Aeronautical and aerospace engineering

Whether you want to fly high, or even into outer space, you’ll be the brains behind some of the most exciting and ground-breaking technology that takes humans above the earth and beyond.

What is aerospace engineering?

Where to begin? Aeronautical and aerospace engineers are responsible for some of the most incredible feats of mankind, whether that’s rockets, spacesuits, aeroplanes, or weather prediction systems. Engineers in this field design, plan, and test some of the most exciting and advanced technology in the world.

The UK aerospace industry is the second largest in the world, behind the United States, and the UK Government plans to capture 10% of the global space market by 2030.

If you choose a career in this industry you could work on things like wing design (aerodynamics), engine assembly (propulsion), fuel efficiency, space technology, or investigating air accidents. You could progress to being a project manager or a consultant aerospace engineer. 

The impact you could make
  • Use your aeronautical skills to keep the 224 million passengers travelling to and from UK airports every year safe and comfortable as they fly.
  • Be part of a team that supports human life on Mars – designing, testing or making the spacecraft and technologies needed for us to travel to and survive on the red planet.
  • Assess the impact and patterns of space weather to enable successful rocket or satellite launches.
What you could study
  • Aerodynamics
  • Space mission analysis and design
  • Mechanics of flight
  • Aircraft design
  • Management and business
  • Heat transfer
  • Airframe design and flight dynamics
  • Space systems

Study options

Options to study in this field include:

Example module
"Hangar days! Besides that, I love the more technical lectures. It’s amazing to learn about systems you don’t even know existed."
Second year aircraft maintenance engineering student, University of South Wales
Example assignment
"One assignment involved building and designing a plane on a computer and then flying that plane in a simulator/game to test it. Another favourite is wing geometry and fluid mechanics simulations using CFD software."
Second year aerospace engineering student, Brunel University London

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Subjects it's useful to have studied first

Some aeronautical or aerospace engineering courses or apprenticeships will have requirements for previous qualifications in certain subjects. Entry requirements vary, so always check with the provider.

Physics
Maths
IT or computing
Design technology
Hard skills you'll develop
  • Mechanical engineering and design
  • Machinery
  • Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning
  • 3D modelling
  • Computer-aided design
Soft skills you'll develop
  • Communications
  • Project management
  • Problem-solving
  • Innovation

Careers: Where it can take you

Find out more about your career prospects from studying aeronautical and aerospace engineering. The following information is based on a typical mechanical engineer role.

Available jobs
59,631 vacancies in the past year
1.75 % growth over next 8 years
Average salary
£ 43,013
Up to £63,569

Career options

What is an…. aerospace engineer?

Want to know more about the job you could end up doing if you study this subject? Aerospace engineers oversee the production of aerospace technology, from design to testing. You’ll use existing scientific concepts to create prototypes, and plan and test parts for rockets, satellites, planes, helicopters or defence missiles. You’ll also repair broken machinery, understand system failures and then refine your designs. You’ll be creative and innovative, as well as working well with a team. It’s an exciting role, at the forefront of human technology. 

Second year aerospace engineering student, University of Nottingham

I love that seemingly miraculous effects can be explained with relatively simple mathematical models.

Getting in: Entry requirements

Find out more about what you'll need to study aeronautical or aerospace engineering at university or as an apprenticeship.

Average requirements for undergraduate degrees

Entry requirements differ between university and course, but this should give you a guide to what is usually expected from aeronautical or aerospace engineering applicants.

A levels
A*AA
Scottish Highers
AABBB
If Advanced Highers are requested, provivders typically ask for AAA
Vocational
Other Level 3/6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative

Considering an apprenticeship?

Applying for an apprenticeship is just like applying for a normal job. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Deadline

    Apprenticeships don't follow the same deadlines as applying to uni, the deadline is down to the employer.
  2. Where to apply

    You apply directly through the employer.
  3. No limits

    You're not restricted to one apprenticeship application; you can do as many as you like.
  4. Apply to university and apprenticeships

    There's nothing stopping you applying to university through UCAS, while also applying for apprenticeship vacancies.

Let’s talk about engineering apprenticeships

Study for a degree in engineering while earning at the same time. Listen to our brand new podcast on degree apprenticeships from our expert panel, hosted by Radio 1’s Katie Thistleton.
 
 

A day in the life of an Engineering Apprentice

Hear all about Hannah's story doing an apprenticeship at Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.

Explore further

Go deeper into topics around aeronautical and aerospace engineering with the following:
  1. Aerospace Insight blog

    Run by the Royal Aeronautical Society, this blog features commentary on aeronautical news, as well as features and experiences from those in the industry, including a recent post by a space fan’s first sub-orbital flight.
  2. UK Aerospace and Defence (American website)

    This summary of the UK aerospace and defence industry is a great way to understand where the UK stands in global terms and the jobs and opportunities available within the industry. 
  3. Space Growth Action Plan

  4. Space Daily website

    For a bit of fun and space news, along with what aerospace engineers have been up to, have a look around the Space Daily website

Chat to a current aeronautical and aerospace engineering student

Chat to a current aerospace engineering student using UniBuddy.

Some conversation starters for you:

  1. Ask which modules they really enjoyed.
  2. Find out how easy it was for them to make friends on their course.
  3. Do they have any tips on your personal statement?
  4. Did they do anything to prep for uni before they went?
  5. Are there books, podcasts or YouTube channels they would recommend?
     
70% of students
would highly recommend this subject to others

Application advice

Whether it's personal statement tips or what to write in a cover letter for an apprenticeship application, our application advice will help you get ahead in your aeronautical and aerospace engineering journey.
Skills, experiences, and interests to mention
  • Try and get across why you want to study aerospace engineering. What turned you on to the subject – was it watching Tim Peake or Virgin Galactic? Or was it something you’ve read? If so, talk about why or how they influenced your choices.
  • There are many soft skills that are important too, like teamwork, problem-solving, technical aptitude… So, think about when you’ve displayed good teamwork, like in a sports team or after-school club, and what extracurricular activities you do that might demonstrate your technical skills, like coding or video editing.
  • Engineers are often curious and take the initiative. Have you ever taken apart a toy or object at home and tried to repair it? Or built something from scratch? Maybe you entered an engineering or design competition at school that shows your creativity and originality?tick
  • What do you plan to do afterwards? Show you understand the industry by referencing resources you've read or companies you’re aware of, and where you see yourself after you’ve completed your studies.
 

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