Aerospace engineers design aircraft, aircraft parts and instruments, as well as spacecraft and satellites.
What does an Aerospace Engineer do?
Aerospace engineers design aircraft, aircraft parts and instruments, as well as spacecraft and satellites. In addition, they test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.
As an aerospace engineer, you could work in research and development, testing or production and maintenance. Your duties would vary depending on which area you worked in, but may include:
- developing avionic systems like navigation instruments and communications
- researching ways to make fuel-efficient parts, such as wings, fuselage and engines
- using computer-aided design (CAD) software to draw up project designs
- carrying out ground- and flight-testing programs on prototypes
- collecting and analysing test data
- planning and supervising the assembly and fitting of aircraft and components
- signing off projects under strict licensing regulations
- scheduling and supervising airport and base (hangar) maintenance of aircraft.
You would also be involved with estimating project costs and timescales, attending meetings, writing technical reports and manuals, and giving presentations to managers and clients.
With several years' experience as an engineer, you could also work on the investigation of air accidents.
Key skills and interests
To become an aerospace engineer, you should have:
- strong problem-solving skills
- excellent maths and IT skills
- knowledge of computer aided design (CAD) or manufacturing (CAM) software
- good communication skills
- excellent technical knowledge
- the ability to plan, prioritise and manage projects effectively.
Working hours and conditions
Aerospace engineers usually work full time. Longer hours may sometimes be needed, depending on the project and deadlines.
You would work in offices and factory production hangars, and may have to travel to inspect or test aircraft at different sites.
How to become an Aerospace Engineer?
Entry Level Education
To become an aerospace engineer you usually have to complete an engineering degree at university with a major in aeronautical or aerospace engineering. English, mathematics, chemistry and physics would be appropriate subjects to study prior to university.
Students who have successfully completed the first year of an approved university course in engineering may apply to join the Undergraduate Scheme in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) or Royal Australian Navy (RAN), and receive funding for the remainder of their studies. To be eligible for sponsorship, you must meet the RAAF’s / RAN’s entry requirements.
If accepted, students may choose to finish their degree at their chosen institution or join the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. Graduates may be eligible for membership of Engineers Australia.
Employment of aerospace engineers is projected to grow slower than the average for all occupations.
Most of the work of aerospace engineers involves national defence–related projects or the design of civilian aircraft. Research and development projects, such as those related to improving the safety, efficiency, and environmental soundness of aircraft, should create demand for workers in this occupation.
Aerospace engineers who work on engines or propulsion will be needed as the emphasis in design and production shifts to rebuilding existing aircraft so that they are less noisy and more fuel efficient.
In addition, new international companies are emerging to provide access to space outside of standard government space agencies. This may create offshore work opportunities for aerospace engineers.