1. PF Contest - Win "Conquering the Physics GRE" book! Click Here to Enter
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What do they do? (Mechanical / Aerospace)

  1. Feb 7, 2016 #1
    This is my second field of interest.
    It was my first as I've always wanted a job that was related to the space industry.
    But, now I'm not sure if I want to be doing engineering at all...

    I love the problem solving of engineering, and the designing aspect.
    However, looking through youtube, and many google searches, it doesn't seem to be as glamorous as I was expecting. From what I am seeing, it seems to be very computer based work - Office?

    There is also little to no hands on work involved - Which is what I wanted; I wanted to design, but also BUILD the components.
    Ex. To work with Space-X/Nasa/CSA or any other space agency to design space stuff (satellites, rockets, vehicles, telescopes, etc.) but mainly I wanted to actually build them, like they do at NASA's JPL.

    But, that doesn't really seem to be the case. It seems to be more working behind the computer, which I do not want. Some is okay, but not all the time. -- It MAY be something that would be possible after years of experience, but not something straight out of school.

    Is this True?
    What do Mechanical / Aerospace Engineers do? (Jobs that are related to space)
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 7, 2016 #2
    Most components are now modelled using 3d software..I was watching the documentary showing how fighters were built..the engineers designing spent all day behind a computer screen modelling the wing in 3d.

    I don't think building them by hand is an engineers job now, that is for the workers at the assembly line. o_O

    Again I don;t know all of it, but you will spend a significant amount of time behind computers..
  4. Feb 7, 2016 #3


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Have you done any research at all?


    If you want to build actual stuff, there are plenty of jobs where you can do that, but they won't involve much design or engineering in the conventional sense.

    There is plenty of demand for mechanics, machinists, tool & die makers, etc., folks whose skills are required to take a design from concept to reality.

    As far as working with computers in engineering, that's indispensable. No one uses drafting boards and slide rules anymore. It's much cheaper and quicker to simulate something with a computer than it ever was building mock-ups and prototypes.

    As far as the glamor factor is concerned, if you want a career with glamor attached, become a model or an actor.
  5. Feb 8, 2016 #4
    Mechanical engineering is a pretty broad field. Some folks do hands-on work, and some don't. In general, I think you are likelier to get hands-on with something at a smaller company, where roles are often less standardized, but there are exceptions even here. Let me give you an example. A mechanical engineer I worked with worked on satellite and launch system design. They discovered a certain strut needed reinforcement in the field before the rocket was launched. My colleague designed a retrofit part, saw that it was made, flew with it to Kwajalein Atoll, and ensured the techs installed it properly. Without an ability to be a hands-on engineer, he would likely not have been able to complete this task. Did he do this all the time? No.

    In just about any engineering role, you can expect to work with people whose job it is to put things together rather than design them. This makes sense, because most of the time you don't need someone with extensive education in mathematics and science to bolt the components together. You need someone with good quantitative sense who is good with their hands. Again, exceptions exist. Some really, really sensitive, delicate, or complicated things are put together by scientists and engineers. But the norm is for that task to fall to a skilled technician. If you want to know more, this topic has been explored often in this forum. I know I've talked about it frequently. I encourage you to look at previous posts on this subject for a wider perspective.
  6. Feb 8, 2016 #5
    A small company will most likely require you to do both the hands on work and the theoretical work. I went into engineering thinking Id get to use these nice complicated formulas, advanced math, etc. Ha! Engineering in industry isn't very glamorous sadly. It is frustrating that schools aren't more honest with how industry works. But at a large company you probably will not do any building or hands on work.
  7. Feb 8, 2016 #6
    I wasn't really referring to it bring glamorous literally...
    But from the sounds of it, it does sound like it MAY be something of my interest IF I score the right job with the right company.
  8. Feb 9, 2016 #7
    I think I should tell you that..Aerospace is not a good degrees to have at bachelor level.. it is too specialised and the "right company" ..well you speak like there are 100s..no at the there are only a few maybe, two dozen at the national level (?) (and that's for countries developed like the US- not too many)

    how many of these relatively fewer would have openings?

    Not only that, but one rarely gets to choose his job in most instances in such a specialised industry, the job chooses him. almost all of the same things can be done by a mechanical engineer.

    I would do mechanical engineering instead as you can work in a lot more industries, and while here in this forum everyone is an engineer it can give a false impression of their being loads of aerospace jobs there aren't.

    Do a broad degree that focuses on science and engineering fundamentals that can be applied to a lot more places, vs. a highly specialised degree with not as many job opportunities and in "elite" industry.

    You would have to work really really hard if you intend to design satellites and planes/fighters or components for them. That is really for the "elite" engineers of that country..it is a long road to get there. You will be competing with the best of the best.

    The best degrees for not pigeonholing yourself to such a niche industry right now are: Any of the pure engineering Electrical, Mechanical, Chemical...and Industrial engineering is catching on. Or computer science too.

    Many will disagree probably, but I can speak from experience as I had nearly applied to an aerospace program after doing loads of research and talks with people who are engineers, I decided against it.

    Also another thing, you will probably hate many portions of your degree..while it looks great, the end products and all..but the science and learning that goes behind it is insane..What I am trying to say is, there may come a point where you just need to finish the degree, may lose passion for it, it may not be everything you thought etc..just advice I think you should know. Because I have already changed programs! Yes university can be really difficult.

    All in all, just do a broad degree that does not pigeonhole you to a very limited number of jobs..all the ones I mentioned allow you to work in the aviation/aerospace industry.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2016
  9. Feb 9, 2016 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    It sounds like you want to be a Systems engineer at a job that does systems integration work relevant to space.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Similar Threads - Mechanical Aerospace Date
Engineering Mechanical engineering or Aerospace engineer Jun 28, 2017
Mechanical engineer to aerospace engineer? Mar 25, 2017
Engineering ME or AE to enter the field of AE Nov 27, 2016
Engineering Career Path: From MechE to Aerospace Engineering Aug 7, 2016
Why are aerospace engineers paid more than MechE's? Feb 22, 2016