I really want to get into the Aerospace Engineer industry (I want to design the plane's airframe and basically a little bit of everything) but have no idea what to major in for any job.

I'm really thrown off by all these sites which have mechanical engineer and aerospace engineer jobs but they consist of basically the same job description.

Can you please clear this confusion for me?

  • $\begingroup$ aviation.stackexchange.com/questions/79569/… $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 16, 2020 at 22:55
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I have a BS in mechanical engineering and an MS in Aero-Astro. As an undergrad you learn about the same content. Either degree will qualify you aeronautical engineering jobs. If you want a non-aero job, the mechanical engineering degree might be a bit better. $\endgroup$
    – Eric S
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ The difference is that in the business world, titles are meaningless. What one company calls an ME1, another may call an AE3. What really matters is what you know and how does that line up with the job description. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ Pick a university and look at the different in curriculums. MEs won't take aerospace vehicle stabilty and control classes, propulsion classes, etc. Same toolset, different applications. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 13:58

2 Answers 2


If you want to work on the landing gear or passenger seats, a mechanical engineering education is the best qualification.

If, however, you want to work on control surfaces or fairings, an aerospace engineering education is better suited.

While both teach similar basics, the aerospace education is much heavier on fluid mechanics and lightweight design. Having studied aerospace engineering in Germany, I was shocked to learn that master students in Aero/Astro at MIT had no idea how to design a screw connection. Therefore, much depends on the country and its ways of teaching. In the US you will get an excellent education in one narrow field at the cost of breadth. In other countries your education might take longer and give you less expertise in one field but will cover the fundamentals much better.

In general, at university you will be taught how to learn. You will learn the basic stuff which will enable you to read special literature and you will learn where and how to locate resources that help you along. This will be the same in both branches and it depends on you to round out your knowledge yourself.

To quote from an earlier answer:

Take the example of Ed Swearingen: He never went to engineering school, but spent years working with airplanes, gradually moving from handling to repair to improving them. In the end, he was a successful self-employed consultant who helped with a number of airplane designs and created some of his own designs, too.

So here is what I propose to do:

  • Hang out at a local airport (ideally one with lots of hardware passing through the local repair shops).
  • Don't shy from getting your hands dirty and from asking questions until you are satisfied with the answer.
  • Try to find experienced engineers and work closely with them.

Do that for 10 years and you will be hard to beat as an aircraft designer. If you happen to attend University in Germany, be sure to become a member of one of their Akafliegs - that is the best start into an aviation engineering education.

It also helps to build and fly model airplanes. Models can give you valuable lessons in aerodynamics and flight mechanics.

  • $\begingroup$ If I dont have a local airport is their a book or a collection where I could lear all this? $\endgroup$
    – Tim Bob
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ "In general, at university you will be taught how to learn." No truer words! I learned how to find knowledge. That is my key takeaway from school. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 18:39
  • $\begingroup$ @TimBob: Better ask for a full library. All good books are specializing on some aspect. See what others are quoting from. If a book is referenced often, it is worth reading. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ @PeterKämpf Aerospace engineer exist?I allways think exist only aeronautical or astronautical engineer.What is your title? $\endgroup$
    – member2017
    Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 5:49
  • $\begingroup$ @member2017 My title: Diplom-Ingenieur für Luft- und Raumfahrttechnik. Aerospace engineering might be specialized in Aero and Asto at some universities, but other universities keep both together as one subject. $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 18, 2020 at 10:35

The simple answer is a mechanical engineer designs and builds mechanical systems where is an aerospace engineer will design aircraft and spacecraft and their associated systems. You don’t necessarily need to be an aerospace engineer to enter the business, but it does help I am a mechanical engineer by training and spent a solid 15 years of my life in aerospace engineering.

What I would probably strongly recommend would be pursue an education and a degree that you want to because you won’t be using 90% of it when you go to work. As the choice of school? You can go to one of the big aerospace schools such as Purdue, MIT, University of Michigan, Georgia Tech, etc. and it can be of some help. Then again so can a no name school. When I worked for Boeing I saw both no-name universities right next to guys who went to Harvard out in the cube farms.

The stuff that most of these firms care about as far as hiring you goes is more proprietary knowledge and software use. If you want to design structures, learn CATIA and NASTRAN. You’re also going to want to learn a PLM software system such as in ENOVIA or WindChill. Another big help to get in the aerospace and a lot of their lucrative jobs would be to take a route through the military as an officer. This can get you both a security clearance, which pays big bucks in the civilian world, as well as access to elite training such as test pilot schools, and that can really help your career.


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