What to Expect
Can you make sense of complex situations? Problem-solving skills are
critical for aerospace engineering students. And the earlier you develop
these skills, the better off you'll be.
As a child, Faysal Ahmed always wondered how something so heavy could float
in mid-air. Now he's an undergraduate student in the aerospace engineering
"Where else can you learn about traveling in mach speeds, and making things
that can go faster than anything else on earth?" he asks. He likes the aerospace
program because it has a bit of everything from all the other engineering
programs, plus it has its own specialized courses.
For example, you can take civil engineering, electronics courses and machine
shop courses, in addition to aerodynamics and gas dynamics and many more.
In all aerospace programs, you can expect to do a lot of math and physics
problems daily. "This might sound pretty dry, but it's really not," Ahmed
says. "You do experiments to prove what you learn in class, so that's always
Marina Selezneva wants an interesting job where she can travel around the
world. She is a fourth-year aerospace engineering student.
"A lot of airspace companies have international offices," says Selezneva.
"For example, this summer I got a job in the industry through my university,
and even though on paper I was employed by [a local company], physically I
was working in France. Awesome experience!"
She also enjoys trips on a smaller scale, like field trips to local companies
in the industry to see aircraft production.
You can expect four to five hours of homework per night.
"If you want to stay on top of your class and you want bursaries and research
assistant jobs and even co-op jobs, you have to have a strong GPA," says Ahmed.
"Doing the bare minimum will not get you where you want."
Studying math, science and engineering takes time, but it is worth at the
end, according to Irene Chan. She is a senior aerospace engineering student
at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and president of the UCSD
student chapter of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
"You need to have patience and a good study group to help bolster that
interest and confidence," says Chan. "Studying alone is difficult, but studying
with a group of people will help you understand concepts in a different light
and make the studying less painful and go by faster."
Textbooks can get expensive. Ahmed says to budget up to $2,000 for books
and school supplies.
Selezneva recommends saving on text costs by finding paperbacks, older
editions and used books online. "It's possible to get a $100 book for $20,"
"What can save your life are bursaries. Apply to all of them. I mean it,"
counsels Ahmed. "Every $10 you get from bursaries is an hour you don't have
to work that can be spent studying."
How to Prepare
"You should be good at math. Period," warns Ahmed. "Math should be your
strongest course, because every course you do boils down to math, whether
it's aerodynamics, gas dynamics, stress analysis, calculus or algebra."
Selezneva agrees that paying attention in high school math and science
"Basically, anything from math, physics to technology that you don't fully
master in high school will hunt you down in university," cautions Selezneva.
"In university, you have to learn things fast."
You will need some positive distractions from school, so get a job, play
sports or join a club. "It will help you relax and prevent your brain from
overheating," says Selezneva.
Chan recommends joining professional engineering organizations, especially
for young women if you're female.
There are many scholarships, especially for women in engineering. "Your
participation in these groups means getting access to professionals in your
interested fields, support from female engineers, scholarship opportunities,
free workshops and even more opportunities to develop yourself as a person
after high school," Chan says.