Career Guide

Aerospace Engineer

Ben Maples  · Nov 30th 2021

Who doesn’t want to create spaceships and be at the forefront of space exploration?

Earth's atmosphere

Exactly! We can’t think of many people who wouldn’t love this job either. Aerospace engineering is one of those careers that allow individuals to work with cutting-edge technology across multinational companies. When we say reach for the stars, we mean it! To find out more about this career, keep on reading.

Aerospace Engineer Career Guide

What is aerospace engineering?

Now, what does aerospace mean? It’s the branch of industry and technology that revolves around space flight and aviation. But, what is aeronautical engineering and is it different from astronautical engineering? The aerospace field has two major branches, aeronautical and astronautical. There is also avionics, which is similar but works with the electronics side. An aeronautical engineer will focus on the flight within the Earth’s atmosphere, whereas astronautical jobs will look at travel in space. Aerospace covers both of these realms. You may find individuals working with aeronautical engineering companies, or astronautical instead. Then you might have someone who can cover both, as aerospace encompasses it all.

What is an aerospace engineer?

As a type of aviation engineer, you’ll research, develop, design and test civil and military aircraft, satellites, missiles, weapon systems and space vehicles. You may also work across the various components inside the plane. Your title may fall within astronautical, aeronautical, aerospace or even rocket engineering. Aerospace engineers use to improve fuel efficiency, speed and weight and flight safety. They may also try to reduce system costs. The environment also plays a key factor, as you’ll focus on the impact it has on air travel. Some engineers specialise in a particular area like, avionics, systems integration, avionics, aerodynamics and materials and structures.

Well, the starting aircraft engineer salary is usually between £20,000 and £28,000.

What does an aerospace engineer do?

So, what do aerospace engineers do? The responsibilities of aviation engineering depend on the specialist area and the company you work for, however, there are several duties that crossover between jobs. Aerospace engineers need to apply the principles of technology and science to produce components, equipment and aircraft. Also, researching and creating design specifications are part of the role, alongside utilising CAD (computer-aided design) to draw up plans.

Much like plane engineering, they’ll oversee the installation of instruments and engines as well as airframe assembly. Testing programmes to record stall speeds, landing, manoeuvrability, climbing rate, and take-off capacities are common. Aeronautical engineers will need to resolve problems that may occur during the planning, development and testing process, which may lead them to modify designs, increase safety measures and reduce pollution and fuel consumption.

Analysing data and collating information of projects, communicating technical advice to teams, clients, and suppliers are also essential tasks. Additionally, performing regular inspections, maintaining the aircraft for operation through repairs, and servicing are vital responsibilities. An aerospace engineer will investigate accidents, fill in technical report forms and keep in constant communication with clients, suppliers and other professionals within the industry.

Although this branch of engineering is specialised in aircraft, it features the same responsibilities as other areas. For example, what do mechanical engineers do? They’ll design and install power-producing machines, from turbines to generators which consist of planning, implementation and maintenance. A chemical engineer will look at how compounds of materials and mix and form together to make new materials to create products. Then we have an automobile engineer who’ll understand the ins and outs of cars and vehicles and their components, and again design, install and test equipment.

Aerospace Engineer Career

How to become an aerospace engineer?

What do aeronautics study? There are specific aerospace engineering qualifications you can undertake in the form of undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. Undergraduate courses will encompass engineering in aerospace, whereas the higher level allows you to specialise, possibly, aerodynamic engineering or astronautical. If you want to enter this profession, there are aerospace engineering requirements in the form of studying a specific or related degree.

Other relevant subjects include mathematics, mechanical engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, software engineering, space-related courses and physics. Also, manufacturing engineering, applied physics, and production engineering are acceptable to employers. Most individuals focus on flight and aircraft in jobs with an engineering degree. Some prominent aerospace companies may offer students a graduate training scheme who have a 2:1 degree or higher.

How to become an aircraft engineer without a degree? It’s not common for candidates with an HND to enter these programmes so you’ll need to complete a degree to apply. However, if you only have an HND or foundation degree, you may be able to start at the bottom and work your way up from a technical level or apprenticeship. But if an airplane engineer is a goal, you’ll need to complete further study, and in particular instances, employers can fund or support your development.

