CAREER DEVELOPMENT / MAY. 08, 2014
version 6, draft 6

How To Become An Aerospace Engineer

Aerospace Engineer
istock

If you have a passion for aircraft and spacecraft and would love a career where you would be involved in the design, maintenance and building of all things aeronautical including space vehicles and satellites, a career as an aerospace engineer could be what you are looking for.

Skills and qualities

To become an aerospace engineer, you will require:

  • Outstanding IT and mathematical skills
  • Knowledge of CAD and CAM software
  • Strong problem solving and communication skills
  • Good technical knowledge
  • To be able to plan, manage and prioritise projects
  • Budget management experience
  • An interest in keeping up to date with industry developments
  • A thorough understanding of engineering licence regulations

The ability to speak a second European language might also be useful as you may be required to work on joint international projects.

Job prospects

There are several avenues you could pursue when looking for work as an aerospace engineer. Major airlines have their own engineering divisions which tend to be situated near major UK airports. Smaller engineering companies offer sub-contractor services to the larger firms and manufacturers.

As you become more experienced, you may decide to specialise in a particular field; aerodynamics, fuel efficiency or space technology for example. You could also choose to move into management or consultancy in your chosen specialist area.

The work

As an aerospace engineer you would work on aircraft development and related technology.  This would include working on:

  • Space vehicles
  • Fixed-wing aircraft
  • Helicopters
  • Weapons and missiles
  • Flight simulators
  • Flight instruments and components

You could work in research and development, production and maintenance or testing and your duties would vary depending on the area you were working in. These duties could include:

  • Researching fuel efficiency of specific aircraft parts including wings, engines and fuselage
  • Developing systems such as communications and navigation instruments
  • Drawing up project designs using computer aided design (CAD) software
  • Testing of prototypes both on ground and in-flight
  • Data collection and analysis
  • Supervision of fitting of aircraft and componentry
  • Sign off of projects in accordance with strict licensing regulations
  • Supervising and scheduling of line and base maintenance of aircraft
  • Estimating project costs and timescales
  • Writing technical reports and manuals
  • Giving presentations to clients and your peers
  • Working on air accident investigation (when you are sufficiently experienced)

Hours

Hours are generally 37 to 40 per week although this may vary depending on project deadlines.

Your work would be carried out in offices and factory production hangars. You would need a driving license and a car as you may have to travel to different sites in order to inspect or test aircraft.

Income

Starting salary

£20,000 to £26,000 per annum

With several years’ experience

Between £28,000 and £40,000 per annum

Project leader/management

From £45,000 to £65,000 per annum

Entry requirements

You would require a foundation degree, HNC/HND or degree in avionics or aerospace engineering to enter this industry. Other acceptable degrees include:

  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical engineering
  • Manufacturing or product engineering
  • Physics and applied physics
  • Software engineering
  • Mathematics

You would need a good ‘A’ level qualification in mathematics and/or physics to get onto one of these courses.

Another possible means of entry to this career would be by beginning as an aerospace technician apprentice with an airline, service engineering company or airline manufacturer. Your training would continue up to degree level once you had completed your apprenticeship.

For more information about training and careers including useful links to major aerospace companies, see the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) website.

Training and development

As part of a company training scheme, you would work towards the Part-66 Engineering Licence which is issued by the CAA  on behalf of the European Aviation Safety Agency. This allows you to work as a qualified engineer. 

If you have the right degree or other industry-relevant qualifications, you might be able to apply to the Aerospace MSc Bursary Scheme which will help you to fund the cost of a post graduate degree in aerospace engineering.

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