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Biggest differences between aerospace and mechanical engineering?

  1. Jan 29, 2012 #1
    I've recently considered going back to college for engineering. What are the biggest differences in aerospace and mechanical engineering other than aerospace being focused on air born objects? I think I've really taken an interest on the side of aerospace engineering.

    If you are an aerospace engineer what do you do?
    What do you like most about your job?
    How did you find the coursework throughout school, easy, difficult, challenging?

    Thanks, just trying to get some insight!
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  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2012 #2

    I was an mechanical engineer in undergrad and now I am getting my phd in aero. To be honest you pretty much said it all in you post. Aerospace engineers focus on air born objects. So the only difference is that mech is just much broader than aero but many of the concepts you learn in your core classes are the same. I always say if you are unsure then do mech because it is so broad you have more options in terms of jobs. It is probably easier for a mechE to get an aero job then it is for an aeroA to get a mech job. Keep in mind that what I am saying is assuming you are interested in the fluids/thermal/aerodynamics side of things. If you are more interested in controls, structures, or space then what I say may no be true.

    As far as course work. Each major would take core classes in structures, fluids, dynamics, circuits and math.

    A mechE would take a thermodynamics course and an aeroE would likely take a compressible flow course.

    MechE would probably take courses about manufacturing proccesses, vibrations, heat transfer to name a few.

    AeroE would take courses about propulsion, aerodynamics, controls...

    The senior design courses would also be pretty different, at least in terms of the type of project.

    But each major could easily take elective courses that are normally taken by the other major.
  4. Jan 29, 2012 #3
    Arrogance. :wink: At least that's what I see at my school.
  5. Jan 29, 2012 #4
    thanks everyone for the feedback. I'm kind of on the fence so I might be leaning toward mechE. Not sure yet. I think aerospace comes off as a little more interesting to me, but I think it's because I'm not really aware of what job possibilities are out there.

    DrummingAtom.. which side would you consider arrogant at your school? haha
  6. Jan 29, 2012 #5
    At my school, aerospace students take both, but the thermodynamics course is more watered down than the one presented to ME students. However, I lucked into getting a really good thermodynamics professor who focuses on derivations instead of just computations, so I don't think I'm being shortchanged at all.

    OP: I honestly don't think there's a significant difference, except some minor differences in coursework. An aero student will focus more on fluid flow analysis (for instance, my compressible flow class is a two-semester ordeal, with the first focusing on low-speed flows and the other on high-speed flows). An ME student gets more experience in heat transfer. Beyond that, I think the two are essentially identical, but I would love to hear from some of the more experienced folks on whether they would accept an aerospace engineer as functionally equivalent to mechanical engineers for purposes of research or employment.
  7. Jan 29, 2012 #6
    Aerospace, mainly because our school is well known for aerospace. It's top 10 and very competitive. So when kids make it in the aerospace program they tend to hold their heads higher. But the jokes on them because everyone knows electrical engineering majors work on the coolest stuff. :cool: Hahah, kidding.
  8. Jan 29, 2012 #7
    Thanks for the input, much appreciated. I would love to hear too! My father is a program manager (25+ years) at Lockheed Martin so I'm in the process of talking to him right now of which area of study would be a smarter idea in his opinion job wise. I'll let you know what he says.
  9. Jan 29, 2012 #8
    Pff, you're just sad 'cause you don't get laid ten times more by being able to say "I'm a rocket scientist. Literally."
  10. Jan 29, 2012 #9
  11. Jan 29, 2012 #10
    My dad said MechE or industrial would be anyones best bet job wise because like someone said it would be easier to get a job in aerospace with a mech degree than it would the other way around. so many areas jobs wise open for mechE.
  12. Jan 29, 2012 #11
    Rofl.. See my first post. Haha
  13. Jan 29, 2012 #12


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    Haha...It doesn't work when the only girls you know are also rocket scientists.
  14. Jan 29, 2012 #13
    Dude: "Hey baby"
    Chick: "Hi :D"
    *mindless chit chat*
    Chick: "So what do you do?"
    Dude: "I'm a rocket scientist, baby. I can take you to the Moon..."

    *four hours later*

    Chick: "Okay, so to get to the Moon, we need a reasonable approximation of the change in Earth's acceleration as the rocket leaves orbit! g can be expressed in terms of s through the following integral..."
    Dude: "sigh"

    (This is probably going off-topic now, but seriously, I think we've covered the question nicely, though I'd still love to hear an answer to my previous question from someone in a hiring position :))
  15. Jan 30, 2012 #14
    my dad said in his experience that he would pick a meche over an aeroe
  16. Jan 30, 2012 #15
    I work in an Aerospace position and my degrees are in Mechanical. Mechanical is a little broader like folks have mentioned. That's why I chose it over Aerospace. It was a matter of having more options available just in case.
  17. Jan 31, 2012 #16
    I'd have to say that, in general, the subject matter overlaps quite heavily. Aerospace engineers tend to be a bit more specialized and IMO that should be better left to graduate school if you intend on pursuing a graduate education.

    It's my experience that the ME degree gives you better understanding of the fundamentals (thermo. for instance) and you still get to choose a few electives which can concentrate in aero. I think in either case your abilities will be more telling of your job opportunities than the degree conferred.

    Full disclaimer: I'm have a BSME, a MS (computational engineering), and am finishing a Ph.D. in the same field. It's quite interdisciplinary and my studies focus heavily on multi-species (reacting) flow in CFD. Haha. Rocket science! My wife sometimes describes what I do that way to her friends. I wouldn't make an introduction that way, however. It never turns out very well unless stated with a flavor of good humor.
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