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I'm not sure if this is entirely the correct stack exchange for my question, but the career stack exchange seemed to have a different focus from what I'm looking for. My question is: Can I work in engineering (Aerospace), specifically in modeling/simulation/analysis, without an engineering degree?

There is a fair bit of background for this question so be warned. I am sophomore Aerospace engineering student currently working through my 4th semester. I'm taking 16 credit hours. My classes are fairly challenging for me, as would be expected, but I can and do get A's in them so far. I work for an Aerospace engineering company for about 30 hours a week with school, I've been with this company for about a month. I've been hired on as year-round intern to do (obviously basic) modeling and data analysis. My problem is that I really like doing the modeling/data analysis, and in school I have a hard time caring about my non-math and non-numerical methods classes. If I switched to a math major, I would have a halved class load, and I would be able to take only courses on modeling and data analysis.

The obvious solution here would be for me to switch to CS, but every time I import 'system' into Python I die a little bit. Its not something I personally enjoy, so I would like to avoid that if possible. Basically, I want to focus on becoming more skilled at what I enjoy doing without doing unnecessary work. But I don't know if I can continue doing what I enjoy in my future career without a degree that says "Engineering" on it. I don't have enough information to make this decision so I'm hoping for advice from those that do. .

  • I don't know what you ultimately want to do academically before "work[ing] in engineering (Aerospace), specifically in modeling/simulation/analysis", but a former student of mine with a mathematics undergraduate degree (and a fair amount of physics, but no engineering) got a Ph.D. in Computational and Applied Mathematics at Rice University and has been an applied mathematician at The Boeing Company for over 10 years (see also this google search). – Dave L Renfro Feb 9 at 19:37
  • Seems a little hard to believe you could have a successful career in modeling and data analysis without importing modules in Python (or something far more onerous). Many data analysts nowadays are expected to write code to interface with complex tooling and architecture. – Chan-Ho Suh Feb 10 at 2:41
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Note that in many places, engineering is a licensed and regulated profession. One of the requirements may well be a degree from an accredited engineering program. That depends on local laws, of course.

The aerospace industry employs a lot of engineers, of course, but not everyone there needs to have an engineering degree. It may well be that, depending on laws and the policies of an organization, modeling of various phenomena may not require such a degree. In fact, as a guess, it may well be that engineers (licensed) may only be required in the actual design and development process.

And, it might all be that a degree in math or statistics or CS might be a better qualification for some of the tasks required in the industry.

However, you are in an excellent position to learn the specifics for your case just by asking someone at your current company. You can get some pretty good advice by going to the employment office and just asking for a bit of guidance. Professors in your current program are also well positioned (or should be) to answer this question in light of local laws and such.

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  • Also discuss with your current company whether not getting an engineering degree is likely to limit future prospects. You may be fine for the first few years doing modeling under the supervision of engineers, but find in 10 years that you cannot advance further, and take more responsibility, without an engineering degree. – Patricia Shanahan Feb 9 at 18:47

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