Each month we take a look at one of the 650 career pathways featured within Indigo. This month, we explore the role of an Aerospace Engineer.
Aerospace Engineer Mark Smith shares his insight into a career working in engineering 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.
Well-paid 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.
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.
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.
Salary progression Starting salaries for graduates tend to range from £20,000 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.
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.