Aeronautical engineers design, develop, manufacture, maintain and modify military and civil aircraft, aeronautical components and associated systems.
Engineering employers typically seek graduates with an MEng in relevant engineering disciplines.
What does an aeronautical engineer do?
Aeronautical engineers use their technical knowledge to improve flight safety and fuel efficiency, reduce costs and address the environmental impact of air travel. They also work with aircraft that operates in space such as robots and satellites.
Aeronautical engineers typically work in multidisciplinary engineering teams where responsibilities include:
- assessing design requirements
- agreeing budgets, timescales and specifications with clients and managers
- undertaking theoretical and practical research
- producing and implementing designs and test procedures
- measuring and improving the performance of aircraft, components and systems
- assembling the aircraft or fitting components
- testing, evaluating, modifying and re-testing products
- writing reports, manuals and documentation
- providing technical advice
- analysing and interpreting data.
Aeronautical engineers may be office-based, or they may work in aircraft workshops, production hangars or aeronautical laboratories. Local and national travel between sites may be necessary.
Typical employers include:
- Aerospace and aero-engine companies
- Airline operators
- Research and development organisations
- Contract agencies
- The Civil Service
- The armed forces
- Government agencies such as The Ministry of Defence
Qualifications and training required
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.
Entry into the profession is also possible through an apprenticeship. Apprentices typically end up working as engineering technicians, fitters, machinists and modellers. To become an aeronautical engineer, you will need to complete further qualifications such as a degree, and your employer may sponsor you to do so.
Key skills for aeronautical 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 engineers must also have:
- strong mathematical, analytical and problem-solving skills
- technical expertise
- 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
Recommended IBDP subjects needed to apply to university to study Aeronautical engineering:
Maths HL and Physics HL