Does "pure" aerospace engineering give better aero-knowledge then mechanical engineering/pathway aerospace?
What is point of specialization aerospace at mechanical engineering, isn't aerospace too big branch to be just one pathway?
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It really depends on what you want to do in the business. If you’re looking at jobs as an aerodynamicist, or flight, test, work, or similar specialized aeronautical or space work, then an aerospace engineering degree would probably make more sense. For general work i.e., structural design, structural analysis, that sort of thing, a Mechanical Engineering degree is just fine.
That being said, much of the specialized knowledge you need can be obtained after school through trade groups, lobbying organizations, such as SAE, AIAA, etc.
Fresh out of school, I believe an employer is going to look at 1) your overall performance in school ie GPA, what you majored in ability to handle difficult subjects, etc. 2) internships and class projects. If those tend to be in line with what they’re looking for in entry-level work, you have a good chance of getting in.
Aerospace has become considerably easier to enter into as a new engineer than it has in the past. This is largely due to the fact that employers have shot themselves in the foot for years relying on senior guys with a lot of experience, and neglecting the tribal knowledge aspect of the profession to mentor and bring in new people. They’re now backed up against the wall and facing a brain drain as senior employees retire, so there’s considerable motivation to bring in and mentor young people.
If you’re living in the United States, far more integral to job security would be the ability to obtain a security clearance. It would not only guarantee local work, but also high pay work. So don’t get yourself into a lot of debt, don’t use drugs or commit crimes, or anything else that would potentially deny you such a clearance.
Aerospace companies of all kinds and sizes hire lots of engineers of all kinds -- Mechanical, Electrical, Software, etc. Anyone with a technical background who wants to work in the Aerospace industry should be able to find a role.
Mechanical Engineering's curriculum is the closest cousin to Aerospace Engineering, so your question about 'whats the difference' is a relevant one.
ME curriculum does not focus on any particular industry -- they'll work manufacturing (of anything), mechatronics, HVAC, automotive, etc. etc. However, in Aerospace, the curriculum is focused on flight vehicles -- aircraft (airplanes, helicopters, gliders, etc), launch vehicles, orbital spacecraft, space probes, etc.
What this means is that the ME's do not consider the vehicle as a whole -- it is a bunch of mechanisms, components, and machines all working together. Conversely, AE's are always interested in the system as a whole -- that is usually the vehicle, but it can also be the fleet, constellation, or other even larger system.
A good example of this is typical Sr. Design curriculum.
In a ME program, it is expected that a Sr. Design project start with a problem statement and proceed through the design process until fabrication and test. You have to build it or it doesn't count.
Conversely, in an AE program, it is expected that a Sr. Design project consider the entire aircraft or spacecraft. Since the real system at scale may take years and $1B to develop, you clearly can't do that in a university course. So instead of going all the way to building it, most AE Sr. Design program's final output is a report about the design of the aircraft -- a paper aircraft. If you don't do the whole system, it doesn't count.
In ME, they would never accept a paper about designing a widget if you don't build the widget. In AE, they would never do a design of a widget, you have to do the whole vehicle or more.
Some AE programs try to compromise and have students build a R/C aircraft or UAV. This can be done in a way that it is a surrogate for a design of a full aircraft system, but often there are many compromises in this approach.
In industry, you'll find that most of the jobs that have a full vehicle, big picture, or system-level perspective are filled with Aerospace Engineers. In fact, you'll find that when other industries need systems-thinkers, they often hire Aerospace Engineers to do decidedly non-aerospace things.
None of this is to say that there aren't exceptions -- I know Civil Engineers and Architects who ended up as Technical Fellows in Conceptual Design.