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Why are aerospace engineers paid more than MechE's?

  1. Feb 22, 2016 #1
    Everyone says that the classes are basically the same, with different examples. So why are the aerospace engineers paid more by companies? And what are the differences in the job description of an aerospace engineer and a mechanical engineer both working in aerospace?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 22, 2016 #2


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    Supply and demand. All things being equal, a company will offer a candidate the lowest amount they think the candidate will accept. It isn't the job description (aero isn't any "harder" that MechE).

    Historically, aerospace engineering has been one of the most volatile areas of engineering with large buildups and subsequent busts and layoffs. So, aerospace engineering salaries are bumped up relative to more stable MechE jobs to entice people to jump into the fray. You see a similar thing in petroleum engineering. It is a real boom and bust field but when a boom is on the companies really want engineers right away (and are willing to pay). That is why petroleum engineering is the highest paid subfield (on average).
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016
  4. Feb 22, 2016 #3


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    Of course, the corollary to the boom and the high pay is that when a bust inevitably occurs, those highly paid engineers can suddenly find themselves out of work, and often struggle to find new work unless they consider leaving the field entirely. I suspect this is happening already with petroleum engineering (certainly in the province of Alberta in Canada, and probably in similar oil-rich regions around the world) given the collapse in the price of oil and the current global glut in the oil supply.

    I'm curious as to the situation with aerospace engineering at this time. I know in Canada Bombardier (a major employer for aerospace engineers) have announced major layoffs (7000 positions are set to be eliminated), but overall in both Canada and the US, I'm curious about what hiring is like at the moment.
  5. Feb 22, 2016 #4


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    Yes, it is supply and demand, but the supply is constrained by the fact that aero is generally regarded to be harder than mechanical.

    There are a lot of overlapping courses, but "basically the same" still leaves all of the aero specific courses, many of which are harder than mechanical. I washed out of an aero major and finished a mechanical engineer.
  6. Feb 22, 2016 #5
    Marginal revenue product, also it really is an elite industry imo with lots of competition i am told, to me it seems on the same level as high finance/wall street..you have to be really super talented and motivated and know what you're doing.
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2016
  7. Feb 22, 2016 #6
    So how would this apply to career openings listed as Aerospace or Mechanical, for the same job? Specifically, I viewed a number of openings with the company SpaceX listed as such.
  8. Feb 22, 2016 #7


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    That means that SpaceX recognizes that there is enough overlap in the degrees that both are potentially right for their open positions. They will hire the best people they can find regardless of whether they have a MechE or Aero degree. This is in part because many colleges don't offer an explicit Aero degree (mine didn't) but rather it is a specialization within MechE. If you get a job at SpaceX you're going to get the same (low) offer regardless of your degree.

    The whole "aero engineers make more than MechE" thing is an average over a lot of engineers. It is in part reflective of the fact that military contractors on average pay more than HVAC contractors.
  9. Feb 23, 2016 #8


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    I interviewed for a graduate ME position at another of the commercial aerospace companies, the salary they were offering worked out to be less than the hourly wage I started out on as an apprentice electrician 8 years ago. I went to back to school to increase my income, not make less! I didn't call back to follow up, maybe others didn't either as the role was advertised for a further 8 or so months. At that point I would assume they could only scrap the bottom of the barrel as all the best students I knew already had jobs lined up by that point.
  10. Feb 23, 2016 #9
    Because an aerospace engineer is essentially a specialized mechanical engineer; same as a how a computer engineer is essentially a specialized electrical engineer.
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