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Aviation Careers  
User currently offlineAveugle From United States of America, joined Aug 2007, 65 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days 6 hours ago) and read 3785 times:


I'm currently in my senior year of high school and am applying to colleges right now. I am trying to sort out majors and careers for my life ahead. When I was younger I thought that almost 100% I wanted to be either a pilot or an aerospace engineer. Now, I have basically ruled out being a commercial pilot- not that I wouldn't want to take it up privately later on in life though. Obviously I am an aviation buff and I get excited by the designs of next generation of aircraft such as the 787- especially the fuel efficiency aspect of them. I am not totally crazy about math and don't feel like getting bogged down in any details in a career. I would prefer to look at things in more of a big-picture design/management standpoint. Maybe that isn't something I would find in engineering, maybe it is- I'd like to know. Can anyone give me a realistic description of an aerospace engineering profession, especially working for a company such as Boeing or Bombardier? Can any engineers tell me how much they like it or what to expect?

Another side of me though feels like I should pursue more of a business degree and then possibly work for an aircraft manufacturer or an airline. Again, if anyone could comment on this path- it would be greatly appreciated.

Excuse me if this is meant for the civil aviation forum- I wasn't quite sure.

Thank You!

9 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineCFMTurboFan From Canada, joined May 2007, 41 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 3661 times:

I suggest getting an education in something that you can use outside of aviation. This industry always takes a kicking when times are tough. I have been through two already, apart from the one that we are entering.
I have a friend who took a degree before going on to be a pilot for AC. His degree was not related to aviation, but demonstrates his education, and ability to learn. By studying something else, you have that "something else" to fall back on if times are tough.

Just my two pennies.......

User currently offlineRoseFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 11166 posts, RR: 52
Reply 2, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 3632 times:

I am a design engineer for one of those companies that you mention and it is as good as you think it could be. As a career, I get to work on designs of aircraft parts. I also support production by helping out troubleshooting problems in the manufacturing process and improving parts when we run into issues. The best part about it is that all I have to do is rotate my head 90 degrees from my desk in the office and I see the brand new green planes going down the production line. It's an almost daily occurance that I end up walking under the wing of an airplane. Just yesterday I had my head in the wheel well of both a 787 and the last 747-400 to be built. It's fun stuff where I get to really be around the airplanes and make my mark.

In engineering we deal with the real issues that airplanes face. How do you improve dispatch reliability? How do you improve performance, weight, drag or fuel burn? I have dealt with all of those questions during my short career so far. You really get a unique understanding of the aviation industry. You learn things that you would never have known or thought existed.

With that said, it is a lot of work to get here. You have to work your ass off in college. The aircraft manufacturers are very competitive companies. When I hired in, 10,000 people applied for 600 available jobs. Try to go to a school with a recognized engineering program. Being relatively close to an aircraft manufacturer is good, but not essential. Also going to a large public school can save you money and if you do well and are near the top of the class, you are just as likely if not more likely to get in than someone who went to a top tier private school.

Engineering is a lot of fun. You get paid well and get good benefits (between layoffs that are bound to happen in the aviation industry!). Work hard and you can have a lot of fun.

If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
User currently offlineSoon7x7 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 3, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 3627 times:

Quoting RoseFlyer (Reply 2):

Lucky duck...heck, Although I fly, my next career after armagedin will be your job...dang,...I'm leleous!

User currently offlineRoseFlyer From United States of America, joined Feb 2004, 11166 posts, RR: 52
Reply 4, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 3612 times:

To add some more detail, an engineering degree is almost always better than a business degree in the aerospace world at a company like Boeing. Engineers have the technical expertise to go anywhere in the company. Getting another degree such as an MBA will help you a lot. If you want that high level design or management opportunity, then an engineering degree is what will really help you do it.

A mechanical or electrical engineering degree is most useful at most manufacturers. Aerospace engineering is good, but the number of jobs related to that is actually quite limited. A mechanical engineering degree is similar but opens a lot more doors because it is more general. Many institutions allow an aerospace emphasis. Also when you graduate if the aerospace industry is not doing well, you'll still have job opportunities. There is no shortage of engineering jobs out there available to Americans with American citizenship.

You'll have to work your way up to what you do. You won't get there right out of college, but after you gain experience for maybe 5-10 years, you'd be prepared to reach your goal. It's a great opportunity and you can do it, but be prepared to work really hard. You aren't competing against the average person do do such a job. You are competing against the top 5% of your high school and then to top of your college. Engineers making decisions about the future of the airliners you fly are generally really smart and sharp guys.

If you have never designed an airplane part before, let the real designers do the work!
User currently offlineDALMD88 From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 2893 posts, RR: 14
Reply 5, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 3570 times:

Look at colleges that have a good basic engineering program. Like RoseFlyer siad you can't go wrong with Mechanical Or Electrical. The best part is if you go to a school that offers a few engineering choices you don't have to make a choice right away. The first few semesters are pretty much the same.

Now about that I don't really like math. I remember saying that back about twenty five years ago. I went into an engineering program saying that same thing. I didn't last past the first semester. Somedays I wish I had sucked it up and really applied myself and learned to embrace calculus. Most of my friends that stuck with engineering are doing pretty well. Many have gotten MBA's and left engnineering. They all state that their engineering education taught them how to think.

