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Old 05-27-2014, 04:31 PM   #1  
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Question Mechanical Engineering Major...

Hey guys, I will be a Senior in Mechanical Engineering at Northern Arizona University next year. I am 20 years old and will be graduating at 21 years old.

My passion is in aerospace - since I was a kid I knew I would either be a pilot or an engineer. While I am a Mechanical Engineer I have taken some aero related classes, including Aero-System Dynamics (which is really an advanced graduate school class that I took as an undergraduate).

In some ways I guess I am a bit discouraged and overwhelmed when it comes to deciding what my options are, how much schooling is required, etc. I have been lucky enough to have a scholarship that pays for my tuition, so I will be graduating debt free. I currently am working as an Engineering Intern at Sundt Construction (not aerospace related I know...but internships are tough to get and it is still good experience). This last year I had a 3.8 GPA or above, made Dean's List, and was invited to join the Honor Society.

I am however struggling to decide what I want to do and where to go. I thought about going to commercial pilot school after I graduate, but I am not sure if maybe I am better off trying to get hired with an aerospace company as an engineer. Another option would be a flight engineering position, but I am not sure how difficult it is to get a position like that. I have thought about a Master's in Aerospace Engineering, but I am not sure if I should continue on or want to continue on with more schooling.

I am also a very active person outside of school. I grew up riding and racing motocross, but I love to fish, hunt, snowboard, golf...you name it I probably do it haha. A job that allows for time with my family and doing the things I love is always of importance to me.

I guess I am writing here to see what your guys' opinions are. At this point my future is pretty unknown and in today's job market and world it can be quite discouraging.
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Old 05-28-2014, 07:26 AM   #2  
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This is actually pretty awkward but I have my associates in mechanical engineering, and switched majors to my bachelors in aviation science along with my flight requirements. I start instrument training today. Its funny to because I race motocross, snocross, fish, hunt, and golf.... I wanted to be an aerospace engineer as well but chose this route.

Um lets see the job market for us fresh out of school is scary I think for anyone and any career. Lets put it this way your going to be making a ton more money being an engineer, and its almost stupid not to keep going with that especially dept free. All my engineering friends have 3 vehicles and a house when they turned 30. As for a career in aviation, you might break 17 an hour working as a CFI Building hours or 22k a year as a regional pilot gone 5 days a week. Lets face it its a hard career and lots of sacrifices. At least once a week I regret going into aviation. But on the other hand it is a true experience and many people enjoy it. Spend a few hundred bucks and take a few lessons and just talk deep with yourself on what you wanted to do. Me I love traveling and always dreamed of being a pilot and just couldn't do the desk job every week. On the other hand I have never been more stressed/excited, happy/miserable feelings in my life with any other career. Just know that you can become a pilot relatively cheap for an engineers salary and fly on the side.

FYI id be careful where you read around here, at first I got the same impression about how miserable people are and how hard of a career it is. Its something special that's for sure.
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Old 05-28-2014, 04:04 PM   #3  
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This is actually pretty awkward but I have my associates in mechanical engineering, and switched majors to my bachelors in aviation science along with my flight requirements. I start instrument training today. Its funny to because I race motocross, snocross, fish, hunt, and golf.... I wanted to be an aerospace engineer as well but chose this route.

Um lets see the job market for us fresh out of school is scary I think for anyone and any career. Lets put it this way your going to be making a ton more money being an engineer, and its almost stupid not to keep going with that especially dept free. All my engineering friends have 3 vehicles and a house when they turned 30. As for a career in aviation, you might break 17 an hour working as a CFI Building hours or 22k a year as a regional pilot gone 5 days a week. Lets face it its a hard career and lots of sacrifices. At least once a week I regret going into aviation. But on the other hand it is a true experience and many people enjoy it. Spend a few hundred bucks and take a few lessons and just talk deep with yourself on what you wanted to do. Me I love traveling and always dreamed of being a pilot and just couldn't do the desk job every week. On the other hand I have never been more stressed/excited, happy/miserable feelings in my life with any other career. Just know that you can become a pilot relatively cheap for an engineers salary and fly on the side.

FYI id be careful where you read around here, at first I got the same impression about how miserable people are and how hard of a career it is. Its something special that's for sure.
That is cool! Cool to see someone in a similar situation. Unfortunately the internship I have this summer is mind numbingly boring...I guess it has left a bad taste in my mouth, although it isn't true engineering in my opinion.

I have struggled with the thought of maybe going to commercial pilot school after I graduate...but you are probably right that it may be a bad choice. I think in the end I will tough it out and stick with engineering. I will probably get my private pilot's license after I graduate. I have done some research on commercial pilots and I did see that you make next to nothing for quite a while (in fact I am making more money at this summer internship than I would flying regionals).

Of course, there are people on the other side of the spectrum who say engineering isn't so good and neither is the money (although I find that a bit hard to believe). I too am at a stage in my life where I have very mixed feelings about everything and where I will end up. Maybe that is just part of the game of life I guess.

And yes...like any forum these places tend to be filled with negative and discouraging people, I have noticed that on just about any forum. It is a shame.
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Old 05-28-2014, 06:57 PM   #4  
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And yes...like any forum these places tend to be filled with negative and discouraging people, I have noticed that on just about any forum. It is a shame.
You have to remember that the general public has no ideas of the hardships of being a junior regional FO (where your airline career will begin).

