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Aerospace Physics Undergraduate Mechanical vs Aerospace Engineering

  1. Nov 27, 2012 #1
    Hey Guys,

    I know there are some other posts on this, but I have a slightly different situation than most of the ones I've looked at.

    I'm a recently graduated Physics major. Starting junior-senior year I became interested in going into engineering. I would like to work in the space industry. More specifically, I am interested in propulsion and astrodynamics although I also have interests in multiple other aspects including power systems and robotics. I tried applying to some jobs and internships for the last few months, but haven't had any luck. I've been looking at going to graduate school for Aerospace engineering in the hopes that more relevant experience will make things easier while at the same time helping me decide exactly what I want to go into.

    However, it looks like mechanical engineering might be a good choice as well since most job descriptions that I've seen that are looking for aerospace engineers also allow mechanical. It seems like mechanical engineers might have an easier time getting into other engineering fields in case I decide to do something slightly different or can't immediately get into propulsion work.

    What are the major differences between aerospace and mechanical engineering?

    If I take aerospace electives while working towards an mechanical engineering degree would I have any significant disadvantage? Or would I be better off taking material classes in order to do propulsion?

    Also does anyone have advice on what kind of schools should shoot for? Are universities with better ratings worth the extra cost?

    Should I even consider a Phd? From what I've heard most people in the industry have a masters.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2012 #2


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    The major difference between the two is what examples are used to illustrate the concepts due to the nature of the problems each type of engineers will typically work on. The physics underlying the two are identical. This is precisely why many universities have the aerospace and mechanical departments rolled into one department.

    As for PhD vs. MS, it depends on your career goals. Industry doesn't employ a ton of PhDs because they don't need a ton of PhDs. They have a handful that they use to essentially run their research programs and then they fill in the gaps with a bunch of MS-holders. Outside of the R&D side, even fewer PhDs are typically hanging around because their type of expertise is just not often required. The good news is, even though PhDs aren't hired in droves, they aren't produced in droves either. The bottom line is that yo need to determine your career goals.
  4. Nov 28, 2012 #3
    My advice is don't spread yourself too thin, I'm still trying to get into aerospace. My degree says Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, but companies tend to think you're just interested in aero when glimsing over your resume.
  5. Dec 1, 2012 #4

    My advice would be to go and get your M.S in Mechanical Engineering. Yes the underlying physics is identical to Aero, but as an Aerospace Engineer, I didn't get ANY feedback from the Mech Eng jobs I applied to, I guess because my degree says "Aerospace" and not "Mechanical". Your thesis title is your opportunity to show your relevant skills so if it's propulsion you like for example, then do your M.S research thesis on propulsion.

    It's difficult choosing a degree that teaches you all the things you need to know whilst having a suitable title. Employers are biased. For instance, I was applying for jobs in propulsion which linked directly with my final year thesis, but the employer would state that they needed Mechanical Engineering graduates, so I would almost laugh if I didn't get feedback from them as they obviously didn't read what I did for my research, which won an award from the IET!

    You'll get there in the end buddy, you just have to realise that the people looking at your CV are working in the Human Resources department, and therefore clueless.

    Hope this helps!

    The Jericho.
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