Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month we’re exploring the role of an Aerospace Engineer.

Discover the different pathways into this role with this video career profile from the Indigo Careers module.

So what is an Aerospace Engineer?

Aerospace engineers research, design and manufacture space vehicles, satellites, missiles and aircraft. You can specialise in mechanical, electrical or electronics engineering, and within these areas, you can focus on airframes, hydraulics, materials and structures, or engines.

Your work might involve research, design and manufacture, or experimenting with new materials.

You may also undertake flight test programmes, and maintain and improve fleets of aircraft all over the world.

It is usual to work 37–40 hours a week, but this depends a lot on project deadlines and what is currently taking place; hours can be longer. 


Work usually takes place in clean quiet laboratories, but visits to production areas are essential and these areas are usually dirty and noisy.

Visits to airfields also take place, where you might be required to inspect and test the functions of the aircraft. 

Type of work

Teamworking skills are essential, but you must also be able to take on responsibility and work independently. 

When working at the lab or airfield you will be required to wear protective clothing.

Things to consider

Long hours/overtime
You may have to work long hours, evenings and weekends.

Stressful deadlines/target-driven
Stress levels can also be high if you are trying to meet deadlines.

The starting salary is relatively high, and you can work your way up to a good wage with time and experience.

Good progression
There are good opportunities for promotion in aerospace engineering.

Demanding training
You will be expected to keep up to date with new technology and developments in the industry.

Most people have an undergraduate degree and you will need further professional training

Most entrants are graduates of an aeronautical/aerospace engineering degree although employers may accept those who have gained a bachelor’s in other relevant disciplines, such as electrical, mechanical or manufacturing engineering, computer software, physics or maths. A Bachelor of Engineering degree (BEng) lasts 3 years while a Master of Engineering degree (MEng) lasts 4. You will need at least 2 A levels/H grades, including Maths and Physics, and 5 GCSEs/National 5s (C or above, or 4 or above in England) in order to ensure entry onto a degree course. Completing a postgraduate qualification is advantageous, as well as being particularly useful to those whose first degree was in a different subject.

Many companies offer graduate training schemes and some are accredited by professional bodies such as the Royal Aeronautical Society. Your scheme may offer you a placement overseas and the chance to work towards an engineering licence, known as a Part 66, accredited by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Employers often value graduates with prior work experience, therefore completing a voluntary work placement or sandwich placement as part of your degree may improve your employability.

It is possible to enter the industry at a lower level by training as a craft or technician straight from school but you will have to complete further qualifications in order to become an engineer. Apprenticeship schemes offered by airline operators, manufacturers or with a service engineering company usually require good GCSE/National 5s in English, Maths and Physics. A HNC/HND in Aeronautical or Aerospace Engineering, Avionics, or Air Transport Engineering may improve your chances of employment at technician level. Alternatively, you could take a Degree Apprenticeship.


Salary progression

Starting salaries for graduates tend to range from £25,000 to £28,000 per year. Depending on your professional status, your earnings will increase to £28,000–£40,000. Senior engineers might earn £45,000 to in excess of £65,000.


Top Tip
To enhance opportunities for progression, you may decide to work towards incorporated or chartered status further on in your career whilst undergoing a series of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses.

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