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Career path help please

  1. Mar 19, 2014 #1
    I'm 17 yrs old in high school and I'm not positive on what i want to go to school for. I'm on the fence about a diesel tech. and something in the aerospace field. As for aerospace, I thought of that as a choice because it seems like the more I see airplanes the more I get interested in them. I think aerodynamics and flying in general are pretty cool, but I wouldn't want to work on planes. I would be more interested in the testing side of things like testing a product a company designs and produces and figure out how to make it better or something along those lines, designing things is alright. I don't really know anything about this subject, I'm just winging right now(no pun intended). I'm also pretty clueless on what category or job title these interests would fall under. Aerospace Engineer?
    And if anyone knows any good schools in Michigan or Indiana for either of these careers please let me know.
    Any help is appreciated!
    Thanks, Anthony
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 19, 2014 #2
    Anthony, find a local airport and see if they're hiring for any unskilled positions over the summer. You'll learn a lot by hanging around an airport, talking to mechanics, pilots, and the like. Even if you don't want to become a pilot or a mechanic, you can learn a lot about what an aerospace engineer has to deal with.
  4. Mar 20, 2014 #3


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    Don't most engineering programmes have a first year where student only do introductory courses to help decide which specialization they want to choose?
  5. Mar 20, 2014 #4
    wukunlin, Yes, while there usually are such courses, they bear no resemblance to the reality of engineering.

    You shouldn't put the cart before the horse. Teaching students the fundamentals of engineering is great as far as it goes. It is needed. However, the fundamentals are only there to help organize the framework for an engineer to understand the work ahead. The fundamentals are essential for knowing when you are out of your realm of experience (note: this is a very serious issue for registered Professional Engineers)

    I suggest to people that they learn about the users and customers first. They do not have to master those professions or skills, merely understand where their strengths and education are. This is essential to understanding how the new thing you're designing will be received.

    That is why, if someone expresses a curiosity about Aerospace, I suggest visiting a local airport. I don't expect they'll ever design a private airplane, or even a component of that airplane. However, they need to know what pilots train in, talk about, and discuss. Some of those people they meet may be in the industry later in life.

    Likewise, for those interested in telecommunications, I recommend getting a ham radio license, listening on the air, and building radios. It is a good way to get your feet wet and gain an advance perspective of what you're about to study in college.
  6. Mar 23, 2014 #5
    I have a friend that works with luggage at my airport he makes decent money too. I'll definitely try and get in there. I think I could learn something there.
  7. Mar 23, 2014 #6


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    For what its worth, I work as a diesel tech. Now I'm going back to college for Mechanical Engineering. Not because I don't like working on engines, transmissions, and rear ends. Because the pay you get doesn't compare to the bs you have to deal with. Cancer causing chemicals, rough on your body, mediocre pay, dealing with people, gets boring when there isn't much of value to learn. It is nice to know how to work on vehicles, but if you have a hobby (drag racing, cars, etc.) you most likely wont be able to afford your own. Because everyone you know and don't know will want you to work on their vehicles for free.
  8. Mar 23, 2014 #7


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    Aerospace engineering is neither working on planes or flying them (though numerous aerospace engineers get a license on the side). In general, there are three main areas:
    • Aerodynamics and propulsion (what most people think of)
    • Materials and structures
    • Dynamics & control (what I do)
    A&P is fairly straightforward (fluid dynamics, e.g. Navier-Stokes, turbulence, Computational Fluid Dynamics, wind tunnel testing), as is materials and structures (making lighter, better, stronger, materials, e.g. composites, Shape Memory Alloys, etc., making lightweight structures that can handle the requisite loads). Dynamics & controls is modeling vehicle equations of motion and controlling that motion (think autonomous vehicles, autopilots, making unstable systems stable, etc.)

    You might find flight test engineering interesting.

    University of Michigan has a very good aerospace engineering program.
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