supplier design engineer
- wind turbine, renewable energy design engineer
- consulting mechanical engineer
- race engineer
- acoustics engineer
- project engineer

so you can see there's a pretty diverse field that you can end up doing mechanical. But if Aerospace particulary interests you then do that!!

I guess the most important thing is that you don't make the decision based on what someone else is pressuring to do.

I think the best thing to do is to just start an engineerig degree (no specific stream in mind) and get a feel for what interests you.


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A degree in one won't make you "more qualified" than the other. A degree in one won't exclude you from job prospects in the other field.

Both courses (at most universities) are very similar, with a lot of common modules. If you don't have a particularly strong interest in planes, jet engines, aerospace systems or flight, choose mechanical.

Either way, most places will let you switch between aero and mechanical after 1/2 years if you decide you've really made the wrong decision.
Just wanted to add a really, really basic reply.

I started off doing Aerospace engineering (Y1) and loved it loads!

Got chatting to a top brass at a UK Aero Engineering company and they said that Aerospace can be too limiting, even if applying for an Aerospace job.

He went on to say that the top people and project managers are more or less all mechanical engineers as they understand a wide variety of eng topics, where as aerospace is more of dynamics (thermo fluids/dynamics).

So following this, i went into Mech Eng, and i HATE it. Its just maths, mechanics and physics all in one. Nothing is applied to nothing and its boring (for me) as its not applied to anything like an aerofoil, or fusselage or etc.

My key interests are fluids and dynamics, so i would have been 100% better sticking with Aero Eng.

Its going to be different at all Uni's i would guess. But at mine, the difference is Mech Eng is not applied to anything, and is very heavy and covers solids and materials in far greater depth and just is not as much of a pleasure to study as aero eng.

A nice degree surfacing here is System Engineering, which takes a range of all engineering diciplines, and focuses on an application, you can choose aerospace, automotive, energy and something else.

If you know you want to get into aerospace, and prefer the design and topics around dynamics and fluids and propultion then i would go with aerospace.

If you dont know what you want to do, then go for mech eng, or if you would rather be doing structures of aircraft or mechanical componants such as landing gear then i would say Mech Eng would be the best too.

Or, do a combined degree with Join Aero Mech Eng, or do a Major and Minor.

Everyone is different, so take a look at what each course covers and see what you have more of an interest in. Or you'll end up like me, on a course that i hate and can do nothing about unless i drop back a year.


Science Advisor
I am an ME working in aerospace. From what I have seen in my few days, I am glad I went with ME. There are few positions I have seen that can not be filled by an ME. Personally, I agree with the advice given to you in that ME is much more broad and will serve you better.

That being said, I can't agree with the notion that an ME course is all theory and no application. That will be a product of your school. I had plenty of real applications in my schooling.

What I would say right now is:

1) You are an incoming freshaman. You have time to make this decision because you will probably not have any real pure engineering classes in your first two years. Use this time to research your school's programs and try to tailor your classes so that you stradle the fence until you get some more information under your belt and make an educated decision. In college, YOU are in charge of your course load.

2) In your research, I think you will find that you can tailor a general degree program to your interests. In my school, the ME course could have concentrations in Fluids/Thermo, Design and Manufacturing. Look into how you may be able to tailor your degree program to your interests. You will be surprised what you can take.
Why not just get both degrees? It shouldn't be too difficult since there is so much crossover between the two subjects. My school encourages students to get a B.S. in mechanical after getting their B.S. in aerospace.
Brian what is the name of your university please kindly send it to my PM
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Im seriously looking for university that offers dual degree on both aero & mech eng or some sort of alternative. im from nigeria
Last edited by a moderator:
Im seriously looking for university that offers dual degree on both aero & mech eng or some sort of alternative. im from nigeria
A lot of departments lay out Mechanical and Aerospace under one umbrella. These are usually abbreviated MAE (Mechanical/Aerospace Engineering).
Just Google MAE department and you will find a plethora of schools with this structure.

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