What is aerospace engineering?
Aerospace engineers are responsible for some of the most incredible feats of mankind. Much more than making sure we get to our summer holidays safely, aerospace engineers also produce the equipment that makes weather forecasts, mobile phones, television broadcast, and space flight possible. Whether you want to fly high in thrilling industries, or you’re looking for a secure and well-paid career, aerospace engineering will offer you fantastic and exciting opportunities.
When you graduate, you’ll be highly skilled, highly technical, and in high demand. Using your ingenuity, computing, numeracy, and technological talents, you’ll help keep people safe and comfortable on the 40 million flights that take place every year. Or, you could take your skills into a variety of other sectors where your expertise will get you to the top of many interview lists.
Aerospace engineering course entry requirements
You won’t be surprised to hear that aerospace engineering degrees are competitive. Almost every course will require you to have qualifications in maths and physics, and high grades at the more prestigious universities. Other desirable subjects include IT or computing, further maths, and design technology.
In your personal statement, and if you need to attend an interview, you’ll want to show your talents with numbers, technology, analysis, problem solving, initiative, and innovation. Take a look at our tips for your engineering personal statement.
A levels – Entry requirements range from CCC to A*AA, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for A*AA.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from AAAB to AAAAA, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AABBB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for AAA.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
- Apply by the January deadline
- Personal statement
- Attend an interview
- Audition for a place
- Pass an entry test
- Show work experience
- Submit a portfolio
Do I need an A in maths to study aerospace engineering?
It would definitely give you a competitive edge, but plenty of students get onto aerospace engineering courses with Bs or Cs if their other grades are good. The important bit is that you have a maths qualification, as this will give you the grounding you need to build upon.
Why study aerospace engineering?
The engineering industry a multi-billion pound global career market that offers job satisfaction, job security, and great potential salaries. With projects spanning countries and continents, aerospace engineers have the opportunity to travel the world and work on exciting new technologies and programmes, many of which are designed to make the world a better place. Germany, China, India, and the USA are famed for their engineering talents, and many graduates will go on to gain experience and jobs in these fast-growing markets.
As an engineering student, you’ll experience a variety that few of your friends at university will be able to match. From learning theories and principles in the lecture hall, to testing and prototyping in the labs, to full scale builds in the workshop – you won’t be standing still for long. The skills you develop in these scenarios will stand you in good stead for careers in engineering, manufacturing, production, design, automotive, systems, and a whole host of other related sectors.
When it comes to building an impressive CV, aerospace engineers hold all the aces. From the military to the government, the biggest airlines and even NASA, you won’t be short of household names to add to your employment history. Two thirds of graduates will find themselves snapped up within six months, earning upwards of £26,000, whilst another 16% will go on to further develop their education, turning a BSc/BEng into an MSc/MEng. Many will even go on to become chartered or incorporated engineers, which are both professional trademarks of the industry.
Some modules you may study are:
- Space mission analysis and design
- Mechanics of flight
- Aircraft design
- Management and business
- Heat transfer
- Airframe design and flight dynamics
- Space systems
What are the specialisms available in aerospace engineering?
Like many degrees, you’ll be able to focus and specialise on the area of your subject that interests you most. This usually happens in the second and third year. In aerospace engineering, this could be anything from materials and structures, to avionics, to quality control or technical sales.
What can you do with an aerospace engineering degree?
An aerospace engineering degree can lead to hundreds of different careers, with the most common being:
- aerospace engineer
- manufacturing engineer
- engineering consultant
- aeronautical designer
Along with putting you in good stead for:
What’s it like to study aerospace engineering?
You’ll spend around 25 hours with your tutors each week, which is much higher than many other courses. You’ll also find yourself doing the same amount again in self-study, which means you’ll probably have less free time than many of your friends on less demanding courses. Aerospace engineering degrees are difficult, but they also offer some of the best opportunities post-university.
Aerospace engineers need to be highly technical and accurate, whilst also using creativity and quick-thinking to solve problems. Whether it’s for a commercial airline where meeting deadlines is essential to keep customers happy, or in the military where you’ll be working on machinery in dangerous situations – you need to be able to work quickly without sacrificing quality. Your degree will teach you how to do this, as you spend lots of time learning the principles and theories so that they become second nature to you. In the lecture, the lab and the workshop, you’ll learn exactly what goes where, when it goes there, and why.
Almost all aerospace engineering degrees will offer you the chance to gain work experience. This might be in the form of short-term projects, or it might be a sandwich year between your second and third year. Opportunities are available at companies like British Airways, Formula One, Rolls-Royce, and Airbus. Whilst the UK aerospace industry employs over 120,000 people across 400 organisations, it’s a highly competitive market so taking the opportunity to hone your skills within real businesses will give you a great chance at getting a job after your course.
Aerospace engineering undergraduates can expect the following tasks during their studies:
- writing reports and essays
- attending lectures and seminars
- hearing from industry speakers
- laboratory and workshop projects
- placements and industry experience
- project and teamwork
Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course in two years rather than three.
If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.
Find out more about apprenticeships across the UK.
There are approximately 120 apprenticeships in the engineering sector available in England, with more in development.
Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.
Higher apprenticeships (Level 4)
- Aircraft maintenance certifying engineer
- Automation and controls engineering technician
- Propulsion technician
- Software tester
- Software developer
Degree apprenticeships (Levels 5 – 7)
- Air traffic controller
- Aerospace engineer (degree)
- Aerospace software development engineer (degree)
- Control/technical support engineer (degree)
- Electrical/electronic technical support engineer (degree)
- Embedded electronic systems design and development engineer (degree)
- Electronic systems principal engineer
- Product design and development engineer (non-integrated degree)
- Systems engineer (degree)
- Through life engineering services specialist
Discover more about apprenticeships in engineering
Our guide has all the info you need to know about doing an apprenticeship in this industry. Find out what it's really like from current apprentices and decide if it's the right route for you.