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Aerospace For you professionals out there

  1. Oct 26, 2003 #1
    What do you do in the aerospace field?

    I am currently a 2nd year aerospace undergrad and I wanted to know what you do, and what your major was.

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2003 #2
    Aero engineering is one of those jobs where the field itself involves such megabucks that you rarely find small aero engineering companies. The big ones will take you in, put you in a graduate training scheme to "integrate" you into the company better and shuttle you away to some specialised division of their company. If that division involves work which you enjoy (you should know by now which sub-subjects in Aero Engineering you like; maybe its Aerodynamics, Structures, Materials, etc.) then good for you...Aero engineers get paid one of the best salaries in the Engineering field. If you don't like the job, then it can be a living nightmare. Most of the bigger companies have a proactive employee integration and job planning scheme where you take an active role in determining how your job should evolve to meet both your interests and the company's goals.

    Because of the nature and structuring of these large companies, you'd often find that you will only be using a small fraction of the knowledge you learned in your degree. Still, knowing the 'big' picture from your degree is important, like how you may be a structural engineer designing the fuselage a supersonic transport and come up with something wonderful that completely violates the Area Rule...only to realise that that oversight will torpedo your design.
  4. Oct 26, 2003 #3
    How beneficial would a math/physics minor, or a dual major with mechanical engineering be?

    My real interest lies in robotic/manned space exploration and the design of what goes with it.
  5. Oct 26, 2003 #4
    Hmmm...are you talking about the US system? I'm from the UK. As far as multidisciplines go, if you get into a good university, you won't have the "Jack of all trades, master of none" impression.

    My degree had sufficient overlap with mechanical engineering that with a few extra elective modules, I'm also a fully qualified mechanical engineer. To be honest, in the real world as long as your degree points you in the right direction you should be fine. Don't expect to know everything about what you're supposed to be doing when you start the job...you will always be learning and picking up new things.

    But if you're talking about double degrees, like a Physics and Aerospace engineering combo, you're probably better off picking one and doing a PhD with some relationship to the other, rather than both.
  6. Oct 26, 2003 #5
    Yes, I am talking about the US system.

    If I take 36 extra hours, I can earn a dual degree in both aerospace and mechanical engineering (that's without taking overlapping courses, which would reduce degree time).

    If I take 18 extra hours, I can get a minor in both physics and mathematics.

    As much as I like physics/math, I definitely wanted the minors. I was just curious if they had any real bearing on marketability.

    I was thinking about a PhD in some field initially, but I have no idea as to how beneficial it would be. If it got me closer to getting a job in exactly what I wanted, I would try my hardest to get it. However, if there were another route to take in order to work on human or robotic space exploration/devlopment then I would rather opt for that one.

    Thanks for the help so far.
  7. Oct 27, 2003 #6
    If you are interested in doing other majors/minors in addition to your main degree, by all means, go ahead. But try not to take so many courses until you take the final straw that proverbially breaks the donkey's back. Employers sometimes ask for your mark breakdowns by year (they do in the UK...not sure about the US, but its probably the same. Why shouldn't they?). Its alright to take extra modules/minors/etc. especially if they are challenging, so you can brag about it to your prospective employer. Its another to take so many/the hard ones until your other subjects suffer.

    Put yourself in the shoes of your prospective employer. If you wanted to advance your research as much as possible, chances are you'd want to invest in a PhD holder. Having a PhD means more than just having another degree. It shows that you have the mettle and determination to work through and advance uncharted territories (with the help of your supervisor, of course :wink:)

    If I were you, I'd go for the PhD. Keep your eyes open and speak to professors in your department (and possibly others) which you think may be involved in such work. What aspect of your course do you like? Structures, materials, computing, signals, ...? If you're in your second year, you must have some idea by now. Which one is relevant to what you want to do? Once you find a common subject, make sure you're the best in your class at it. Shouldn't be hard if you're genuinely interested in the subject and put some elbow grease to it.

    Suppose you like computing - its related to space exploration because as the exploration distances increase, the communication latency, limited by the speed of light, increases as well. At some point, for robotic probes, we will have to rely on autonomous onboard computers to think for the probe. You could write up a heuristic program to do that, but thats old fashioned any may not cover all the possibilities. Genetic algoritms are the way to go. They are self-evolving programs which adapt to the situation and improve.

    Hope this helps.
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