As an Aeronautical Engineer you will become an expert in the science of flight (aeronautics). You'll use your knowledge to work on very advanced technology such as aircraft, missiles and space satellites.
Also known as
- Aeroplane Engineer
- Aircraft Engineer
- Engineer, Aeronautical
- Astronautical Engineer
Video: - Maggie: Space Scientist
Aerospace engineering can be divided into two areas:
- Aeronautical Engineering - is the human effort in science, engineering and business to fly in the atmosphere of Earth
- Astronautical Engineering - is the human effort in science, engineering and business to fly beyond the atmosphere of Earth - in space!
As an Aeronautical Engineer, you will help with the design, development, manufacture, and maintenance of aircraft - both military and civil.
You might use your technical knowledge to help improve flight safety and fuel efficiency. You could work on improving the environmental impact of air travel - a very important area of modern aerospace engineering.
As an Aeronautical Engineer, you could be involved in the design of a new aircraft or engine. This involves a lot of technical analysis and computer aided design (3D) work. You might use 3D models to create new wing shapes, landing gear parts, or cockpit instruments.
You will be working in a team made up of other engineers, such as Structural Engineers, Materials Engineers, and Design Engineers.
As an Astronautical Engineer, you will be responsible for everything that we send beyond the earth's atmosphere. Without the work of Astronautical Engineers, Neil Armstrong would not have been able to become the first person to walk on the moon!
You will use you technical knowledge and practical skills to research, test and develop highly complex engineering solutions that will once day form part of a spacecraft e.g. satellites, space launch vehicles, planetary probes, or parts of the International Space Station (ISS).
You will take on a specialist role within the space industry, such as:
- electrical engineering
- structural engineering
- software engineering
- propulsion systems engineering.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As an Aerospace Engineer, you need:
- An analytical, logical approach to solving problems, combined with creativity and imagination.
- To read and interpret engineering diagrams.
- To work within budgets.
- An understanding of engineering licence regulations.
- To work well on your own and as part of a team.
- To be flexible and able to compromise.
- Strong communication skills to explain complex engineering information to people from non-technical backgrounds.
- Organisational skills to plan your own time, to co-ordinate resources and ensure deadlines are met.
- A willingness to take on responsibility and to lead and motivate others.
- Excellent IT skills as a lot of engineering work involves using computers.
- To be good at maths.
- To be willing to keep up to date with advances in technology in this fast-changing field.
An interest in aviation is generally useful. Foreign language skills may also be useful if, for example, working on international projects.
Pay and Opportunities
The pay rates given below are approximate.
- Starting: £33,000 - £37,500
- With experience: £40,000 - £47,000
- Senior Aerospace Engineers earn £52,500 - £60,000
Hours of work
Most Aerospace Engineers work around 35-40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, you may need to start early, finish late or do some weekend work, especially as deadlines approach.
Future skills needsT
The main skills gaps for the industry are:
- Materials requirement planning.
- Computer-Aided Engineering (CAE).
- Assembly line/production robotics.
- CNC machine operation.
Where could I work?
Employers are aircraft manufacturers, defence companies, component manufacturers, airlines, the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence.
Some aeronautical engineers apply their knowledge of aerodynamics in other areas, for example, in companies that make vehicles such as cars, trains and hovercraft.
You can also work in the communications industry, dealing with satellites, or in construction, dealing with high, wind-blown structures.
Opportunities for aeronautical engineers occur with employers in towns and cities throughout the UK. The Bristol area is a major location for aeronautical engineering.
Opportunities to work in transport equipment manufacture are highest in the North West, South West and East of England.
Opportunities occur for aeronautical engineers to work independently as freelance consultants.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry publications, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Universal Jobmatch website.
Vacancies can also be found through specialist engineering recruitment agencies, internet job boards and the websites of professional engineering bodies.
GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers
Entry Routes and Training
To become an Aerospace Engineer you will usually need to complete a relevant engineering degree, foundation degree or HND.
Course titles include aerospace engineering, aeronautical engineering and avionics.
You could also enter with degrees and HNDs in other engineering disciplines, especially mechanical and electronics engineering.
The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) can provide details of colleges and universities offering relevant courses.
It's essential to check college/university websites carefully to make sure the course you choose is appropriate to the branch of engineering you want to follow.
A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article
An Advanced Level or Degree Apprenticeship is also a great place to start.
Some graduates join graduate training schemes, which offer structured training and learning.
Depending on their level of entry, engineers can gain Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng) professional status. Both are highly regarded by employers throughout industry.
Depending on their qualification, engineers can progress by taking on more responsibility for the management of engineering projects and teams of engineers.
Some engineers choose to become self-employed or take contract work on a freelance basis.
To enter a degree course in aeronautical engineering, the usual requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels, usually in Maths and Physics
- GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C/4 or above
- A further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above
- English, Maths and a science subject are usually required at GCSE at grade C/4 or above.
Alternatives to A levels include:
- A BTEC Level 3 National qualification (Relevant subjects include Aeronautical Engineering, Aerospace and Aviation Engineering, Electronic Engineering or 3D Design)
- A Design Advanced Level Apprenticeship
- The International Baccalaureate Diploma.
To get onto an Advanced Level Apprenticeship, you'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, including English and Maths, or to have completed an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.
To get onto a Degree Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least 2 A levels.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Engineering) could be the way in.
These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.
Numerous institutions offer undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications, in aerospace/aeronautical related subjects, by part-time study.
Numerous institutions offer undergraduate and postgraduate engineering qualifications via distance learning.
Information on pathways to registration as a Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) Engineer can be found on the Engineering Council's website.
Sponsorship for higher education study in aeronautical engineering is available from the larger engineering and manufacturing companies.
Funding for postgraduate study is available through universities from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) also runs a scholarship programme.
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