Aerospace Engineer Careers

How to become an Aerospace Engineer

What does a Aerospace Engineer do?

Aerospace engineers work on the research and development, design, testing and manufacture of aircraft (fixed-wing and rotary), space vehicles, surface/ground effect vehicles (very low flying craft), missile technologies, flight simulators, and related components and control systems; they also plan and oversee maintenance programmes. Engineers are employed on commercial, military, national and international projects and often specialise in a particular aspect of the work:

Research – working in a research environment, carrying out feasibility studies for new developments or innovations, including structural components - wings, fuselage, rib assemblies, fuel tanks and engines; avionic systems – navigation and communications equipment and controls; and software development.

Design - using computer-aided design (CAD) software to turn research ideas into technical plans and specifications for new craft, components and system prototypes.

Testing - putting prototypes through ground or flight testing programmes; collecting and analysing test data using computer models; modifying prototypes and re-testing - this process can go through several stages before a product is ready for manufacture.

Production - designing new production processes or refining existing ones; planning and supervising the assembly and installation of craft and components in line with design specifications and timetables.

Maintenance - scheduling and supervising line (airport) and base (hangar) maintenance of aircraft; managing teams of technicians and ensuring completed work is signed off under strict licencing regulations (see Aerospace Engineering Technician).

More generic duties include:
  • estimating material, construction, and labour costs, and project timescales
  • attending meetings, writing technical reports and manuals, and giving presentations to managers and clients
  • investigating and reporting on accidents resulting from structural or system failures.

Fully qualified professional engineers usually hold incorporated or chartered status. See Training section for details.

What's the working environment like working as a Aerospace Engineer?

Aerospace engineers work 37 to 40 hours a week, but longer hours may be necessary, depending on the project and deadlines.

Work environments range from modern, open-plan offices to aircraft factory production areas.

Travel may be involved to inspect or test aircraft on site, so a driving licence is useful.

What does it take to become a Aerospace Engineer?

To be an aerospace engineer you need:

  • strong analytical skills and an innovative approach to problem solving
  • excellent mathematical and IT skills
  • strong communication skills
  • an excellent technical knowledge
  • to be able to prioritise and plan effectively
  • to be able to work within budgetary constraints
  • to keep up-to-date with new developments
  • to be able to work as part of a team and take responsibility
  • a comprehensive understanding of engineering licencing regulations.

In addition, European language skills may be an advantage, particularly if working on a transnational project.

Aerospace Engineer Career Opportunities

The UK aerospace industry employs around 300,000 people and there are good opportunities for skilled engineers in aircraft and component manufacture, research and development, and space, satellite and weapons systems.

Employers include the armed forces, government departments, and aircraft manufacturers and suppliers. Many major airline operators also have their own maintenance divisions, employing engineering staff.

Opportunities are available overseas for experienced engineers in Europe and the United States.

Promotion would normally be to project manager or consultant engineer.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Aerospace Engineer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS)
4 Hamilton Place
Tel: 020 7670 4300

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA)
CAA House
45-59 Kingsway

SEMTA (Science Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance)
14 Upton Road
WD18 0JT
Tel: 0808 100 3682

Women into Science and Engineering
22 Old Queen Street
Tel: 020 7227 8421

Engineering Training Council (Northern Ireland)
20-24 York Street
BT15 1AQ
Tel: 028 9032 9878

Engineering Council
10 Maltravers Street
Tel: 020 7240 7891

The UK Standard for Professional Engineering Competence (UK-SPEC)

Facts and Stats:

  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel was only 5ft tall and wore a top hat to make himself look taller
  • Engineering generates more than 40 per cent of the UK¿s national wealth
  • The Box Hill tunnel, part of Brunel¿s Great Western Railway, took five years to dig and at two miles long was the longest tunnel in the world at the time

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