An aerospace engineer designs and operates mechanical equipment for use in space or air. They create various items such as aircraft, missiles, satellites, and spacecraft. Aerospace engineers specialize in fields like aerodynamics, thermodynamics, celestial mechanics, guidance and control systems, flight mechanics, propulsion, and acoustics.

The aerospace engineering field has two branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering. Aeronautical engineering focuses on flights in the air, including the technology, theory, and practice of aviation. Astronautical engineering, on the other hand, focuses on spacecraft and related technologies.

Differences exist between aerospace and mechanical engineers, as their focuses and responsibilities vary. Here are some key distinctions between the two roles:


Aerospace engineers concentrate on the physics and mechanics of flight, navigation principles, aerospace physiology, and testing aerospace products. Their job duties may include:

  • Designing aerospace and aviation products
  • Analyzing design plans for issues or errors
  • Assessing project proposals for financial feasibility
  • Running simulations to evaluate product performance and safety
  • Establishing operating standards for their products
  • Developing prototypes
  • Creating acceptance criteria for design methods and quality standards

Required Education

Both aerospace engineers and mechanical engineers must hold at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field. Some schools offer dual degree programs covering topics from both fields.

Aerospace engineers typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, with coursework in aerodynamics, propulsion, mechanical and engineering principles, and design.

Mechanical engineers pursue a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, with coursework in mathematics, engineering principles, physical science, and engineering design.

Work Environment

Mechanical engineers primarily work in offices but may also travel to inspect malfunctioning equipment. Aerospace engineers work in offices and aeronautical laboratories. Both positions involve working in loud environments around machinery and may require wearing protective gear as necessary.

Aerospace engineers typically work in manufacturing, analysis and design, and research and development industries. They often find employment with government agencies like NASA and the Navy, as well as private corporations.

Mechanical engineers primarily work in engineering services, research and development, and manufacturing. They find employment with companies in automotive, biomedical, manufacturing, processing, and transportation sectors.

In summary, aerospace engineers specialize in designing and operating equipment for space and air, while mechanical engineers focus on a broader range of machinery and systems. Both fields require a bachelor’s degree, although the specific coursework may differ. The work environments for these professionals can vary but often involve offices and exposure to machinery. Aerospace engineers commonly work in manufacturing, analysis and design, and research and development, while mechanical engineers work in engineering services, research and development, and manufacturing, across various industries.

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