Aerospace Engineering 8

  1. I am in high school and want to go into the aerospace field. I am curious about the grades needed to be accepted into college. Some nights I just cannot sleep thinking that I will not be able to pursue my dream when I get older. My grades are mostly in the 80s and low 90s.
    - question from Pavel R.
    College admission policies vary considerably from country to country and college to college. Among the most important factors colleges and universities consider when evaluating an application are high school grades, difficulty of the high school courses selected, and scores on major standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Other factors that may play a role include the reputation of the high school, teacher recommendations, the student expressing a strong interest in attending that college, and being the child of an alumnus of that college. Participation in extracurricular activities is also considered but usually does not have that large an effect. In general, grades in the 80s or higher are good enough for most colleges. Many colleges and universities require a grade point average of at least 2.5 out of 4 for admission.
  2. How many years of school did you attend and what degrees did you get? How heavy was the workload for your degree and what classes are the hardest?
    - question from Eric Steen & Spencer
    Most of our staff members took four years to get a bachelor of science degree that is required to obtain a career in most engineering and scientific fields. Several have also taken another two years or so getting a masters of science degree, and a few have spent much longer working on a doctorate. Though generally not required to enter an engineering field, a more advanced degree often improves the quality of positions and salaries offered to an employee.

    The course load required for engineering fields in general and aerospace engineering in particular tends to be one of the most difficult at any university. Engineers generally have to take more credit hours per semester than any other field, and this is one of the primary reasons why engineering students are increasingly needing more than four years to complete a bachelors degree.

    The hardest classes will vary for each person depending on his/her talents, the quality of the teaching, and the specific branch of engineering. High level mathematics classes tend to be some of the most difficult, such as Differential Equations or Advanced Calculus. Among classes specific to aerospace engineering, theoretical aerodynamics and structural dynamics courses are some students often have the most difficulty with.

  3. How long would it take for a full time student to get his masters degree and PhD?
    - question from Angel
    A masters degree in engineering typically takes one to three years to complete. A doctorate generally requires three to six years. Programs that go directly to a PhD without a masters degree are becoming more common and may shave a year or so off the time.
  4. I've always been interested in aircraft and want to design planes for the military. The problem is that I am disabled due to Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I can still can use the computer and write even though my hands are weak. Can I be an aerospace engineer even though I am disabled?
    - question from Joshua David
    You should not be concerned about your situation interfering with a career as an engineer. I've worked with several engineers who have a variety of disabilities and are still very productive, highly qualified engineers. One of the brightest, hardest working engineers I know is confined to a wheelchair because of Muscular Dystrophy but this has not prevented him from becoming a senior aerodynamicist at a major aerospace company. I've worked with other engineers who are paralyzed because of accidents, legally blind, deaf, or missing limbs but they all have become successful engineers. Most aerospace companies and research facilities are equipped with facilities to support handicapped employees.
  5. I am thinking about majoring in engineering. I like learning about space, but do aeronautical engineers have much to do with space besides designing spacecraft? Should I study engineering or another field?
    - question from Jimmy Mejia
    Depending on what it is you enjoy learning about space, I suspect you may prefer a career in science over one in engineering. Scientists like astronomers and astrophysicists study the structure of the universe and the objects within it. These studies often depend on the development and use of new technologies that make observations of distant objects possible. Engineers are the designers who take the requirements specified by scientists, solve the technical problems involved, and create devices to collect the information scientists need.

    If you are more interested in designing spacecraft and scientific instruments or calculating trajectories that bring spacecraft to their destinations, you will probably be happy as an engineer. If you prefer studying stars, planets, galaxies, and other celestial objects, you would be better off choosing a career in science. Some possible options include astronomy (the study of celestial objects), astrophysics (the study of the physics of the universe), astrobiology (the study of life in the universe), planetary science (the study of planets and solar systems), and astrochemistry (the study of chemicals in space).

  6. I am an aeronautical engineering student and want to be a rocket scientist. How can I become one?
    - question from Vinayak
    The term "rocket scientist" is actually rather vague and its meaning can vary depending on the context. Rocket scientist is often considered a slang term for anyone with an aerospace engineering degree whether that person actually works on rockets or not. Once you complete your aeronautical engineering degree, you would already be considered a rocket scientist by this broad definition of the term.

    Another meaning applies only to people who work on rockets, usually specifically to those working on rocket propulsion systems. These experts analyze propellants and the combustion process or design the components of a rocket propulsion system for use in vehicles like space launchers or military weapons. To specialize in this field as an aeronautical engineering student, you should emphasize your coursework in subjects like fluid dynamics, combustion science, or electrical propulsion. Even this meaning of the term rocket scientist can become broad since not only aerospace engineers work on rocket propulsion technologies. Other types of engineers and scientists can also be considered rocket scientists such as chemists or chemical engineers, material scientists, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and physicists.

    The important thing to remember is that there is no rocket science degree that a student can earn in college. The term rocket science applies to a variety of different fields required to make advanced vehicles like aircraft and rockets possible.

  7. I'm confused about becoming an aerospace engineer or a commercial pilot. I want to know what do aerospace engineers do compared with pilots?
    - question from Moh'd Ali
    There is very little in common between aerospace engineers and commercial pilots. More detailed overviews of the things aerospace engineers tend to do are described in past articles about aerospace engineering and sample job descriptions. Engineers design vehicles, write software, conduct testing of vehicles and their components, and otherwise develop the technologies needed for air and space travel. Pilots fly the vehicles that engineers create. Both careers require highly skilled and trained professionals but the work environment is considerably different.
  8. How much does an engineer have to work in a typical week? Is it hard to balance work and family?
    - question from Nicole Eiben
    Most engineers work a 40-hour week comparable to any other office career. Overtime can be common when deadlines approach and time to complete a task is limited. Working 60 hours or more per week can be a problem at times like these. Most engineers I know seldom have to work more than a normal 40-hour week and they also say one of the best things about their career is the flexibility to customize their work schedule. Some people prefer to start work very early and complete their work day in time to pick up their children from school. Others prefer to stay home with their families during the day and do most of their work later in the evening and at night. So long as their tasks are completed, most employers are willing to let their employees customize their schedule depending on preference or family situation. There are times when an engineer's job and family commitments interfere with each other, but these instances are probably less frequent than in many other careers.

- answer by Molly Swanson
- answer by Jeff Scott
- answer by Justine Whitman, 18 February 2007

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