So you want to be an… aircraft engineer

Rebekah Valero-Lee Candidate Advice


If you’ve got a strong background in maths and science, love solving problems and are interested in working at the forefront of aerospace technology, then a career as an aircraft engineer could be the perfect fit.

But what exactly does a career as an aircraft engineer involve, and what skills and qualifications are required to enter this field? Below, we’ve listed some key information you need to know.

what qualifications do i need to be an aircraft engineer?

As the aerospace engineering industry is highly technical, you would normally need a minimum of a foundation degree, a HNC/HND or a degree in aerospace engineering or avionics in order to enter this field. However, some employers will accept other related subjects, including:

  • Mathematics
  • Software engineering / computer science
  • Applied physics
  • Mechanical engineering
  • Electrical and electronic engineering

The level of qualifications required would be largely dependent on the type of role you are hoping to enter. For example, many large aerospace companies offer post-graduate training schemes, but these would usually require a degree – usually a minimum of a 2:1. With a HNC/HND, you may be able to enter at a lower level or through an apprenticeship and take further qualifications to advance your career.

While not essential, a postgraduate qualification in aerospace engineering or avionics would be beneficial, especially if you want to specialise, or if your undergraduate degree is in a different subject.

If you want to achieve incorporated or chartered status at a later date, it can be helpful to have a degree that’s accredited by a relevant professional body. You can find a list of accredited courses at the Engineering Council website.

What skills would I need?

On top of having the relevant qualifications, employers would want to see evidence of a number of other attributes, including:

  • Problem solving and analytical skills
  • Maths, science and IT skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Commercial awareness and knowledge of the aerospace industry
  • Planning and time management skills
  • The ability to work within budget
  • Communication and teamwork skills
  • An interest in aircraft and a desire to keep up to date with the latest industry developments

Aerospace engineering salary

Starting salaries for aircraft engineers usually range from £20,000 up to £28,000. As your career progresses, so does your earning potential, with more experienced aircraft engineers earning between £28,000 and £40,000. If you progress even further to a senior position, or gain chartered status, you could see your salary reach £45,000 to £60,000, or even more.

These figures are intended as a guideline only.

What would my working hours and conditions be like?

As an aircraft engineer, you could expect to work around 37 to 40 hours a week, with many roles falling within the ‘9 to 5’ bracket. Sometimes longer hours will be needed to complete certain projects and meet deadlines.

Your role could take place in a variety of settings, including offices, factory production hangars and aeronautical laboratories. Depending on your role, you could be expected to travel to different sites around the UK or even abroad, in order to examine or test aircraft.

Does this sound like the job for you? Find out more about a career as in aerospace engineering or view our latest job listings.

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