Most Fundamental or Important Classes


I wanted to ask the fine people here what they thought the most Fundamental/Foundational OR important classes they thought were to the fields of Mechanical Engineering OR Aerospace Engineering (this is not an exclusive “OR”, but I would like people to discriminate in their answers). Such that if I only could take one or two classes (maybe later a couple more, but no guarantee), what would you recommend?

My situation:

I am an Über Senior at Bridgewater State University, I only have one or two semesters left. My school does not offer Mechanical or Aerospace Engineering, but they are fields I really want to work in (in particular the SPACE part of Aerospace). Currently I am enrolled in the L’Space NPWEE Academy, and worked on a team that successfully submitted a proposal to RASC-AL 2020 (sadly no award). I am a Computer Science and Physics major, and am trying to graduate with a Concentration in Applied Physics, I know the concentration is not a super big deal, but I want the experience from the crossover from engineering that I can apply too my career (so I am trying to stuff as much aerospace and engineering stuff as I can in before I graduate). My school offered a Statics & Dynamics class, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic, I have taken Thermodynamics (mostly from a Quantum perspective, but definitely got a lot of the classical theory). Statics & Dynamics, I believe, will not be offered until at least next year after I will have graduated. Currently I am seeking to replace it, but I know an assumption I have been making is that Statics & Dynamics is foundational/fundamental to engineering and that makes it very important to the field (and me more likely to either work independently, work in the field, or make my own company). I may seek to do engineering in graduate school, but I also have about 6 other ideas for what I will do at that point (I may take a gap after working on my undergrad off and on since 2014, @cgreeley 2022 baby!!). I am trying to make this situation as quickly as possible, I am thinking about taking the class at a school that is 1 hour away from my own as a non-matriculating student (Northeastern University) and it affects my decision about if I am going to live on campus, but I may try to find an online course (recommendations of places too look).


I am challenging my assumption that Statics & Dynamics is the most important and foundational/fundamental course to either mechanical or aerospace engineering (maybe fluid dynamics for aerospace ). I already took thermodynamics, and I am doing some space stuff outside of school.

That’s a difficult question to answer, as many courses build upon others. How fundamental?

I’d think you have to start with Calculus up through Differential Equations. Maybe Physics 1 - Mechanics.

Then Statics, Dynamic, Fluids, and Thermo.

That covers most of the Freshman and 200-level ME courses through Soph/Jr year from my daughter’s 2021 Purdue ME graduate transcript. Plus the design courses each year. (What I had as Statics and Dynamics as a MechE were named Basic Mechanics 1 and 2 for her).

I might even leave off Fluids, depending on your area of interest. It’s a “core” ME topic, but she didn’t take anything to follow-on. Machine Design, Heat Transfer, Controls, etc., all followed from math, S&D and Thermo, and they were required for everyone. If you followed a fluids-related elective concentration, it would probably be different. (I took Gas Dynamics and Aerodynamics as electives, back in the Paleolithic era, so Fluids was core for me).

EDIT: Reading back through your post, I think it’s fairly accurate and aligned with what I put above. Unless you haven’t covered DiffEqs, which may not be required for CS/Physics.


Thanks for the reply, I have covered DiffEQ (I am even interested in Differential Geometry). Would you say for aerospace specifically that Fluids is probably more important than S&D?

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I’d suggest you look at a 4 year plan of study for a school that has an AAE major.

Yes, fluids is a fundamentals course.

Here’s a link to Purdue’s course requirements for the AAE major:


You’re over thinking this. Don’t try to be a ME/AE light, because at the end of the day, that’s all you’ll be. You’ll never outcompete the legitimate MEs and AEs.

My son for example, who has a BS/MS in ME, took 10 classes past Statics in Dynamics, Fluids, Thermo, and Vibes. That doesn’t include any design classes, materials, controls, mechatronics, intro ME courses, senior project or the additional fluids, thermo and vibes classes he took as a masters candidate. Can two classes really compare?

The aerospace industry employees all sorts of engineers, physicists and programmers, be they CS or SE majors. Excel at what you know, deepen your knowledge and skills in that and apply for jobs that speak to your background. They’re out there.

Good luck.

TL;DR: Intro level ME stuff is a waste of your time and money.


In addition to what others listed and all the design classes, I’d add mechanical systems, an electrical engineering class, a materials science class, and a technical writing class. Keep in mind these are just basic foundational classes.


If you’re a physics major, shouldn’t you have taken classical mechanics (which should at least include statics and dynamics, unless by “Statics & Dynamics” you meant aerodynamics)? What’s fundamental to mechanical engineering (particularly aerospace engineering) is physics (and of course, applied math).


Are you asking the right question?

The right question may be can you get a job in the Aeronautics Industry?
There is certainly software needed to run planes and rockets and such. You should apply to companies in those industries.

For example, look at Boeing and “Entry Level Software Engineer.” They won’t care if you took Statics. They care if you are a good coder and they will help you learn the application (e.g., flight simulators) that you would need to know.

The Boeing Company is currently seeking a Entry Level Software Engineer to join the Flight Simulation team located in Berkeley, MO. At Boeing, our software engineers use their expertise to dream up next generation software capabilities for some amazing aerospace platforms. Join us and you will have the unique opportunity to develop real-time embedded software for the most sophisticated military aircraft in the world.

Position Responsibilities:

** Assists with the documentation and maintenance of architectures, requirements, algorithms, interfaces and designs for software systems*
** Develops and maintains code and integrates software components into a fully functional software system*
** Assists with test procedures and documenting test results to ensure software system requirements are met*
** Gathers information to support software project management*
** Documents deployed processes and tools and collect metrics*
** Supports software research and development projects. Troubleshoots basic software issues*
** Works under close supervision*
** Working with customers and other engineers to define requirements, such as understanding and agreeing upon the function of the software system*
** Architecting and designing software to meet current and future requirements*
** Implementing and testing software using a variety of technologies and software language*


Not only will they not care about Statics, any of the early level ME/AE classes will crowd out upper level, potentially graduate level, CS and/or Physics classes. They are too rudimentary to be helpful to the OP or anyone who hires them. They are simply stepping stones to the useful stuff that comes much later in a ME or AE curriculum.


I agree with the above three comments. You don’t have to be an aerospace engineer to work in the aerospace industry. Leverage you existing education path to find a job that matches your skills and interests.

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You’ll generally have a hard time in fluids if you have no background in dynamics.

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Welcome back! :smiley:

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Teaching during COVID kicked my butt.


Can’t imagine!!! :exploding_head:

Glad you survived and yes, nice to see you back.

I suppose, to keep the thread on topic, the teaching I did during COVID was not the most fundamental or important mechanical engineering course.

Ultimately, if you want the most fundamental/foundational course for mechanical/aerospace engineering, it’s <.drumroll.> mechanics. Otherwise known as Physics I, I am sure @cgreeley has already taken it as a physics major. I’d argue statics/dynamics are, indeed, the next step past that, but that won’t really given them a flavor of engineering that is any different than what they are already likely getting in higher-level mechanics classes in a physics degree.

Perhaps an unconventional answer here might be warranted: solid mechanics. That is where mechanical/aerospace engineers are typically first introduced to stress and strain, which are fundamental to many future courses and not often covered in physics curricula as far as I know.


Second solid mechanics and maybe following up with a course in computational modeling using finite element analysis . If you have not done so already, may want to download Solidworks software and play around with it.

Loved Physics. Loved Statics. But… did I use them a lot on my job? No. Many grads do, but for me the big advantage to engineering education (other than job prereq) was general problem solving mindset.