# New university student in aerospace engineering program

InfernoSun
Hello, I have enrolled in aerospace engineering at university and I am trying to figure out what kind of jobs I'm going to be training for specifically. Does anyone have a hint?

## Answers and Replies

DuncanM
Instead of asking a question like that, you should be asking yourself what job do you want? (Don't passively just prepare yourself for whatever training you might get. )

What gets you excited?
What kinds of posters hang on your walls?
Do you build models? If so, what kinds?
What Internet sites do you have bookmarked?

If you don't have posters of the F-22 on your walls and airplane models in your room, and if you don't have space.com (and similar sites) bookmarked, I would tend to wonder if you are genuinely interested in the field of aerospace engineering. Don't do it just because it sounds impressive. You are going to have classmates who eat, sleep, and breathe aerospace, and their enthusiasm will help them throw themselves wholeheartedly into their studies.

If you, indeed, are one of those people, you still have many choices to make within the field of aerospace. Do you want to work on aerodynamics, propulsion, celestial mechanics, human physiology, etc. There are so MANY aspects of research relevant to the aerospace field, it is up to you to decide what role you want to play to move forward humanity's steps into space.

What do YOU want?

Regards,

DuncanM
http://www.rocketscientists.ca/

InfernoSun
But employers are so rare that it's hard to figure out what THEY want!

You're not going to be training for a specific job. You are going to be taking a bunch of classes in engineering and then more specific to your area of interest. It will give you a broad background and general understanding of the field you wish to go into. The majority of your real learning will be once you get a job. Of course there's no gaurantees that you will end up working in your chosen major field of study. It all depends on you.

You'll hopefully have some good guidance from profs and such during your stay at the university. Use them. IMO, the best you can do for yourself is to be a good student, get good grades, and in your senior year, be a part of a great project.

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InfernoSun
But there must be a specific job, otherwise there wouldn't be a profession called "Aerospace Engineer". It's got a National Occupation Code and everything. Such a job must exist. Or... maybe it's the university program that still exists, while the profession has become obsolete. I can't find a job ad for aerospace engineers requiring less than 10 years experience. Why is that? Maybe I should switch to something else.

Homework Helper
Gold Member
What country do you live in?

InfernoSun
I live in Canada.

DuncanM

In that case, after you graduate from a reputable university as an aerospace engineer, you will probably end up waiting on tables or driving a taxi.

I am curious: in what university are you registered?

Regards,

Duncan

rocketboy
Hi,

I am in my final high-school year in Ottawa (Ashbury College) and plan on going into aerospace engineering. I too would be greatly interested in knowing where you are enrolled and what kind of grades you had that allowed you to be accepted.

As for your question, I have done a lot of research and have decided that when I get out of university I'm going to the US...that is if I'm not already there for university. I think you'll be able to find jobs in Canada as an aerospace egnineer as well though, Canada's aerospace industry isn't that big, however it did play a huge role alongside NASA in preparing Discovery for flight, not to mention the robotic instruments used. I forget the companies that built them, however I have a feeling that they would likely be looking to hire new aerospace engineers as the industry and the demand for Canada's talent in the field is growing.

Check out the CSA website, maybe they have some more information.

Samba
Response

I am a supervisor of a structural analysis group for a large Aerospace company. I have worked with most of the major aerospace firms in my career. I have a degree in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M.

I interview recent graduates for employment in my department. The first thing I can say is that if anyone asks me what kind of jobs they can get here, or what do we have for them, the interview will be very short.

Why would I want to hire someone who's spent 4 years working VERY hard to get a difficult degree, but doesn't know what they want to be when they grow up. At that point, you're a professional and a professional attitude is expected. You will be paid a lot of money for your judgement and analytical abilities. Not knowing what you want to do with your expensive degree convinces employers that you have developed neither.

Ask yourself why you chose Aerospace Engineering in the first place. If you did because it was 'cool' then you may have made a mistake. If you're in it for the money, you definitely made a mistake. If you have a love of math, aircraft, physics, knowledge, solving problems, etc. then you're probably in the right field.

-Samba

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Gold Member
Samba said:
I am a supervisor of a structural analysis group for a large Aerospace company. I have worked with most of the major aerospace firms in my career. I have a degree in Aerospace Engineering from Texas A&M.

I interview recent graduates for employment in my department. The first thing I can say is that if anyone asks me what kind of jobs they can get here, or what do we have for them, the interview will be very short.

