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Aerospace Engineer Vs. Mechanical Engineer

Aerospace and mechanical engineers both work with mechanical systems but the products they design perform very different tasks. Continue reading to learn more about how these careers compare.

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Comparing Aerospace Engineers to Mechanical Engineers

Engineers typically perform many comparable tasks. They key difference between aerospace and mechanical engineers is that aerospace engineers focus on things that fly or orbit Earth in space while mechanical engineers work on machines and devices that can be used in homes, businesses or outdoors.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Aerospace Engineer Bachelor's degree $109,650 6%
Mechanical Engineer Bachelor's degree $84,190 9%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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  • Aeronautical and Aerospace Mechanics
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering Technologies

Responsibilities of Aerospace Engineers vs. Mechanical Engineers

On a basic level, aerospace and mechanical engineers have very similar duties. They both design products or materials, and they oversee the production of prototypes that they assess as they refine their design plans. Aerospace engineers are more likely to work for the military or government than mechanical engineers, and they may be involved with designing weapons or satellites. Mechanical engineers can be involved with designing and building things as varied as robots and generators to elevator and automobile systems.

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers work with mechanical equipment that's designed to operate in the air or in space. They are responsible for producing things like missiles and planes. A bachelor's degree in aerospace engineering is required to pursue a career in this field and it's important for these professionals to have strong mathematical skills and mechanical skills. They also need computer skills to operate design software and run simulations. It's common for aerospace engineers to perform most of their duties in an office. Most aerospace engineers work full time and project leaders may need to work overtime hours.

Job responsibilities of an aerospace engineer include:

  • Designing aerospace and aviation products
  • Analyzing the design plan for issues
  • Running simulations to determine product performance
  • Establishing operating standards for products
  • Developing prototypes

Mechanical Engineers

In order to become a mechanical engineer, it's necessary to have at least a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. Having a Professional Engineer (PE) license may also be a requirement for some jobs, and a graduate degree may be necessary to pursue advancement opportunities in this field. Mechanical engineers utilize their creative talents by producing design plans for machines and other types of mechanical devices or systems. They are integrally involved in all stages of producing the devices they help design and assess the strengths and weaknesses of their design plans and refine their plans in order to make their products as efficient and effective as possible. They primarily work in an office but may also travel to as part of their duties to inspect equipment that's malfunctioning.

Job responsibilities of a mechanical engineer include:

  • Modifying designs of existing systems
  • Producing prototypes of machines
  • Identifying problems that need to be repaired or corrected
  • Analyzing data produced by assessing prototypes and machines
  • Monitoring production of machines

Related Careers

Since the core responsibilities of aerospace and mechanical engineers are comparable, those interested in either profession may also want to consider other engineering careers, such as electrical or materials engineering. Learn more about these professions from the articles linked here.

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