Choosing between Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Dear Ms. Seetha Raghavan,

I am in a debate of whether or not to became a mechanical or aerospace engineer. As time passes by I feel that my heart goes for aerospace because one day, I would like to be a part of creating space shuttles or satellites... Anything space related! Yet my dilemma is that I know MechE's could do this as well, as they can also work not only in the aerospace industry, but in many other areas as well. I feel that after I graduate college, I will have a much more difficult time finding a job in what I really want to do, which breaks my heart. Should I go for aerospace engineering, or should I play safe and go towards mechanical engineering?

Thank you!
posted by Karla, Washington DC on May 26, 2014

Answer by Dr Seetha Raghavan

Dear Karla,

Both Aerospace and Mechanical Engineers have the ability to adapt to positions in the industry that require technical capability in either of these positions…with some work (courses). I’d like to think that as Aerospace engineers we design structures and systems just like Mechanical Engineers do except we do it while dealing with several limitations – extreme environments, weight limitations, etc. But that’s why we’re always pushing the limits and at the forefront of technology. 

Most of us Aerospace Engineers are somehow extremely passionate about our field – and I think that’s a great thing. I tend to follow my passion because it drives me to excel – so I believe you will get a job doing what you want to do because you are so passionate about it! 

Now I have seen some students with the initiative of taking on a double major in Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering and that’s something to consider if you feel you could put in that extra time (you can figure out with your undergraduate counselor how many extra courses you would need before assessing and making a decision). There are also opportunities in college to take part in design competitions or undergraduate research or a summer internship in either of these fields to show your capability in both fields. Hope this helps!