Why would I want to hire someone who's spent 4 years working VERY hard to get a difficult degree, but doesn't know what they want to be when they grow up. At that point, you're a professional and a professional attitude is expected. You will be paid a lot of money for your judgement and analytical abilities. Not knowing what you want to do with your expensive degree convinces employers that you have developed neither.

Ask yourself why you chose Aerospace Engineering in the first place. If you did because it was 'cool' then you may have made a mistake. If you're in it for the money, you definitely made a mistake. If you have a love of math, aircraft, physics, knowledge, solving problems, etc. then you're probably in the right field.

-Samba

Very well said!. I liked a lot your example about the interview !.

On the other hand we should comprehend InfSun words. Before going to uni and getting our hands dirty with the maths and the stuffs involved in our latter studies, we (at least I) knew little about it. The first thing I asked when I was choosing my undergraduate studies of ME was what kind of work was I going to do after graduation, despites I had also a bit of vocation.

I think that when InfSun begin the program he choose, then he will start to do not worry about professional work, and he will understand that it is almost impossible to survive in an engineering program if you don't REALLY like what you are studying.

InfernoSun
I've had a few jobs. But I've never had any choice in it. One has to take whatever is available. One job I had was door-to-door sales of home security systems, another involved merchandising displays for lady's cosmetics, another was digging out the foundations of houses by hand and pouring fresh cement. Why should I get a degree if I never get to do the job I'm trained to do. And if I'm not being trained for something in particular, and if such a job doesn't exist, why bother getting a certificate for it ??! I could get a certificate in wormhole physics, and get the same job working as a cashier in a fast food restaurant alongside high school students, high school graduates, college students, university graduates and people with phd's.

Why bother choosing a program to study if there is no work and there's no choice in the work and supervisors are giving really short interviews because the guy doesn't know what the hell kind of job he's suppose to do. Give me one example of a job title held by someone with a degree in aerospace engineering. I bet it's not "Aerospace Engineer".

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rdt2
Sorry, IS but I'm with Samba - why did you choose aero eng? It sounds as if you haven't really researched your choice of subject and are concerned that you've made a wrong decision. But it's never too late to change. Well, almost never.

Gold Member
InfernoSun said:
I've had a few jobs. But I've never had any choice in it. One has to take whatever is available. One job I had was door-to-door sales of home security systems, another involved merchandising displays for lady's cosmetics, another was digging out the foundations of houses by hand and pouring fresh cement. Why should I get a degree if I never get to do the job I'm trained to do. And if I'm not being trained for something in particular, and if such a job doesn't exist, why bother getting a certificate for it ??! I could get a certificate in wormhole physics, and get the same job working as a cashier in a fast food restaurant alongside high school students, high school graduates, college students, university graduates and people with phd's.

Why bother choosing a program to study if there is no work and there's no choice in the work and supervisors are giving really short interviews because the guy doesn't know what the hell kind of job he's suppose to do. Give me one example of a job title held by someone with a degree in aerospace engineering. I bet it's not "Aerospace Engineer".

Well, boy we don't want you to failure. We are not advicing you for disturbing you. All what I heard here is for your sake. The only thing we are transmitting you is that thinking of what kind of specific job you are going to develop once graduated is not a good way to choose your studies. Industry is too abroad for forecasting where the hell are you going to work at. Maybe you study aero eng. and begin to work at Lockheed M designing wings, and the next year you are in an economics department deciding what amount of money are the workers going to earn next month. Todays industry is very variable. None guy passes all his life in technical jobs. Moreover if you want to be ready for industry and as a good engineer, you must be prepared for face every kind of situations, which not always will have to do with aerospace stuffs.

Your title of Aeros. Engineer is only a warranty for the employer that you have some solid matter inside your head. It won't assure to you any specific job, because specific jobs are tailored to lower personnel, not for engineers.

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InfernoSun
I've talked to human resources people. They always scan resumes for keywords - really specific things, for specific jobs. They take a highlighter and highlight those words on your resume. If your resume has a lot of bright yellow streaks on it, you have a good chance of getting hired. It's not good to be broadly trained and only have 10 percent of the specific skills they are looking for. And I don't believe that only "lower" staff do specific jobs. An accountant is university educated and you are bound to find him/her in an accounting department, doing accounting, with the title "Accountant". Same with medical doctors and lawyers. They are often found doing the jobs they are trained for. Maybe those are better fields to be in now that I think about it. Human resources is another field too, where a specific job is what you are trained for.

