A career in aerospace engineering will see you working with cutting-edge technology and international companies
An aerospace or aeronautical engineer researches, designs, develops, maintains and tests the performance of:
Work is also carried out on the different components that make up these aircraft and systems.
You'll be concerned with improving flight safety, fuel efficiency, speed and weight, as well as reducing system costs and using advancing technologies to meet customer needs. Increasingly, the role addresses the environmental impact of air travel.
You can specialise in a particular area such as:
Specific tasks vary according to the role, specialist area and employer but they may include:
Starting salaries at the higher end may be offered to those with Masters or research qualifications. Larger, more renowned employers may offer larger salaries.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are mainly 9am to 5pm, but extra hours may be required to complete projects to deadlines. You may need to work on an 'on-call' consultation basis dealing with such issues as a change in the priority of repairs or in case of an emergency investigation.
Working at the forefront of technology makes long career breaks difficult, as you need to keep up to date with industry developments. Self-employment opportunities are limited.
The most common route into this job is through studying a degree in aeronautical/aerospace engineering. However, employers may accept other relevant degrees such as:
Many large aerospace companies offer graduate training schemes in the engineering field and require a good degree, usually a 2.1 or above. Entry with a HND only will not usually be possible for these programmes.
If you do have a HND, you may be able to enter at a technician level or through an apprenticeship in a lower-level manufacturing role. To become an aerospace engineer however, you'll need to take further qualifications, which may be supported by your employer.
It isn't essential for you to have a pre-entry postgraduate qualification but a Masters in aeronautical/aerospace engineering can be useful if your first degree is in a different subject. Postgraduate study may also allow you to specialise in a certain area of aerospace engineering. Search for postgraduate courses in aerospace engineering.
It's useful if your first degree or Masters is accredited by a relevant professional body, such as the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) as it can help you to achieve the status of incorporated or chartered engineer at a later date. You can find a list of accredited courses at Engineering Council - Accredited Course Search.
You will need to show:
Language skills may be useful because of joint ventures with international companies and the possibility of travel to company sites outside the UK. Security clearance is required for defence work. Due to the technical nature of this job, employers may stipulate that you have normal colour vision.
Pre-entry experience is advisable. Many aerospace engineering degrees include sandwich placements but you can also get experience through vacation work. Contact major aerospace companies to find out about opportunities.
Employers value industrial placements as an opportunity to identify potential graduate recruits.
Aerospace engineers are employed by:
There is also a growing market for maintenance, repair and overhaul of military and commercial aircraft.
It's possible to undertake sub-contract work, which gives you the opportunity to experience the job in different companies and countries.
Look for job vacancies at:
You should also look at the websites of aerospace companies to find out what opportunities they have. There are a number of recruitment agencies dedicated to the engineering/aerospace industry, which may be able to help you find work.
Graduate training schemes with large aerospace companies provide structured programmes that give you knowledge of the company and experience in different engineering departments. Some schemes include placements at partner companies. Smaller employers typically provide training on the job and you'll usually be supervised by a more experienced colleague.
You may decide to work towards incorporated (IEng) or chartered (CEng) engineer status and many employers encourage this. These internationally recognised qualifications are awarded by the Engineering Council and achieving them improves your career prospects and earning potential.
You'll need to be a member of a professional institution, such as the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) and you must be able to demonstrate a certain level of competence and professional activity. This may involve further postgraduate study, project management, report writing and short training courses. For more information see Engineering Council - Professional Registration.
It's important to stay up to date with key developments in this fast-moving sector and becoming a member of a relevant organisation can help with this. RAeS provides conferences, training courses and specialist groups to help with continuing professional development (CPD).
Employers usually offer short courses, either in-house or externally, to meet specific training needs. Larger companies may invest not only in technical training, but also training in specialist topics including:
There are many opportunities for career development in the aerospace industry. For example, you may move into a senior engineering position, where you oversee the work within your department or undertake a project management role.
It's also possible to specialise in a certain area such as aerodynamics, propulsion or avionics. You could choose to move into a different area of aviation, such as a commercial role in sales, training or lecturing.
Becoming a chartered engineer helps with career progression and salary prospects as it shows that a certain level of experience and knowledge has been reached.
The aerospace industry has a strong track record of investing in its workforce through funding and supporting employee training, as well as encouraging membership of relevant engineering institutions such as: