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Should I pursue and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering or stick with a Masters Degree?

  1. Mar 11, 2007 #1
    I will shortly be able to acquire a Master's degree in Aerospace Engineering. I am interested in designing aircraft as opposed to subsystems, but I am not enthusaistic about the various "system-of-systems" approach that essentially works to make new aero design codes(as opposed to new aero designs) or simply discusses(as opposed to any real technical design) potential future designs. This is the direction basic research appears to be headed. Given these circumstances, would it be wise to go beyond a Masters degree level in such a program.

    How useful are Ph.D.'s in Aerospace Engineering in general?

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 11, 2007 #2


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    Have you had the opportunity to work in the industry yet? When you say "designing aircraft" that leaves a lot open to interpretation. What part of design do you want to get into? What have you been part of in the past?
  4. Mar 11, 2007 #3
    No, I haven't had a chance to get involved in industry, all my research has been within the University.

    I have worked on aerospace systems design, which is what I mentioned above, and control systems. Overall, I have liked control systems better.

    I originally looked at aerospace systems design because I thought I was going to learn how to design aircraft, that is for a given function, determine what type of engines needed to be mounted, fuel capacity, necessary lift, etc. While this is the stated goal of aerospace systems design, the actual research was significantly different, focusing more on coding methodologies and presentations than anything else. I seemed more like computer science meets business administration then any kind of aerospace engineering. It almost seems as if control systems is more concerned with the actual performance and functionality than aerospace system design.
  5. Mar 12, 2007 #4


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    I can see where you're coming from. The only issue IMO is that the area that you would like to be in is extremely small in comparison to the rest of the aircraft manufacturing area. Those would be tough jobs to get since pure design of new aircraft doesn't happen all that often except for sales pitches and the like.

    I would suggest testing the waters with your MS before moving on to your PhD. There are a lot of start up companies in my area of small business jets that could be a good opportunity. It really is tough to say. At the least it would get you some more exposure to the industry and perhaps help guide you in where you want to go.

    In my area, there are not too many PhDs floating around. There is a huge amount of knowledge to be picked up from experienced people that you just won't get in academia. Just something to consider.
  6. Apr 12, 2007 #5
    Hey I am in the same position as you... deciding whether to go for a phd or go into industry. have you decided what you do yet? free free to share any ideas with me. my email is jingpei@aol.com
  7. Apr 12, 2007 #6
    You'll very doubtedly get to design any aircraft through academic research.
    There are many start up companies in this field ? Interesting, I was just recently taught by a big guy in the field that those private and business jet companies have a great deal to do with reputation and a good solid long record, because consumers of such aircraft care a lot more about quality and reliability than costs.
  8. Apr 12, 2007 #7


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    Yes there are. Look at companies like Eclipse, Spectrum and Sport Jet. Then there are established companies like Grob, Piper, and Adam that are expanding into the VLJ business. This end of the arena is getting very busy. There are a lot of opportunities.
  9. Apr 15, 2007 #8


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    I have over here people whose research focus involves control theory applied to trajectory stabilities, aircraft control systems and optimization. Of course that if you want to get your hands dirty you better go to look for a job. A Ph.D. gives you a couple of things:

    - an outstanding knowledge about the foundations of the field and adjacent fields.

    - the knowledge of the tools used on that field, as well as the state of the art of the scientific research involved (do not confuse that with the industrial research).

    - independence and responsability about facing new challenges and proposing to yourself own goals, based on a sixth sense you would have to develop in order to discard projects with a dead end.

    - modesty about the fact that you will realise you are the last **** on earth and that there are many more people smarter than you in this world.

    - modesty about the fact that even if you study and do research in a particular field during 60 years you will end up knowing almost nothing about it.

    - it gives you time to read books, to read papers to get tons of information into your head.

    - it teaches you how to think on your own and evaporate your brain in order to succed and have a work done.

    - it shows you that you are ****ing alone and nobody is going to help you in such a huge endeavour.

    yeah, there is a huge amount of knowledge to be picked up from experienced people that you just won't get in industry. Just something to consider.:wink:
  10. May 12, 2007 #9
    Thanks for the advice, it is quite helpful.

    At the moment, I am planning on getting a Masters with Thesis and then moving into physics and completing a Ph.D. there. But I will still be looking at various ways to learn more about Aerospace Engineering and get more expierience in that field as well.
  11. Apr 19, 2011 #10
    Re: Should I pursue and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering or stick with a Masters Degree

    I would recommend getting into industry before going for the Ph.D. The engineering work in the aerospace industry in done by master degree holders because they know enough to give added value to the product and are not so expensive as a Ph.D.

    However, there are many continuing education programs in big aerospace companies that can pay for your Ph.D. studies, so you dont lose your job and at the same time you get a degree paid for already.

    Moreover, once you get your Ph.D. you ca advance in your career faster and/or do better things, such as heading projects, departments, or entire programs.

    Remember that industrial research settings are not academic settings or university laboratories, where they can take their time to make science. Industrial research focuses on what is needed in terms of what customers want or would be able to buy after production. Industrial research is more work intensive, but they need Ph.D. people as well.

    Therefore, deal with the industry, get to know the management team of your company, propose the benefits of obtaining a Ph.D. for industrial research, and convince them of your assets. In this way you dont have to look for a job with a Ph.D. title and little or not industrial experience, which in the eyes of management, is money and added value to the company.
  12. Apr 20, 2011 #11


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    Re: Should I pursue and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering or stick with a Masters Degree

    Well here we are 4 years later so I hope he already made his decision. :devil:
  13. Apr 21, 2011 #12
    Re: Should I pursue and Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering or stick with a Masters Degree

    Ok, I did not see the date...
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