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Gold Member
InfernoSun said:
And I don't believe that only "lower" staff do specific jobs. An accountant is university educated and you are bound to find him/her in an accounting department, doing accounting, with the title "Accountant". Same with medical doctors and lawyers. They are often found doing the jobs they are trained for. Maybe those are better fields to be in now that I think about it. Human resources is another field too, where a specific job is what you are trained for.

You're right. All these people do specific jobs. But none of them are engineers. You have no idea about what's an engineer. You will understand it better when some years go by.

InfernoSun
So what do you do? Computer aided design? You know they taught us that in high school. I've got 2 years architectural drafting on AutoCAD and IronCad in grades 11 and 12. I hear community college grads are doing the same thing in their CNC machining and toolmaking programs. You see, I just don't know what is left for engineers to do? It's like all you old fogies spent the last 20 years dumbing everything down, making software, reducing whole engineering textbooks to a single button in some windows software package and now anyone can be an engineer at the click of a mouse. Even in aerospace the people in charge are the aircraft mechanics, not the engineers! The mechanics are licensed and unionized and get huge paycheques (if there is even a job in this economy), and sign off on maintenance work. The real kick in the balls is that their job is even guaranteed BY LAW ! That's with a 2-year community college diploma and 4-year apprenticeship. Meanwhile the engineer with 4-years of university really doesn't have a "specific" job. I bet employers would be impressed to hear that.

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InfernoSun said:
... Computer aided design? You know they taught us that in high school.
No they didn't. They taught you computer aided drafting. Design work is not the same thing. There is a world of difference between a drafter and a designer.

InfernoSun said:
I've got 2 years architectural drafting on AutoCAD and IronCad in grades 11 and 12. I hear community college grads are doing the same thing in their CNC machining and toolmaking programs. You see, I just don't know what is left for engineers to do?
Any monkey can be taught to push buttons and enter numbers into a michine. Who is the check to make sure what they have done is the correct thing? Who gives the technicians/machinists the numbers required? Who specifies the materials, processes and finish requirements?

InfernoSun said:
It's like all you old fogies spent the last 20 years dumbing everything down, making software, reducing whole engineering textbooks to a single button in some windows software package and now anyone can be an engineer at the click of a mouse.
The only dumbing down that has occurred is in those skills that have become mainstream or commonplace over time. What was specialized skills 20 years ago can be done by less skilled people today. A lot of people would like to think they are engineers because they are given the title by their company, but it still does take much more than squirting out a blueprint with a picture on it.

InfernoSun said:
Even in aerospace the people in charge are the aircraft mechanics, not the engineers!
In the day-to-day running...I don't doubt that one bit. That's the way it should be. A lot of the mundane things done do not require engineering support. So what? In a lot of cases, the mechanics have a better understanding of the details involved to do those specific jobs.

InfernoSun said:
The mechanics are licensed and unionized and get huge paycheques (if there is even a job in this economy)
The mechanics are also the first people to get laid off in times when money is tight.

InfernoSun said:
and sign off on maintenance work.
They will sign off most work. However, there is always QA checks by inspectors and some repairs/tests in the US require a D.E.R. (FAA designated engineering representative).

InfernoSun said:
The real kick in the balls is that their job is even guaranteed BY LAW ! That's with a 2-year community college diploma and 4-year apprenticeship. Meanwhile the engineer with 4-years of university really doesn't have a "specific" job. I bet employers would be impressed to hear that.
That's good lobbying by their union I guess. The one thing you are forgetting is that those jobs have a lot of competition for them (at least in the US they do). Not every airframe mechanic is going to be treated that well. You probably do get better rewards right out of the gate being a mechanic, but there are plenty of tradeoffs. The first time you poke your frozen fingers with safety wire on the flight line will have you wondering if that was the right choice.

Mentor
FredGarvin said:
No they didn't. They taught you computer aided drafting. Design work is not the same thing. There is a world of difference between a drafter and a designer.
And after we discuss that, we can discuss the difference between a designer and an engineer...

russ_watters said:
And after we discuss that, we can discuss the difference between a designer and an engineer...
That is true as well. I figured I had muddied up the waters enough.

