Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Mechanical or Aerospace engineering?

  1. Mar 6, 2006 #1
    High, I'm a high school senior who is just starting to have to pick which college I go to, and what to major in. I know that I want to become an engineer, but the question is exactly what kind. I always wanted to become an aerospace engineer, I know I want to work in the aerospace industry. But when I was talking to some people at different colleges, it would seem like mechanical engineering is a better option. According to some people, more and more aerospace work is being done by mechanical engineers, and mechanical engineers have an advantage in being able to find work outside of the aerospace industry if they have to. I'm very confused about which to choose; I know I want to do aerospace, but if mechanical engineering is a smarter choice than I would go with that. I'd just like to hear some more opinions from people with experience. Thank you.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 6, 2006 #2

    enigma

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    From what I've seen, aerospace engineers can find work as mechanical engineers as well. They are similar enough that we have the two listed as a single forum.

    The only differences will be the focus in your last two years. As an AE major, you'll have more specialized courses over a range of topics (controls, fluid dynamics, vibrations, Propulsion, FEM, etc.) and only one or two engineering electives. As a Mech E, you will take more fundamentals classes and then have some freedom to select what areas you want to focus in.

    You mileage may vary based on what school you decide on. Talk to advisors in both majors at the school you end up deciding on and see what they recommend.

    ( and remember: Aerospace engineers build. Everyone else builds targets. )
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2006
  4. Mar 6, 2006 #3

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I would agree with enigma. Aerospace/aeronautical engineering is a specialized version of mechanical engineering.

    Both deal heavily with structures, fluid mechanics, and thermodynamics, and various special applications therein.

    Modern gas turbine power plants are based on aeroderivative (aircraft) turbines.

    Of course there are special applications like spacecraft, rocket propulsion and hypersonic aerodynamics which would not be covered in a general mechanical engineering program.

    If possible, do both, or pick one with a minor in the other. Compare programs at a university, and perhaps the first two years contain considerable overlap. Then finalize one's plans in the junior or third year.

    Also, I strongly recommend courses in materials and metallurgy.

    And if possible, look at courses in mechanics of materials, finite element analysis (FEA) of structures, and fluid mechanics and computational fluid dynamics (CFD). People with a strong background in materials, FEA and CFD are hard to find, and anyone with those skills will have job security for a long time to come.
     
  5. Mar 7, 2006 #4

    FredGarvin

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I know a lot of guys that are ME's in undergrad and MS in aero. They are really starting to get closer together these days.
     
  6. Mar 7, 2006 #5
    That's really the problem, Aerospace and mechanical engineering are getting so close. Some people I have talked to have said that an aerospace degree is kind of a dead end because all the work can be done by mechanical engineers. This is a big question for me because it will have a big impact on which college I pick.
     
  7. Mar 7, 2006 #6

    brewnog

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    If in doubt, I'd pick the one which most closely describes what you're currently interested in. Job-wise, it won't make any difference at this stage what you choose. If you pick a university where aero and mech courses run side-by-side (most, I think), then you'll have no problems switching half way through if you decide you're on the wrong programme.
     
  8. Mar 7, 2006 #7

    FredGarvin

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    You can still select either one and you will have plenty of electives to select during your college career. Try to be wise with your selections and play both sides of the fence. Even though you'd have the degree of one, you can always explain in an interview how you studied in both. If you can do a minor, that would be a great thing
     
  9. Mar 7, 2006 #8

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    It depends on one's specialty.

    Aerospace and Mechanical have always been close. IIRC, some aerospace departments are actually part of the Mechanical Engineering department, as in Mechical and Aerospace Engineering, e.g. Cornell!
    http://www.mae.cornell.edu/

    And Princeton!
    http://mae.princeton.edu/

    So in those cases, one could tackle both in the first two years, and then decide a specialty.

    Straight mechanical is perhaps more generic. Aerospace is fairly tight right now because the airlines are in trouble, the Department of Defense (DOD) is constrained with respect to budgets, and NASA is more constrained than the DOD.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2006
  10. Mar 13, 2006 #9
    I've never come across such confusions. But what I believe is that, even if Mechanical Engineers can do a sort of "aerospace engineering" job they are not given much preference as compared to aerospace engineers. Its like you preferably going to a dentist for a tooth ache rather than normal Doctor!!:smile:
     
  11. Mar 13, 2006 #10

    Astronuc

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I would not draw the comparison and say the difference between a Mech E and an Aero E are the same as doctor vs dentist. The difference between ME and AE is more like a general surgeon vs specialist, or internist vs specialist.

    I recommend any engineer try to diversify one's skills. The aerospace industry has its ups and downs, but so can mechanical engineering. It depends the industry in which one is employed - so be flexible.
     
  12. Mar 27, 2006 #11

    J77

    User Avatar

    From my experience:

    As others have said, the degrees are very similar.

    Most likely, you will share the same courses for the first couple of years - then go on to specilise (a bit more) in the final years.

    fwiw (and purely, impe), aerospace engineering has higher quality students - which generally means you'll get pushed along harder and acheive a better grade.
     
  13. Mar 27, 2006 #12

    FredGarvin

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I think that one deserves a :rofl:
     
  14. Mar 28, 2006 #13

    J77

    User Avatar

    Because you're an Aero? :confused: :biggrin:

    (I've taught a lot of both in the past.)
     
  15. Mar 28, 2006 #14

    FredGarvin

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    No. Because I am an ME working in the aerospace industry.
     
  16. Mar 29, 2006 #15

    J77

    User Avatar

    Ahhh - the exception.
     
  17. Mar 29, 2006 #16

    FredGarvin

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Actually, there are a lot of us. Maybe we just keep quiet to hide our true identities.
     
  18. Mar 29, 2006 #17
    How is it working in that industry FredGarvin?? Is it exciting? Interesting? Do you get to go into space?
     
  19. Mar 29, 2006 #18
    Astronauts go into space, not Aerospace engineers. :rofl:
    In the past, they were test/experimental pilots for the military. Now it is a mix of scientists/engineers/pilots.
     
  20. Mar 29, 2006 #19
    I would chose Mecanical Engineering, otherwise who knows what job you will be able to perform; because is not just what we want to be, It is more important to recognize what we are able to do.

    Jose Leonidas Mejia
    Architect SCA
     
  21. Mar 29, 2006 #20

    FredGarvin

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I just work on the engineering end of propulsion. I don't get to go into space (not that I wouldn't jump at the chance). I love the industry. Being from the Detroit area, I consider myself to be EXTREMELY priveledged to be working in the aerospace industry considering the automotive industry dominates everything here.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?