Aerospace engineering isn't about running around like the astronaut in the Lego movie, yelling 'spaceship!' as often as possible. Wait, come back! It's about much more than that. Not only do you get a top education, you'll also join a varied profession offering many different opportunities. Here are some things you need to know about aerospace engineering...
It's a discipline on the rise
Aerospace engineers work in many different areas. They might be developing new engines, building the latest UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles, sometimes called 'drones'), designing aircraft and the systems that operate them...if it flies and isn't a bird (or Superman), chances are an aerospace engineer was involved at some point.
Now is a good time to join them, as unis are getting funding for more courses and more state of the art kit to train the next generation. The University of Nottingham, for example, is investing in facilities that include a wind tunnel, flight simulator and even access to flight lessons. They've also got upcoming open days for you to check out what's on offer. You can book your place here.
There are lots of courses available
If you want to train as an aerospace engineer there are degree programmes available at unis all over the country. Nottingham offers both undergraduate and masters courses, with options to take a year in industry during your time as a student.
Engineering courses keep you busy, usually with between 20 and 22 hours of contact time with staff and around 20 more hours of coursework and self-study on top of that. Some of that will be in lectures, but you'll also be in the workshop learning the basics of making flying machines (spaceship!) and conducting laboratory experiments too.
But don't worry, engineers still get a social student experience – Nottingham’s Students’ Union has over 200 societies, 92 volunteering projects and three student-run award-winning media outlets.
There's more than one way to get involved
As you might expect, the world generally likes its aerospace engineers to have solid maths and physics skills, so you'll need good A Levels (or equivalents) in those subjects. However, if the high life appeals to you but you don't quite have the academic experience you need under your belt, you might be able to join a foundation course (like Nottingham's Engineering Foundation Year Programme), which can offer an alternative route onto a UG engineering degree.
If you're not sure about the qualifications you need, get in touch with the unis you're interested in, or have a look around our engineering forums to see how other students got started.
Some of the biggest names in the world are on board
Whether you're working with them during your studies, on a placement year, getting some work experience or starting out on your career, you'll encounter some household names as an aerospace engineer. You may have heard of Boeing, for example, or Airbus or Rolls Royce (they don't just make fancy cars).
Many universities (including Nottingham) build strong links with these big names to give their students the best opportunities when it comes to industrial placements. It's a chance to really boost your skills and learn from the best – something to bear in mind when you're researching courses.
You'll be at the cutting edge of pretty much everything
Some of the leading research in the field of aerospace engineering is carried out at UK unis, so as a student you'll have a chance to be involved in some pretty exciting projects. Take Nottingham's Institute for Aerospace Technology (IAT): working with some of the companies listed above, undergrads will explore things like propulsion technology, high tech materials and electric aircraft. This is your chance to maybe give us those jetpacks we were promised. (Seriously, we're getting impatient.)
The career prospects are stratospheric
Engineers leave with skills that are in demand in any industry, including communication, critical thinking and creativity, so your student experience could take you in many different directions beyond specific engineering roles. You'll never be limited by your degree choice.
You can discuss engineering careers on our dedicated forum to find out more. If you do pursue aeronautical engineering, there's good news: our aerospace industry is the second largest in the world and directly employs 112,000 people, with salaries for engineers starting around £20,000 and rocketing beyond £65,000 at senior levels; plus, there's the chance to develop new technology (spaceship!) and make a difference to the world around you. In fact, it's a discipline where the sky isn't the limit: it's just the starting point.