InfernoSun
Please discuss the differences between drafter, designer and engineer. Enlighten me. But first let me guess... "drafter" has 7 letters, while "designer" and "engineer" have 8 letters. Furthermore the latter two use completely different letters of the alphabet and (when pronounced correctly) also sound different. Does that sum it up, or are you suggesting there is more profound reasoning involved.

You mentioned QA ? Quality Assurance? Is that a job that aerospace engineers do? Then why can a high school graduate get a 5-day certificate in that subject. Can you say "Hoeshin" ? How big a kluuge have I gotten myself into?

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physicsCU
Aerospace engineers take classes that encompass all parts of an aircraft. Therefore, you will have a background in computers, electrical, mechanical, etc.

I am in DBF and we do things in these areas in addition to actual aerospace stuff.

I know that I have loved airplanes since I was a little kid. Building models and such. I know other people here have pilot's licenses, something I wish to accomplish. I already know that after graduation, I want to do one of three things. I love airplanes and couldn't imagine doing anything else.

If you feel the same, you picked the right major, if not, move on. Cause you will make a comfortable living as an engineer, but you won't be the next Bill Gates.

physicsCU
it sounds like you picked the wrong major, I'd suggest finding a different one.

Drafters draw the blueprints. Designers come up with the basic idea. Engineers are the ones with the knowledge to take those basic ideas and make them into a machine that flys. Often times in aerospace, designer and engineer are the same, but the engineering happens in a team, whereas the design might occur by one or two people.

For military aircraft, the designer is the government. They tell the company what they need from a plane, and the company's engineers figure out the details of the whole plane.

physicsCU said:
For military aircraft, the designer is the government. They tell the company what they need from a plane, and the company's engineers figure out the details of the whole plane.
Close! I'd have to disagree with calling the government a "designer." The government puts forth a specification document that outlines the design criteria for a specific project (no matter what that project is). It is up to the contractor to design a platform to live up to that criteria. In the business, the government is known as the customer. A very anal retentive, annoying and beurocratic customer.

physicsCU
Thank you for getting that right, I wasn't totally sure!

So then are there designers or would the engineers do that part too?

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
IS,
You keep talking about training, engineers are not trained, they are not pet dogs who perform tricks on command. Engineers are educated, while working towards an engineering degree you will be taught some fundamental topics that are then built on in later courses. You must then use your intelligence to apply your education to specific real world problems. If you really wish to become and engineer you must first learn the difference between training and education. If you go to a university looking to be trained for some specific job you will be sorely disappointed. Perhaps you really want to be a jet engine mechanic or a technician of some sort, often they can be more trained then educated.

Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Integral said:
Perhaps you really want to be a jet engine mechanic or a technician of some sort, often they can be more trained then educated.

I'm sure Integral knows this, but I'll say it anyway. There is nothing wrong with working as a mechanic or technician. They are highly skilled people and can make a very good living. They simply draw on a different set of skills.

InfernoSun said:
Please discuss the differences between drafter, designer and engineer.

A drafter takes marked up plans and specifications and puts them into the computer. They are not trained to make any sort of decisions and make few, if any calculations.

Engineers are payed to do analysis on designs, optimize the design for mass, cost, durability, etc., and basically ensure that everything will work as it is supposed to. They are the ones who do the final sign-off on plans and are the ones responsible if something goes wrong.

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Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I'm sure Integral knows this, but I'll say it anyway. There is nothing wrong with working as a mechanic or technician. They are highly skilled people and can make a very good living. They simply draw on a different set of skills.

LOL! I guess I know this. My job title is Repair and Maintenance Technician. I have the qualifcations to get an engineering job. Much of the work I do should be done by an engineer. The difference is pay... My wife will not allow me to take the pay cut necessary to become an engineer.

A lot of people have problems with something like what Integral just mentioned. Me, personally, I don't. I have absolutely no problems with technicians or technically "non-engineers" or whatever the label, making more money than me. I have learned a TON of good information from the technicians and machinists around me. There is absolutely no way I could do my job at my level wothout their help, input and teachings.

Here's where I have seen the different job titles fall in line in my experience:

1) Engineer: Establishes main design concepts, analizes and makes sure the overall scheme of the product is acceptable. The engineer is also one of the main quality and technical checks in the process.

2) Designer: Specifies the nuts and bolts of the design. The designer is responsible for ensuring that the design is buildable and can be as easily machined as possible. The designer and engineer work very closely with each other.

