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Physics Masters in Physics enough for Aerospace Engineering?

  1. May 14, 2017 #1
    I currently have a MS in Physics and a MAT (masters in teaching - physics) and have worked the past two years as a high school physics teacher. However, I am feeling more inclined to move towards a career in engineering, particularly in the aerospace industry (rocket testing and design in particular).

    If possible, I would like to move directly into the field. This is not because I am uninterested in furthering my education, but am more concerned with how ~6 years in a PhD program would align with my other life goals. I am not ruling it out, though.

    What do the prospects look like in this field for somebody who has a MS in Physics? Is a PhD program in Aerospace Engineering necessary?

    Thanks for any input!
  2. jcsd
  3. May 14, 2017 #2


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    In a prior lifetime, I tried to go from a PhD in math to Engineering. All the departments demanded years of undergraduate engineering courses except one -- Industrial Engineering with an emphasis on Operations Research. I doubt that Aero Engineering will accept you without a lot of undergrad courses. Your experience may be different, but you should keep that in mind.

    PS. My experience of going onto Industrial Engineering and Operations Research was the best move I ever made.
  4. May 14, 2017 #3

    Dr Transport

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    If your masters is in fluid dynamics or materials, you have a shot, if not long shot. That is not to say that it can't be done, I work in an area of aerospace where the physics degree is helpful, but there is very little academic training out there, you just have to fall into it.
  5. May 14, 2017 #4
    Thanks for the responses. I was a Mechanical Engineering student for a few years in undergrad, so I do have some experience in some of the basic courses. Un fortunately, my MS in Physics was more concentrated on the astrophysics side, so I don't have much experience with fluid dynamics (or FEA, which I assume would be immensely helpful).

    Dr Transport, can I ask what path led you to where you are now? I am looking for any path that will start me down the road towards the aerospace industry.
  6. May 14, 2017 #5


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    I also ended up in the Aero industry. pure math PhD => industrial engineering / operations research Masters => economic analysis at an airframe manufacturer => .... => flight controls => retired
  7. May 14, 2017 #6
    I mainly want to do something that is more hand-on, either in design, construction, or testing. Are there Masters programs that I might give me the experience I would need and open some doors into the industry? Would that be a route worth exploring?
  8. May 14, 2017 #7

    Dr Transport

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    Just apply. When you get in you'll get opportunities to go do other things. I worked on a couple of design programs where i got to work with CFD'ers, strength, weights, lofters, EMI/EMC, materials etc....I've done everything from design to test and analysis, build/manufacture, it is all good if you go in with an open mind and a willingness to learn.
  9. May 14, 2017 #8


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    Why not consider a lower, faster degree than a phd?
  10. May 16, 2017 #9
    That certainly is an option. However, I do not know how competitive the areas I am looking into are and what qualifications are necessary to be a competitive applicant. My assumption is that a PhD in a related field is essentially required, but I am looking for input from people with experience in this field as to what my best next steps might be.
  11. May 16, 2017 #10
    Could you actually get a PHD in engineering without getting a BS_E first? That is not a path that I have seen taken, is it possible?

    What is your bachelors in?

    The engineering world is not like acedamia. Aside from getting you through HR or whatever company policy is set up, credentials don't matter to anybody here. The focus shifts towards results.

    That being said, some engineering departments are not even allowed to hire you without an ABET accredited engineering degree.
    Your best bet, outside of getting a bachelors in engineering, is to get some industry experience. Go work as an engineer for whoever will hire you as an engineer. Then, you can use that experience to convince somebody in the aerospace industry to put their money on you instead of your (stiff) competition as a candidate.
  12. May 16, 2017 #11
    I have no idea what my prospects are regarding getting into an engineering program. My bachelors is in physics as well, although my first two years were as a mechanical engineering major. Guess I shouldn't have switched...

    I've been looking into some engineering jobs, and a bunch of them list a degree in physics as a possible prerequisite, so that is promising. I'll continue the search. I currently live in the Boston area if anyone has had any experience with places around there.
  13. May 16, 2017 #12
    It probably would not be too difficult for you to do a few undergrad courses and add a BSME to your arsenal. For the goal of progressing into an engineering career, you have a few options. The option that will progress that goal the most per unit of work or time that you put into it will be an engineering degree.

    To me, you already have a masters, and its in physics. That will be a respected decoration in engineering. Far moreso than an engineer who went back for an MBA (no offense, sellouts :biggrin: ). I'd look into getting any sort of exprience/education that you can get your hands on right now. Anything that you can use to demonstrate to a company that you would be profitable for them to hire into their engineering department. Some sort of competitive advantage that can be drawn from your physics, and some concrete demonstration that you are blossoming into an engineer is all they will need.
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