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Need some advice regarding degree programs

  1. Jul 7, 2006 #1
    Hi! I'm new to physicsforums.com and I was just wondering if anyone could give me some advice regarding a problem I've been having.

    I'll be going to college soon to pursue a degree in an engineering field, and I am having trouble pinning down the major that is best for me. For a long time now I have wanted to be an aerospace engineer, and design spacecraft, but I have become increasingly worried about the availability of jobs in this field, so I have been looking at other majors (other than aerospace engineering) that will allow me access to the aerospace field but also allow me to work in other fields as well (automotive, robotics, etc.). One of the majors that I have come across is Mechanical Engineering. I understand that aerospace engineering is a specialty inside of Mechanical Engineering. The only problem is that I am worried that I will not have access to the field I am really interested in (spacecraft design).

    Could anyone possibly supply any advice regarding this? :confused:

    I also know that I am very interested in robotics. Does anyone know which discipline, either aerospace engineering or mechanical engineering, allows me to work on designing robotic spacecraft perhaps or combines spacecraft and robotics? :confused:
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 7, 2006 #2
    I have a friend that graduated about a year and a half ago with an aerospace engineering degree from U of M. She still does not have her first engineering job. She has had offers, many offers actually, but her dream is to design a craft that is meant to travel between stars and she turned them down because she didn't feel they were stepping stones to that goal. To hear her tell it, once you take your first job in aerospace, that will be what you are locked into forever. I don't know how true this is, but others have told me the same thing about EE, that it's hard to change directions once you have a few years experience in a certain area.

    I would talk to your advisors at school, but if your dream is to work on spacecraft, I would guess you could do that through any engineering discipline. I would guess that the jobs in that area are going to be few and far between in the near future, but 5 to 10 years from now, who knows?
  4. Jul 7, 2006 #3


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    Geez, we are struggling to get to the moon and/or Mars, and thinking about traveling between stars is way off. Certainly the Voyager craft are headed out of the Solar System, but its taken about 25 years to get to that point. It will be millenia before they get anywhere near another star.
    Where do people get such ideas? :rolleyes:

    Getting one's first job does not 'lock' one down - only one's vision provides such a constraint. Performance is another factor. People who demonstrate initiative and who perform above expectation are in demand. Get 5-10 years experience, and be versatile, one can write one's own ticket.

    Does this woman have an advanced degree, e.g. MS or PhD, or just a BS?
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2006
  5. Jul 7, 2006 #4

    Dr Transport

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    Instead of trying to get your dream job immediately, try working for one of the major air-framers, i.e. Boeing, Lockeed-Martin, Northrup-Grumman etc then work your way into their space divisions......... No one is going to hire an engineer right out of school into those design type positions.
  6. Jul 8, 2006 #5


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    aeroeng212 and I were exchanging PMs. This is what I dug up as examples of what one could study in an Aerospace Engineering program. I am familiar with TAMU and UIUC, but certainly other institutions have comparable courses. There is also some links to Robotics programs of which Carnegie Mellon and Johns Hopkins are notable. NASA's robotics site has links to all university programs.

    Here is a summary of courses in Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M.

    Graduate level courses -

    University of Illinois - Aero Eng. Courses

    Do you have a particular university in mind? Your state U or a private institution? If so, I would recommend contacting the faculty. Alternatively, you could browse AIAA (www.aiaa.org), particularly conferences to see who is doing what.

    As for robotics - Carnegie Mellon's ME department has a good program - http://www.me.cmu.edu/

    and there is The Robotics Institute at CMU

    And see - http://www.stsci.edu/institute/conference/iwpss

    And this one from NASA with links to variou university programs.

    John's Hopkins has a good robotics program
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