3) Draftsman: Takes preliminary prints from the designer and engineer and puts it on paper in the appropriate format. Draftsmen are usually doing the repetative grunt work that requires skill, but doesn't require any analysis or specification of parts, etc...

Now a days, I think you'll be a bit hard pressed to see things operating like that now. I, for example, am an engineer who is his own designer and draftsman. It is definitely becoming more of the norm. I think the role of draftsman is pretty much gone and taken up by the designer and engineer.

Mentor
A little story to illustrate the differences that may be helpful...

My boss quit his first drafting job after his boss yelled at him for pestering the enineers with questions about engineering. His boss told him he should be content as a drafter, but that's something you can become good at in a matter of months and master in a couple of years - it isn't intellectually challenging. So my boss found an environment where he had more freedom to learn and grow and soon he was a designer, doing pretty much the same work as an engineer, but without the theoretical background of an engineer. Eventually, he got good enough at that that he found himself to be the de facto head of the engineering dept at his company, much to the chagrin of the actual engineers. So he studied (independently - he never went to college), learned the theoretical part, and passed his P.E. exam, making him a full-fledged engineer.

Mentor
FredGarvin said:
Now a days, I think you'll be a bit hard pressed to see things operating like that now. I, for example, am an engineer who is his own designer and draftsman. It is definitely becoming more of the norm. I think the role of draftsman is pretty much gone and taken up by the designer and engineer.
People are no longer content to do the same intellectually vacant job for 40 years. When my boss got yelled at by his boss, the guy pointed out people in the drafting room who had been doing the job for decades.

So the way he runs his business is by recruiting young, bright people straight out of high school. They learn drafting and if they have the aptitude, start designing. A junior-to-mid level designer is about the most profitable person you can have on staff. Since drafting isn't as time consuming as it used to be, some engineers will do it themselves. But while I know a lot of engineers who do the design work themselves, they want to be billing and getting paid at $100+ an hour while a designer can bill at$65 while being paid \$20. And at the same time, some engineers I know are really just working as overpaid designers. That's why my next degree will be in business - if I get to the point where I can have my own little business, I'd spend probably only 25% of my time doing actual engineering/design/drafting.

JoeO
Dear InfernoSun & rocketboy:

Personally, I consider your questions valid, but then I am not blessed with fixed focus. Fundamentally, DuncanM's question, "What gets you excited?", was very valid. To be truly successful in your career, and I'm measuring that from the way you will look back on it, you have to not only be willing, but be completely and fully committed to problem solving. As they say, you must be willing to eat, live, and sleep with problem solving.

It is true that most accountants work in the accounting departments, doing some aspect of accounting, very similar to the human resource types. My experience is probably far different than the others chiming in, for I was graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Physics from a major US university. Prior to that I had attended an Aircraft and Engine (A&E) Mechanic's school and worked as an aircraft electrician and technical writer. Upon graduation, I obtained a job with a major space engineering firm, not a bird farm, Hughes Aircraft Company. I worked on testing, mechanical and electronic, spacecraft instrumentation, and the first gyrostat. I took additional evening courses in engineering subjects, such as stress analysis, machine language programming, and researched in the library the latest progress in the fields of tribology, a subject with which engineers were totally ignorant. I became involved in ball bearing technology and the mathematics related thereto. Because I lived, breathed, and slept what I was working on, I was able to readily identify the source of problems when they occurred and mathematically prove my point if needed.

During my career, I have worked in electromechanical design and test, control system engineering, testing of various and asundry control system components, testing of completely integrated spacecraft (in and out of a thermo-vacuum chamber). At one point, I instigated the surreptitious integration of personal computers into a testing laboratory so as to automate the testing process. I was involved in the performance testing of the first Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers and ended up developing a large experience with GPS.

Due to my interests in performing Fourier Analysis on the noise produced by operating rolling element bearings, primarily ball, when Wavelets emerged, I dived into studying the subject. Admittedly, the mathematics did give me many problems, but I continued to pursue the subject.

Based upon my experience, to be anywhere successful, you must be fully committed, body and soul. Like any profession, you are at the whims of economic conditions, et al. Whatever you decide to do, you should try to obtain as much of a mathematics background as you can.

Unfortunately, life's crystal ball is too fractured to read, you will never really know what area of engineering that you will have to adapt to, but a strong mathematics background coupled with a broad understanding of fundamental physical principles will provide you with an ability to bring yourself up to speed, independent of the situation.

Best of Luck
JoeO