How to Become a Weapons Engineer

Illustration of a tank, two rockets and an airplane engine

The world of engineering has evolved, embracing other technologies in a broad array of industries. Suffice it to say, engineering jobs are always changing. 

One area that has withstood the test of time in the industry and continues to adapt to our changing world is weapons engineering. Today, this specialised mechanical and electrical engineering sector is an in-demand profession that requires key knowledge and skills. 

Do you want to know what this position entails and how to become a weapons engineer? Our detailed guide will walk you through all the necessary steps you need to take to pursue this career path.

1. Understand what weapons engineers do

It is easy to surmise that a weapons engineer is somebody who develops artillery and weapons. However, the job is a lot more intricate than that. 

Overall, a weapons engineer develops, designs, tests and manages weapons and weapons systems as part of a contractor for a military apparatus or a large-scale private-sector company.

Some other day-to-day facets of the profession include:

  • Designing new and or improving existing state-of-the-art weapons.
  • Testing newly manufactured military equipment like drones and missiles. 
  • Performing routine inspections and maintenance endeavours for weapons systems and equipment.
  • Operating and executing diagnostic analysis for various systems, specialised tools and equipment to ensure good working condition.
  • Remedying faulty electronic devices by using computer-aided design software to address aerodynamics, shape, velocity and weight.

2. Participate in engineering competitions 

To improve your chances of getting into an excellent engineering programme, you can participate in engineering competitions throughout high school and college. 

There are dozens of national and international science competitions at both the high school and college level that have the potential to boost your future job applications. 

Here is a brief list of some of the more common engineering competitions in the world: 

  • The Big Bang Young Scientists and Engineers Competition 
  • The UK Space Design competition 
  • MathWorks Math Modeling Challenge 
  • Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition (IREC)
  • MIT THINK Scholars Program 
  • 3M Young Scientist Challenge 
  • RoboRAVE International 
  • Math Olympiad 

By partaking in any of the above competitions and programmes, you will be able to give your CV or résumé a necessary boost and kickstart your career on the right foot. 

3. Acquire the necessary training and qualifications

You cannot become a weapons engineer without proper qualification. If you choose to pursue a career as a weapons engineer, you will need to have both the aptitude and the required skills relevant to this STEM field

Successful weapons engineers must have excellent command and knowledge in these subjects as they are integral to succeed in this field.

So, what areas of study should you concentrate on? Take a look below:

  • Mathematics:It is no secret that mathematics and engineering go hand in hand since calculations are imperative to this field. 
  • Physics:There are many specialities within physics, but applied or theoretical physics are the fields to home in on when studying weapons engineering since they delve into laser technology, nuclear power and mechanics. 
  • Chemistry:A weapons engineer will inevitably come across the development and storage of chemical weapons. 
  • Computer science: In this career, you will be working intimately with computers to create blueprints, design, manufacture and experiment with military hardware and weapon systems. 

Weapons engineering is a highly specialised area. People who enter this profession need to have a background in electrical or mechanical engineering. Most employers will require qualifications like:  

  • a bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering 
  • advanced training in a subspecialty 
  • research experience in mechanical or electrical engineering 
  • three to five years of experience in a weapons facility.  

A degree in these subjects is a prerequisite, followed by specific training or education in microelectronics, computer engineering, optics, photonics and image processing. Engineering schools also offer modules such as armament engineering, guided-missile engineering, combat vehicle engineering, and microwave and radar engineering, which will allow you to develop your speciality.

On top of your bachelor’s degree in mechanical or electrical engineering and a master’s degree in a more specialised area, you will also need to complete subspecialty training, which may take an additional two to three years.  

Completing an internship or an apprenticeship at a government military facility or private company is the best way to get hands-on experience in weapons engineering and break into the industry. 

In the past, some weapons engineers started their careers as research assistants in a weapons research facility. 

4. Get licensed 

Once you’ve attained all the necessary qualifications and training, you will need to work under a professional engineer for a minimum of three to four years, depending on which state or country you reside in. It is only after completing these requirements that you will be eligible to sit competency exams to earn a license as a professional engineer. 

To work as a weapons engineer, your employer may require that you obtain federal clearance and undergo a thorough background check, particularly since you will be involved with sensitive and classified projects. 

Beyond an official license, you could also look into becoming a member of one or more engineering associations, as this will also help you make better connections and enhance your CV

5. Build your portfolio 

While a portfolio is not mandatory for a weapons engineer, having one could increase your chances of getting a job. 

Within your portfolio, mention all your completed projects and assignments, as well as relevant statistics and outcomes for each. You will need to include the following: 

  • Static images or videos of your projects. 
  • Names of any prestigious awards that you may have won. 
  • Names of any well-known engineering professionals you have worked with. 
  • Correspondence that attests to your workmanship and knowledge. 
  • Your skills demonstrated in a written or video format. 

A portfolio is a great mechanism to summarise your life’s work in a glance, whether it is a blueprint for something you have been dabbling in or the completion of an advanced weapons system for the government’s military. 

It is imperative that you continually hone your skills and update your portfolio. This ensures that you can stay at the top of your game and ready to grapple with the newest industry-wide problems. 

Whether studying at the top engineering schools or enrolling in continuing education courses, there are many avenues to explore to ensure your CV and subject acumen are at the highest level. This is a complex field, so the best and brightest minds are crucial to the sector’s success.

Weapons engineering combines many disciplines, including electrical engineering, physics, mechanical engineering, optics and electronics. 

Today, most weapon systems are heavily specialised and use advanced technology that requires significant time, money, effort, and research for it to be developed. Governments rely on weapons engineers to research, design and maintain these high-tech weapon systems. 

While it may not be a common or easily accessible profession, it does pose the potential of being a lucrative and interesting career path. 

Are you still unsure if this is a viable career option for you? Then you can put your skills, interests and personality to the test through our career assessment tool, CareerHunter. Based on your results, you can see how you match up to over 250 careers and pick the one that is right for you. 

Would you pursue a career as a weapons engineer? Let us know in the comments section below.

 

This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published on 7 November 2016.