Career info for aerospace engineer

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Helen Finch is an avionics certified engineer at London's Heathrow airport. She is following in her father's footsteps and carries out routine and scheduled maintenance on the electrical and avionic systems of aircraft on the aircraft fleet.

What does your job as an aerospace engineer involve?

I carry out schedule checks, defect identification, troubleshooting and repairs to aircraft. I also have to order spare parts as required. An important part of my job is to recognise problems that arise where some research is required and carry out the necessary investigation. I may have to do this with other engineers.

Do you have a typical day?

Up to a point. All aircraft require daily and transit checks so the routine checks that we do when they come in are more or less the same. However, there are instances where unusual problems or emergencies occur which require a different approach.

What equipment do you use?

A general tool kit including spanners and screwdrivers of various types, specialist aircraft wiring tools, electrical meters, system test equipment, platform lifters and mobile steps.

What was the route to your career as an aerospace engineer?

I completed a four-year aircraft engineering Apprenticeship with Virgin Atlantic then obtained a basic Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) avionics qualification licence. This was subsequently upgraded by a B2 European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) conversion course and followed by numerous Aircraft-type courses.

Why did you choose to become an aerospace engineer?

I always had an interest in aviation and aircraft and exposure to the industry during childhood as my father was an aircraft engineer.

What hours do you work?

I work twelve-hour shifts, four days on duty followed by four days off. What do you like best about your job? I enjoy the unique environment of being able to work around aircraft, and I like the people I work with. This job also brings opportunities to travel.

Are there any disadvantages to your job?

We sometimes have to work outside in very cold weather which can be unpleasant. I also find the early morning shifts difficult to enjoy.

What skills and qualities do you need to become an aerospace engineer?

You must have a logical mind with the ability to multitask. You also have to be able to adapt to flexible working, and to cope with constant change in work requirements. People management skills are extremely important.

What are your long-term career goals?

I aim to reach a supervisory position or work in a maintenance control environment. I would also like to work for the air accident investigation board.

Helen's route to her career as an aerospace engineer

  • GCSEs.
  • Four-year aircraft engineering Apprenticeship.
  • Basic CAA avionics qualification licence, subsequently upgraded by a B2 conversion course.

Helen's aerospace engineer tips

  • Be prepared to continue studies throughout your career.
  • Be committed to what you decide to do.
  • Be prepared to work hard at all times.

Aerospace engineer related jobs

  • Aerospace engineering technician
  • Design engineer
  • Electronic engineering technician
  • Electronics engineer
  • Mechanical engineer

Salary of an aerospace engineer

  • Starting salaries for apprentices are around £10,000 a year.
  • Graduate aerospace engineers may start on around £17,000.
  • Experienced aerospace engineers can earn around £35,000.
  • Senior aerospace engineers can earn £45,000, or more.

Career info for aerospace engineer

  • One entry route to becoming an aerospace engineer is as a technician apprentice. Most apprentices start aged 16 to 18, but entry is possible up to 25. Entry is usually with four GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths, English and science or technology, or equivalent qualifications.
  • Most aerospace engineers are graduates with a degree in aeronautical and aerospace engineering. Entry to a degree course is with at least two A levels/three H grades and five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) and, including maths and science (preferably physics), or equivalent qualifications.
  • Some employers such as BAE Systems, British Airways, the RAF and the Ministry of Defence offer sponsorship to students on degree courses.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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