Although a postgraduate degree is not essential, having a Master’s is useful if you studied something different during your first course. Universities will have a set of requirements students will need to pass to get a spot on a postgrad degree, such as having a relevant or science-related degree of a particular grade or related experience. It’s beneficial to have your degree accredited by a relevant professional body to achieve chartered or incorporated status later on. Courses can be accredited by The Royal Aeronautical Society or the Engineering Council.

You can also visit Careers in Aerospace, by The Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS) who go into further detail about apprenticeships, bursaries and entry routes. There may be opportunities at the British Aerospace engineering who have more than 85,000 workers across the world.

Now, what does aerospace mean? It’s the branch of industry and technology that revolves around space flight and aviation.

Where to find aeronautical engineering work experience?

Similarly to the mechanical engineering career, and other engineering professions, employers of aircraft engineers will value candidates who have some work experience. You can either complete this by studying a sandwich degree where you take off a year for placement or by applying for work experience during your vacations. Employers can often use placements to identify potential students for their aerospace graduate roles. One handy site, Space Careers, offers advice on securing a work placement.

What skills are useful for spacecraft engineering?

Numerous skills are beneficial for aviation engineering jobs, including excellent communication, technical and problem-solving skills. Also, having an analytical mind, attention to detail and insight into manufacturing and aerospace systems helps. Some aeronautical engineering requirements may involve knowledge of the industry, a systematic approach to work and the ability to cope with problems and demands.

Individuals who are creative, innovative, organised and self-motivated tend to do well in their career. An aerospace engineering should have superb time-management skills and be able to work to deadlines, whether they’re developing designs or dealing with repairs. Having a genuine interest in aircraft, flight technology, aviation, and space will do well, as well as commercial awareness. To be successful, you’ll need to be able to work independently and with a team, as you’ll liaise with colleagues, suppliers, clients and other professionals in the industry regularly. For international companies, speaking one or more foreign languages are useful. Also, due to the technical requirements of the role, you may need normal colour vision and excellent eyesight to enter a specific position.

Aerospace Engineer

What is the average aerospace engineer salary?

Are you wondering ‘do aeronautical engineers make good money?’. Well, the starting aircraft engineer salary is usually between £20,000 and £28,000. After gaining experience, the plane engineer salary tends to rise to £28,000, with it possibly being as high as £40,000 depending on your expertise. The senior aeronautical engineer salary is much more, usually within the range of £45,000 and £60,000 after an individual achieves chartered or incorporated status. However, due to this career having the ability to take you across the globe, the aerospace engineering salary in the USA and other countries may differ. Also, if you have a postgraduate or research degree, your starting wage may be higher.

Where to find work at aerospace engineering companies?

The opportunities are similar for jobs for mechanical engineers, with a long list of employers based in government, higher education sectors and the armed forces. However, there are specific industries that employ aerospace engineers. Airline operators, regulators like the Civil Aviation Authority, aircraft manufacturing companies and government agencies (the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Business, energy and Industrials Strategy and the Defence Engineering and Science Group) also offer vacancies.

Also, manufacturing engineering, applied physics, and production engineering are acceptable to employers.

Individuals with an avionics engineering qualification can transfer between organisations throughout their career for progression. It’s possible to work on a subcontract business, usually for individual projects, allowing you to gain experience across various companies, countries and areas. Most engineers in the profession work in labs, offices or production hangars and often travel to sites to test or examine aircraft.

What are the prospects for aerospace engineers?

Again, it follows a similar trend to others in the engineering branch; if we compare mechanical engineering prospects, we find that there is a standard career progression path for both disciplines. In most cases, you can move up into a senior engineering role and adopt managerial responsibilities and supervise staff.

Individuals may wish to specialise in certain areas, like avionics or aerodynamics, others choose to move into commercial, training, sales or lecturing positions instead. It’s beneficial to continue studying and progressing in your knowledge and skills to ensure your carer carries on moving in the right direction as well as becoming a member of engineering institutions and gaining incorporated and chartered status.

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