Aeronautical engineer: job description
Aeronautical engineers use their technical knowledge to improve flight safety and fuel efficiency, reduce costs and address the environmental impact of air travel. They also work with aircraft that operates in space such as robots and satellites.
Aeronautical engineers typically work in multidisciplinary engineering teams where responsibilities include:
- assessing design requirements
- agreeing budgets, timescales and specifications with clients and managers
- undertaking theoretical and practical research
- producing and implementing designs and test procedures
- measuring and improving the performance of aircraft, components and systems
- assembling the aircraft or fitting components
- testing, evaluating, modifying and re-testing products
- writing reports, manuals and documentation
- providing technical advice
- analysing and interpreting data.
Aeronautical engineers may be office-based, or they may work in aircraft workshops, production hangars or aeronautical laboratories. Local and national travel between sites may be necessary.
Typical employers include:
- Aerospace and aero-engine companies
- Airline operators
- Research and development organisations
- Contract agencies
- The Civil Service
- The armed forces
- Government agencies such as The Ministry of Defence
An aeronautical education is widely respected. Due to the excellent reputation of the UK aerospace industry, graduates may find opportunities for permanent or temporary employment abroad. They can do this by undertaking professional courses, attending conferences and through working within international partnerships and consortiums (a combination of businesses working towards a joint venture).
Lengthy career breaks are difficult due to the need to keep up to date with recent technological developments.
Engineering employers typically seek graduates with an MEng in a relevant engineering discipline such as aerospace, electronics, mechanical, software and materials. Relevant work experience is widely valued. Summer internships and industrial placements are often used by employers to find graduate recruits. Postgraduate study can be advantageous: graduates with postgraduate research qualifications may earn higher starting salaries. A list of accredited courses is available on the Engineering Council’s website.
Entry into the profession is also possible through an apprenticeship. Apprentices typically end up working as engineering technicians, fitters, machinists and modellers. To become an aeronautical engineer, you will need to complete further qualifications such as a degree, and your employer may sponsor you to do so.
To find out more about getting into engineering via a school leaver route, visit the engineering section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.
Achieving chartered (CEng) status with the Engineering Council can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field. To become chartered, you will need an accredited bachelors degree in engineering or technology, plus an appropriate masters degree (MSc) or doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution such as the Royal Aeronautical Society. You will also be eligible with an integrated MSc. To find out more, take a look at our guide to chartership.
The work environment is multidisciplinary, so a clear understanding of how aerospace engineering relates to other engineering disciplines is essential. Given the frequency of international partnerships, language skills are useful and the ability to work as part of a team is crucial. Aeronautical engineers must also have:
- strong mathematical, analytical and problem solving skills
- technical expertise
- creativity and innovative thinking
- attention to detail
- a strong awareness of safety issues
- communication skills, both verbal and written
- project and time management skills
- a commitment to keeping up to date with technical developments
- the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines
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