Many come on here full of enthusiasm not realizing that they will probably spend $75,000 just to become qualified to get the position, and then get start off in reserve, in whatever city they assign you regardless of where you want to go, and get paid the vast sum of $25,000 per year.

Many on here are negative in hope that the dreamers will move on. Only the ones who are really committed to joining the career will take on board the information and decide to proceed.
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Old 05-29-2014, 03:25 PM   #5  
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You have to remember that the general public has no ideas of the hardships of being a junior regional FO (where your airline career will begin).

Many come on here full of enthusiasm not realizing that they will probably spend $75,000 just to become qualified to get the position, and then get start off in reserve, in whatever city they assign you regardless of where you want to go, and get paid the vast sum of $25,000 per year.

Many on here are negative in hope that the dreamers will move on. Only the ones who are really committed to joining the career will take on board the information and decide to proceed.
I wasn't really referring to the flying side of things when I made that comment. That is big reason why I will probably not go that route. I was talking about people being negative specifically towards engineering.
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Old 05-29-2014, 05:45 PM   #6  
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Realize you can get into aviation and do all sorts of fun stuff without being an airline pilot, including aerobatics, mountain flying, back-country flying, camping, fishing trips, general sightseeing and exploring, charity stuff, flight instruction, advanced and other types of instruction like tailwheel, aerobatics, etc, and all sorts of other stuff. Do you want a job where you have to fly in a straight line at FL250 where you are forced to fly a specific route over and over for minimal pay, or do you want a job that is aviation related where you can afford to have said plane and enjoy flying? Lots of people automatically think owning a plane means they have to have a $600,000 bonanza or something, but tons of fun can be had with a 150hp super-cub, or a homebuilt Vans, at basically a fraction of the cost. The thing is you don't need to be an airline pilot to be in aviation, to be a pilot, or to fly. You can do all this stuff on the side as your passion, for fun.

Do you like engineering? Do you like solving complex problems and finding solutions? My uncle was an engineer for MD (later Boeing) and got sent all around the world on various projects and I know others that do the same. Although if you are an airline pilot, you are "guaranteed" to fly, but those hot ocean-crossing jobs are few and far between, and pilots are literally fighting between themselves to get any major airline job. Think long and hard about this. An advanced engineering degree is also a prerequisite most of the time for any test-pilot function, something to maybe keep in mind if you go the engineering route.
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Old 05-29-2014, 06:36 PM   #7  
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Former mechanical engineer here... I'd suggest working in engineering for at least a couple of years once you graduate, and flying on the side. Hopefully you enjoy engineering, it's a pretty good field and the pay is decent. It's not mind blowing pay like some of the pilots (that aren't engineers) on here think, but it's not a bad way to live a middle class lifestyle either. By getting some post-grad work experience, you'll have a much easier time getting back into the field if you decide to try flying out and then go back to engineering.

Ultimately I left engineering after five years in the field to pursue a career as a professional pilot. By the time I made the career switch, I had all my ratings, no debt, pretty new car (again, paid off), and money saved. That was seven years ago, and I've done ok as a pilot. Could be better, but could be A LOT worse as well. I enjoy the aviation lifestyle, and won't be going back to engineering unless I absolutely have to (lose my medical, etc.).
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Old 05-29-2014, 08:04 PM   #8  
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How about the military option. If you can get into flight test evaluation with your engineering background. I would think you would be golden.
At my current airline. They have a group of line pilots who are all x flight test engineering pilots who conduct all the pre-delivery flights and post heavy maintenance flight checks. One of the requirements for this position is a flight test engineer background. Common link they all have. X military.
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Old 05-30-2014, 06:43 AM   #9  
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WRX always says about what I say to this kind of question since we are both engineers turned pilot. If you have no flight ratings now, you should take the desk job for a few years while you garner ratings and pay training bills. You may find that the desk work stimulates you anyway, a minority of private pilot- engineers find that they cannot live without 55 hours a week of code writing or whatever engineering task they fall in love with. I have known more than a few private pilot engineers who simply loved coding, making AFMs and so on. A few even made the jump to flying and then backtracked when they realized flying is not all fun, money, and adventure. Engineering desk jobs are the better jobs in terms of quality of life, stability, risk, pay and retirement income hands down, so make sure you cannot stand that first.

Now for the question of whether engineering desk jobs are really all they are cracked up to be. We have long debates here about this, a user named Hindsight2020 comes to mind, who argues the desk life is not really worth it. It depends is my position. If you like being home a lot, really enjoy spiffy cars and big homes, like the family life, and are satisfied with a weekend trip in a 182 once a month then you are a desk worker by nature- live long and prosper. But there is a group like myself who simply cannot go to the same desk eternally and for us, the hardships of pro flying (and you better better there are some) are not only worth it, flying is really the only thing we have any hope of being satisfied with even having tried engineering in many forms.

I started in aerospace CAD modeling as a Catia driver, then gravitated to flight test desk work as my pilot credentials progressed, arrived at a dead end with that because almost no flight test engineers get to test the airplanes, and then accepted various entry level flying gigs such as aerial surveys, Part 135, Part 121 regional flying, as well as lots of flight instruction and various odd flying jobs. Of all those jobs, the Part 135 was the most interesting being a single pilot IFR gig. But that's just me. I have seen people absolutely eat up regional airline flying, and seen others get totally disgusted with the very same thing- you do not know until you try.
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Old 05-30-2014, 06:55 AM   #10  
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Well said as usual Cubdriver!
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