You have a choice. Embrace math and suceed in an engineering program, or wallow through math and fail. I've noticed there is little middle ground in this program. It is either A and B's or you fail out.

Good luck.

User currently offlineWingscrubber From UK - England, joined Sep 2001, 862 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 12 hours ago) and read 3534 times:

Aveugle, I was once in your shoes - I thought I wanted to be a pilot, then I thought that I would have more fun fixing the planes than flying them so I trained to be an aircraft mechanic when I left high school - I like knowing how stuff works, I get annoyed if I come accross any kind of machine where I don't understand what's going on inside...
After finishing my aircraft mechanic course I took a job on an airfield for a few months working on little flying school Cessnas and Pipers before I went to uni to get my aerospace engineering design degree. After college, I emigrated, worked in an engine manufacturing plant for a little while, and now I've landed my dream job as an aero design engineer. Or specifically, an aircraft systems design engineer, I'm basically a virtual plumber - I plumb pneumatic and hydraulic lines in virtual space  Smile (And then write long boring technical reports on why I think it should be that way, which uses about 10% of what I did at school  Smile)
I must admit, it would be more fun to be a pilot, and more exciting, but I can't crash my desk, nor do I put my life in the hands of those who maintain it, and I always get to go home at the end of the day. (no layovers!)
I think an aerospace engineering degree is useful in many more areas than just designing aircraft - Such a qualification is respected in many other industries if you don't end up in aviation. Principally, the best advice I can give is to invest in your education (time and money), and take any oppurtunity which comes your way. Newly qualified airline pilots are generally very employable, as are mechanical engineers and electrical engineers. My current understanding is that electrical engineers are in shorter supply then mechanical engineers.
Good luck!

Resident TechOps Troll
User currently offlineAcNDTTech From United States of America, joined Jul 2008, 338 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (7 years 6 months 2 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 3507 times:

I've said this before, and I'll say it again. NDT is a great field to be in. I've worked in aviation/aerospace since I've been 16 - started out washing and waxing planes, moved up to fueler, onto the ramp, and finally into NDT 18 years ago. It is definately a technical field, and if for some reason you want to get out of aviation/aerospace, NDT is used in just about every industry out there. As a matter of fact, I can't think of an industry that it's not used in. The training is some what long - depending on the route you take. An associate degree is offered at several schools - I went to Spartan in Tulsa, but there are others too. Certification is the thing that takes the most time......in some methods, up to a year (maybe longer). The money that an entry level technician makes is pretty good. Usually more than entry level A&P mechanics. Even though A&P mechanics take a basic NDT course (very basic), in most organizations, they don't have the required class room hours to be certified in the various methods, as required by most qualification and certification standards. Also, the demand for NDT techs. is always high. The longer one is in the field, and the more certifications, the more in demand one becomes. What that translates to is more $$$$ the tech. can ask for - and most likely get. My first year in NDT, I made $70,000.00 - BUT that was a lot of overtime and travel. For more info. about this field to see if you might be interested, check asnt.org or ndt-ed.org. 2 excellent websites. Also, if you have any questions that I may be able to answer, please feel free to pm me.

By the way, I work for a major aerospace manufacturer in Savannah, GA (guess which one), and am part of the quality department. I've also had my pilot's license since 1987.

User currently offlineKeny156 From United States of America, joined Feb 2007, 58 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (7 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 3354 times:

I've just gone through the process and like you have always had a passion for commercial aviation. But like rose said Engineering in my opinion is the best way to go. I wanted to go aerospace engineering because I wanted to be in the aviation field, but that field is cylical meaning there are times when its good and times when its bad.

I went mechanical because its flexible, all companies from construction to aviation need mechanical engineers. If the aerospace industry is bad then you can get experience in another field for the time being. One big thing that I can tell you is to get as much experience as possible while your in school (internships/Co-ops). Everyone your competing with when you graduate with will have a degree, and a GPA over 3.25. But what set me apart from the rest of the field was that I had worked Co-ops for Parker Hannifin, Pratt & Whitney, and American Airlines. Plus if you Co-op for a company they give you the inside track to working for them. They even compensate you more than an entry level college student. Plus if you do a good job at those companies your boss (who alot of times is the hiring manager) will tell HR to give you an offer. I got an offer a year before I graduated. And they let me start a semester before I got my degree (salaried) while I finished up, albeit I only had 2 classes my last semester.

But math is pretty important because thats pretty much what alot (90%) of all of my engineering class. Business is a good degree, but you end up lacking the technical knowledge to make educated decisions. And companies like Pratt pay for you to get an MBA with no out of pocket expenses and time off for study, and pratt gives you $10k in stock options once you get your degree. Parker requires a 3 year commitment for them to pay for your degree.

User currently offlineIAirAllie From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (7 years 6 months 1 week 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 3308 times:

My Dad is an aerospace engineer he went to MIT. Didn't complete a degree but had some pretty significant engineering accolades (one of those kid genius types) he worked in the space arena designing satelite tracking, positioning and propulsion systems. He seemed to enjoy it though that could be because he had the financial freedom to cherry pick jobs that appealed to him and did not have to work in between those projects to support himself.

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