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What does an Aerospace Engineer actually do ?

  1. Sep 15, 2009 #1
    What does an Aerospace Engineer actually "do"?

    Q1: What does an Aerospace/Aeronautical engineer actually do?
    I've done some research spread out over the last few weeks (Wikipedia, etc) and I've discovered it's a pretty broad topic (Fluid Dynamics, Astrodynamics, Propulsion, etc). It seems like that's a lot more then one person can learn in a life time. So what does an aerospace engineer do? Do they specialize in one area of the broad range of topics involved, like say, propulsion? And then what do they do with that knowledge? Do they build and study different methods of propulsion? [If that makes sense..]

    Q2: When studying to be an aerospace engineer, how and what do they study? Is it hands on experience, and if it is what is it (example please)?

    Q3: This is random but do they teach aerospace engineers how to program/is it a requirement?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 15, 2009 #2


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    Re: What does an Aerospace Engineer actually "do"?

    Same as any other engineer
    http://www.dilbert.com/dyn/str_strip/000000000/00000000/0000000/000000/20000/6000/200/26244/26244.strip.print.gif [Broken]

    Aerospace engineering is a specialism of mechanical eng mostly. You specialise in anything from aerodyamics, engines, control systems, software - everything that's in a flying thing.
    How much of this you will learn in a course compared to your eventual job depends.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Sep 15, 2009 #3


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    Re: What does an Aerospace Engineer actually "do"?

    A1: Aerospace Engineering.

    A2: Aerospace Engineering.

    A3. Yes - especially these days.

    Now allow me to elaborate. As mgh_phys mentioned, aerospace engineering (astronautics) is basically mechanical engineering applied to spacecraft/vehicles and related infrastructure. Within aerospace engineering there are numerous specialties. Similar aeronautical engineering is mechanical engineering applied to aircraft, and in some cases aerospace engineering include astronautics & aeronautics.

    The pre-eminent technical organization is AIAA (www.aiaa.org), and there one will find plenty of information on the different areas in aerospace engineering.
    See this page for the various technical committees: http://www.aiaa.org/content.cfm?pageid=192 [Broken]

    Aerospace Engineers typically take a 4 year baccalaureate program in Aerospace Engineering, but they could also have majored in Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, Engineering Physics, Electrical Engineering, Physics and perhaps other disciplines. Often they will have done an advanced degree MS and perhaps PhD in aerospace engineering, but not necessarily.

    Computer programming is an essential part of engineering these days in both designing and analysis. Analysis has evolved into simulation (numerical simulation with finite element analysis, multiphysics codes). Basically the simulations do numerical solutions of time dependent partial differential equations that model the object or system in its intended operating environment. There is need for folks to develop the theory (physics) of/for simulations, to develop the codes (applications) based on the theory, and to apply those codes in analyses or simulations.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  5. Sep 15, 2009 #4
    Re: What does an Aerospace Engineer actually "do"?

    FYI in my experience, at the undergraduate level, aerospace engineering companies don't really prefer aerospace engineers to general mechanical engineers. But yeah, actual aerospace engineering is a lot of cubicle work, mostly in CAD.

    Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's a requirement of all ABET accredited programs that they require some proof of basic programming skills in their grads.

    The specialization occurs on the job. You'll spend your first year and a half or so working on the design of one small subcomponent of a jet engine. Then maybe you move on to another subcomponent. Eventually you work on integration of the subcomponents your team is working on, etc. There are also many other types of jobs that the degree will qualify you for.
  6. Sep 23, 2009 #5
    Re: What does an Aerospace Engineer actually "do"?

    I personally know 2 guys with Aero/Astro engineering degrees. One works for an airplane company and he mostly does simulations and testing of airframes. The other works in the X-ray tube industry (doing mostly general mechanical design and some e-field simulations). Both went to the same big ten university in the 80's.

    The one that actually works with airframes, mostly works in a cubicle in front of the computer, but does have to travel to different testing sites (wind tunnel, etc.).
  7. Sep 23, 2009 #6

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    Re: What does an Aerospace Engineer actually "do"?

    The same goes for a lot intellectual disciplines. For example, a solid state physicist does not need to know a whole lot about general relativity, a lepidopterist does not need to know a whole lot regarding the details of the evolution of cichlids, and (back to the topic at hald) an aerospace engineer who develops gravity slingshot trajectories to help take a spacecraft from Earth to some other planet does not need the ins and outs of aircraft structure design.
  8. Sep 29, 2009 #7
    Re: What does an Aerospace Engineer actually "do"?


    I'm grad student in aerospace engineering at UF. Most of what is said here is accurate. But note most places UF included have Mech and Aero as a single department. So many of the courses are same or similar except in terms of restricted attention in aero specialization.

    And yes programming is a pre req in applying to most engineering programs. Its better to know some programming since it makes life so much easier. More often than not, home work assignments and projects are meant to be solved on computers, given the tediousness of teh paperwork involved.
  9. Oct 9, 2009 #8
    Re: What does an Aerospace Engineer actually "do"?

    Thanks for all the input guys, I appreciate it.
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