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Differences between engineering disciplines

  1. Jan 29, 2014 #1
    Hello, I am a high school student and I am having trouble differentiating the different engineering disciplines, notably mechanical + civil engineers. What would be a job that one of these could get, and the other that one could not? I am aiming at a BS in Aerospace engineering, because I have a dream of building rockets or satellites or working for NASA some day. I am aware that aerospace is generally a subfield of mechanical, but people that design these aircraft/spacecraft are using "structural engineering" which is supposedly a subfield of civil engineering.

    I have read the sticky, but I am still a bit confused on this matter. I want to design aircrafts and spacecraft and what not but the breadth all of these fields seem to encompass are confusing me. Can someone explain this to me? Thank you
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2014 #2

    Meir Achuz

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    I think ME would give you more options with NASA.
  4. Jan 29, 2014 #3


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    There are aerospace majors that allow you to specialize in aerodynamics, space structures, controls, and so on. try them out.
  5. Jan 29, 2014 #4
    In Mechanical you can study fluid dynamics and thus propulsion, flight, aircraft wing design, wind tunnel computer simulations or building the real thing :)
  6. Jan 29, 2014 #5
    So mechanical engineering is more suited to my goals?

    Glad I finally joined these forums. Astronomy is my dream and theoretical physics is amazing but the atrocious job market for PhDs has been steering me to more "practical" majors that I can apply to more "practical" jobs while still allowing me to potentially be able to chase my dreams in space.
  7. Jan 31, 2014 #6
    Aerospace Engineering is pretty much derived from Mechanical Engineering. Starting out with a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical Engineering will give you broad accessibility to many different careers paths related to the aerospace industry. You could follow that up with a graduate degree in Aerospace Engineering to really specialize.
  8. Feb 1, 2014 #7
    The advice I received many years ago was essentially this:

    "If you do not know which engineering discipline to enter, then go for Mechanical Engineering. It is the broadest course of study. The first two years of any discipline is generally the same. That gives you two years to explore & discover what interests you. From there (ME), one can change disciplines or take specific courses that allow you to specialize."

    And I have found it to be very much like this.
  9. Feb 20, 2014 #8
    There is a poor joke concerning the differences between mechanical and civil engineers among people who worked in weapons work.

    Background: Civil Engineers construct bridges, buildings, parks etc.
    Mechanical Engineers (may) make rockets, missiles, helicopters etc

    The joke goes what is the difference between mechanical and civil engineer?
    Answer: Mechanical engineers make weapons and civil engineers make "targets".

    Well I already said it was a poor joke.
  10. Feb 20, 2014 #9
    I think Mechanical particularly Aerospace Engineering or Electrical Engineering is more in NASA's interest.
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