Engineering is one of the most lucrative career fields out there, and it’s no surprise many students pick it as a first-choice course.
However, there are various different distinct fields of engineering, making it difficult for students to understand what each of the fields entails.
So, in this article, we’ll compare two of the most popular engineering disciplines; electrical engineering and aerospace engineering.
Which is Better: Electrical Engineering or Aerospace Engineering?
Well, there’s no outright answer to this question since the two fields are complementary disciplines and both offer lucrative prospects.
To make things easier for you, below is a brief comparison of the two fields:
|Electrical Engineering||Aerospace Engineering|
|What it Covers||Installation and maintenance of AC/DC power circuits, power grids, electric engines, and motors.||Designing, testing, and management of aircraft, spaceships, missiles, satellites, and all forms of aerial communications.|
|Ease of Finding a Job||Very Easy||Relatively Hard|
Can Electrical Engineers Work in Aerospace?
Electrical engineers can work in aeroscopes. Since spacecraft contain a lot of electrical components, electrical engineers are more involved in their day-to-day maintenance than aerospace engineers.
Electrical engineers also play a considerable role in the manufacturing of aircraft and spaceships. They’re mainly involved in designing power, communication, and propulsion systems.
To learn more about the career prospects, read our guide on whether electrical engineers can transition into aerospace.
Which Engineering is Best for NASA?
NASA employs thousands of aerospace engineers, computer engineers, robotics engineers, mechanical engineers, and electrical engineers in their ranks.
Contrary to popular belief, aerospace engineers are no more “better suited ” for a job at NASA than other engineers. This is because NASA’s projects go beyond making spaceships and require a wide range of skills to complete.
Therefore, anyone with an engineering degree – and some exceptional skills – can work in NASA.
Is Aerospace Engineering Mechanical or Electrical?
If you want to be a good aerospace engineer, you need to be well versed in mechanical engineering concepts.
That’s why most top-level colleges have aerospace engineering as a subset, or elective major, of mechanical engineering.
Do Electrical Engineers Make Planes?
Electrical engineers are very much involved in designing and manufacturing aircraft, including planes.
Some of the parts electrical engineers design include sensors, engines (power and propulsion systems, in particular), actuators, and all power and lighting systems.
As the shift to electric planes takes off in earnest, electrical engineers in the aerospace sector will be even more relevant in the development and maintenance of electric propulsion systems.
Is Aerospace Engineering in Demand?
Aerospace engineers will be in demand as long as there are aircraft, spaceships, satellites, and missiles in operation.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the aerospace industry is set to create about 4,000 new jobs in the U.S (annually), until 2030.
Space agencies, the military, and plane manufacturers are among the highest employers of aerospace engineers.
The growing popularity of space tourism, spearheaded by companies like SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic, will also necessitate employing thousands of aerospace engineers to develop and maintain additional spacecraft.
Does NASA Hire Aerospace Engineers?
NASA’s primary role is space exploration, which involves building, launching, and maintaining dozens of spaceships and satellite systems. This is the domain of aerospace engineers, therefore the agency will hire plenty of them.
NASA is said to have more than 3500 aerospace engineers working across their design, manufacturing, testing, and launch facilities. These include the Kennedy Space Center, White Sands Test Facility, Armstrong Flight Research Center, and their numerous Jet Propulsion Labs across the country.
Notably, it’s not easy to get a job at NASA even with an aerospace engineering degree.
For one, most engineers in the agency stay in their positions for a long time, so job openings are very limited.
Secondly, the agency mostly selects top students from the top aerospace schools in the country and across the world. So you need to be really exceptional to make the cut.
Can an Aerospace Engineer Become an Astronaut?
While it’s possible for an aerospace engineer to become an astronaut, the process of doing so is extremely grueling.
For starters, there aren’t many astronauts positions going around, and only a handful of the very best space scientists get the privilege of going to space.
Moreover, the prerequisites for becoming an astronaut in NASA go above and beyond the skill levels and qualifications of average engineers.
- Bachelor’s degree in engineering, mathematics, physical science, or computer science.
- Extremely good vision – ideally 20/20.
- At least 3 years of professional experience in an aerospace engineering environment. Alternatively, over 1,000 flight hours in a pilot-in-command capacity.
- Successful completion of the NASA astronaut physical test, which takes weeks.
Although the above criteria sound easy on paper, they’re just the minimum requirements, and thousands of applicants already meet them. To stand a chance, you need extensive work experience, and a raft of additional skills to complement your aerospace engineering knowledge.
Also read: Electrical Engineering vs. Accounting
What Type of Engineers Does SpaceX Hire?
Just like NASA, SpaceX hires all sorts of engineers, ranging from aerospace, mechanical, electrical, manufacturing, structural, computer, and software engineers.
These engineers are paid an average of $120,000 per year and work across a variety of departments, including R&D, testing, software development, quality control, navigation and guidance, and development of standards and regulations.
Can an Aerospace Engineer Become a Pilot?
Everybody can become a pilot with just a few months of training. Considering the knowledge of aircraft systems aerospace engineers carry, they’re even better fit to fly planes.
Most airlines will not hesitate to employ pilots who also hold a BSC in aerospace engineering as they require little additional training.
However, pilots earn way less than the average aerospace engineer, which naturally discourages many aerospace engineers from becoming pilots.
There’s no “right” choice between aerospace engineering and electrical engineering. They’re both equally rewarding and relevant in their own ways.
If you have a major in one field, you can easily switch to the other after minimal training.
We would, however, advise you to go with electrical engineering as it has much better job prospects, and offers you an easy route to aerospace engineering if you ever choose to go that way.