A career in aerospace engineering will see you working with cutting-edge technology and international companies
As an aerospace engineer you’ll research, design, develop, maintain and test the performance of:
- civil and military aircraft
- weapons systems
- space vehicles.
Work is also carried out on the different components that make up these aircraft and systems. In some companies you may be known as an aeronautical engineer.
You’ll be concerned with improving flight safety, fuel efficiency, speed and weight, as well as reducing system costs and using advancing technologies to meet customer needs. The role is increasingly addressing the environmental impact of air travel.
Types of aerospace engineer
You can specialise in a particular area such as:
- materials and structures
- systems integration.
Your tasks as an aerospace engineer can vary depending on your specialist area and employer, but you could be required to:
- apply the principles of science and technology to create aircraft, components and support equipment
- research and develop design specifications and use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create plans
- supervise the assembly of airframes and the installation of engines, instruments and other equipment
- take part in flight-test programmes to measure take-off distances, rate of climb, stall speeds, manoeuvrability and landing capacities
- resolve issues that arise during the design, development and testing processes
- maintain aircraft for full operation including making regular inspections, maintenance, repairs and servicing
- measure and improve the performance of aircraft, components and systems
- modify designs to improve safety features or minimise fuel consumption and pollution
- investigate aircraft accidents
- collate information, interpret data and publish the results of specific projects in technical report form
- communicate technical and regulatory advice to clients, teams, suppliers and other professionals within the aerospace industry.
- Starting salaries for aerospace engineers range from £22,000 to £28,000.
- With experience this can rise to between £28,000 and £40,000, depending on the level of your expertise.
- At senior levels, particularly if you gain chartered status, you can expect a salary of £45,000 to £60,000+.
You may be offered a starting salary at the higher end of the band if you have a Masters or research qualification. Larger, more renowned employers typically offer larger salaries.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are mainly 9am to 5pm, but extra hours may be required to complete projects to deadlines. You may need to work on an on-call consultation basis, dealing with such issues as a change in the priority of repairs or in case of an emergency investigation.
Working at the forefront of technology makes long career breaks difficult, as you need to keep up to date with industry developments. Self-employment opportunities are limited.
What to expect
- You may be based in offices, factory production hangars or aeronautical laboratories. Travel to sites and other industrial companies to examine or test aircraft may be required.
- Design work in a laboratory will involve the use of sophisticated computer visualisation tools and software.
- Jobs are widely available in a number of locations in the UK and abroad. The main aerospace manufacturing locations in the UK are the South West, the Midlands, the North West, Northern Ireland, the South East and Wales. The UK has a very advanced aerospace industry, which is at the forefront of technological and scientific development.
- Only a small percentage of women are working as aerospace engineers. Support and access to initiatives relevant to women in engineering is available from organisations such as Women’s Engineering Society (WES) and WISE.
- You’ll need to show dedication and enthusiasm. Workloads may vary from day to day, and can be a stressful job when deadlines approach. The work must be precise, as the consequences of human error can be serious.
- Travel within a working day and absence from home overnight are sometimes necessary to visit aircraft workshops or hangars. Overseas travel may be required to attend courses and conferences on aeronautical engineering.