Aerospace engineer: job description

Aerospace (aeronautical) engineers design, develop, modify and maintain planes and other flying craft, including military and civil aircraft, satellites and space vehicles, and weapons.

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What does an aerospace engineer do? | Graduate salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Aerospace engineers (also known as aeronautical engineers) use their technical knowledge to design, develop and test aircraft, components and systems so that flights are safe and fuel- and cost-efficient.

Typical duties include:

  • assessing design requirements
  • agreeing budgets, timescales and specifications with clients and managers
  • designing, testing and implementing parts, systems and procedures
  • undertaking theoretical and practical research – for example, into fuel efficiency
  • investigating the causes of air accidents
  • planning installation and maintenance schedules
  • resolving problems that arise during design, installation and maintenance
  • analysing and interpreting data
  • providing technical advice and writing reports.

You’re likely to be largely office based and to work in a team comprising engineers from different disciplines and other stakeholders, such as suppliers and academic research partners. However, your office could be based on site (at the same locations as aircraft workshops, production hangars or aeronautical laboratories) or you will need to travel to sites from time to time.

Projects within the aerospace sector typically take longer than in many other engineering industries; developing a new technology may take two decades and be operational for longer than that. While you can work just within the UK, there are often opportunities to work abroad.

Graduate salaries in aerospace and aeronautical engineering

Salary survey websites suggest that graduate aerospace and aeronautical engineers typically earn a minimum of £27,000 – often more. Pay increases with experience and professional qualifications. Head over to our engineering salary round-up for more details.

Typical employers of aerospace engineers

  • Manufacturers of aircraft and components.
  • Defence organisations.
  • Airline operators.
  • Research and development organisations.
  • The armed forces.
  • Engineering consultancies.
  • Government departments, agencies and organisations
  • Space agencies.
  • Universities.

Big manufacturers include Airbus , Boeing and Bombardier, who design, manufacture and build aircraft, and Rolls-Royce , GE, and Pratt & Whitney, who design, manufacture and build engines. Safran Landing Systems, BAE Systems , Cobham and QinetiQ are other big names. The Ministry of Defence and the Civil Aviation Authority are examples of government departments and agencies.

You can search for aerospace engineering graduate jobs on targetjobs.co.uk, employer websites and the Royal Aeronautical Society’s jobs board. Roles may also be advertised via careers services and university departments. Specialist recruitment agencies advertise jobs for more experienced aeronautical engineers.

For help with applying for engineering jobs and internships, take a look at our engineering CV and covering letter tips and our advice on filling out online applications .

Qualifications and training required

Aerospace 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 and you can read our article on engineering postgraduate options to decide your next steps.

Achieving chartered (CEng) status with the Engineering Council while working 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 and gaining incorporated engineering status .

Key skills for aerospace engineers

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/aerospace engineers must also have:

  • strong mathematical, analytical and problem-solving skills
  • technical expertise, including computer-aided design skills
  • 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
  • the ability to work in a multidisciplinary team.

Read our article on the skills engineering employers look for for more detail. Then find out how you can prove you possess these competencies at engineering assessment centres .

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