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Career profile: Aerospace engineer

Career profile: Aerospace engineerWant to reach for the stars? Well, forget 'The X Factor'. Aerospace engineers are at the cutting edge of humanity's adventures in the sky. Here we give you the lowdown on what the job involves and how you can get there.

A what?

Aerospace engineers are responsible for researching, designing and manufacturing aeroplanes and space craft.

On the job

Depending on their expertise, an aerospace engineer can work on any one of the many stages involved in creating an air or space craft. They might be involved in the research phase, looking at safer or more efficient ways to get people flying. This means looking at things like the impact weight, altitude and temperature will have on the vehicle.

The next stage after research is for the designers, looking at how to turn the research ideas into workable plans. After this stage the product gets manufactured and tested, and if it works, more engineers need to work on maintaining the vehicle to make sure it stays safe.

Aerospace projects tend to be complex, so involve lots of people working on them over a long period of time. Engineers have to work with all sorts of people from manufacturers to the pilots who will be driving the finished product.

How to get there?

Studying for an aeronautical engineering degree is the usual route into the career and there are more than 30 universities offering aeronautical engineering based courses. Although it is possible to begin training for craft or technician-level jobs straight from school with good GCSEs/S grades in English, maths and science (preferably physics), most aerospace engineers study full time at university or college.

You normally need at least five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) and two or three A-levels including physics to get onto a degree course. Some employers such as BAE Systems, British Airways, the RAF and the Ministry of Defence offer sponsorship to students on degree courses – so they will pay for your studies.

What are the future prospects?

Britain has the second biggest aerospace industry in the world, employing 275,000 people. This is only going to keep rising as humanity keeps on looking to the sky. There are opportunities with major airlines, government departments (including the armed forces) as well as private companies. So if you do train as an aerospace engineer, you’re likely to get a good job.

The salary can be anywhere between £17,000 and over £50,000 a year depending on who you work for and how much experience you have.

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