1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Focus of studies for spacecraft

  1. Oct 26, 2012 #1
    So, being intensely interested in space in general and more specifically in the possibilities of travel through it, I would like to ask about possible locations and courses of study to get into the engineering and design aspects of space travel. I'm especially interested in the propulsion and power generation aspects of it.

    I've got the GI Bill at my disposal when I leave the navy in a few years, so I've got plenty of time to make a decision, so I'm just hoping for are some ideas on what and where if anyone has any :-)
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2012 #2

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Graduate or undergrad?

    There are lots of great schools across the country in aerospace engineering. West to east (more or less), there's Caltech, Berkeley, Univ. of Colorado, Univ. of Texas, Texas A&M, Purdue, Univ. of Michigan, CMU, Georgia Tech, Cornell, Princeton, MIT. There are others, as well. You don't necessarily have to go to the "best" to get a top notch education.

    Sorry if I missed someone's alma mater and you think it's the best.
  4. Oct 26, 2012 #3
    Ah, right. I have some college (IU would've taken about two years worth of credits had I transferred there instead of joining up) so it would probably just be an undergrad. I don't think my math score was quite high enough to get into MIT but I've looked at CalTech and Berkeley. I've also heard good things about U of Washington. (Also, several of my target employments are in Washington, such as SpaceX)

    How important would a more advanced degree really be? I could probably finish up a bachelors rather quickly and still have some funds left over to at least get a good start on a higher degree but I also don't want to spend my life in school.
  5. Nov 8, 2012 #4
    University of Washington isn't in the top ten, but they do have a very good Controls program doing interesting work. However, SpaceX is in Hawthorne, California (and has a launch facility in Texas), not Washington.
  6. Nov 8, 2012 #5
    Well that's embarrassing. I have no idea how I messed that one up.

    As far as top ten and whatnot go, my 800 was in English, not math, unfortunately, so I'm not entirely sure how easy it will be to get into the really good schools (pretty sure MIT is out of reach for me, for example, and not solely due to SAT scores).

    I've been using US News and World Report and the Princeton Review to do research. Is there another place to look that might give better (or possibly just more specific) information?
  7. Nov 8, 2012 #6
    Washington does have some up-and-coming space companies. Maybe you were thinking of Blue Origin or Planetary Resources?

    I think that there are a lot of cool schools out there that aren't top ten which would still be doing work you might be interested in. One slightly unorthodox way to find a good program would be to look for universities who've had undergraduate teams compete in engineering and aerospace competitions, and check out the programs at those respective schools. Sometimes you'll find schools that have some very engaged and creative people but which just don't have the research faculty and facilities that it might take to put them in the top 20 of aerospace schools.

    Also make sure that you're looking at reviews for the undergraduate rather than graduate level. Sometimes schools have good graduate programs but their undergraduate programs (while not terrible) leave a little bit to be desired--too many students in huge lectures with no faculty interaction tends to be a common problem, for example.
  8. Nov 8, 2012 #7
    I have a degree in Aerospace Engineering. I just wanted to give you a heads up, getting a job in the field is extremely tough. You are up against crazy people. I'd think twice if you want to take the chance. I wish I did. Just don't get your hopes up.
  9. Nov 8, 2012 #8
    Vadar2012, would you mind elaborating a little bit more? I'm sure if you could give more details it would be interesting/enlightening.
  10. Nov 8, 2012 #9
    Natty- awesome advice, thanks a bunch.

    Vader- yeah, I don't put much stock in people mimicking Bender and saying "Dooooooooooooom!" So I would definitely appreciate some more details. I understand it might be difficult to get a foot in the door, but that's not something I'm worried about right now (as the o.p. says, I've got a few years before I even am able to start school, let alone look for a job).
  11. Nov 8, 2012 #10
    I wasn't saying Doom, I was just saying don't get your hopes up too high, the chances are extremely slim. Play it safe and make sure it's not the only thing in engineering you're interested in, becuase chances are you'll end up in a very different field. Keep the degree a broad one to help get a job in other fields of mechanical engineering. For example, if your degree just says Aerospace Engineering, mining companies in particular pass you over at the culling stage as they think it's the only thing you're interested in. I don't know what else to elablorate on, would you like to know anything in particular?
  12. Nov 8, 2012 #11
    You mentioned that you were up against crazy people; could you give more details on that? And what's your own personal experience with all of this? Obviously you've encountered some hardship in finding a job after getting an aerospace engineering degree; could you describe what's happened, and how it might be possible (if at all) to avoid some of the hurdles you've faced?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook