Which kind of aircraft engineer?

Published: 17 Oct 2013 By David Learmount

Which kind of aircraft engineer? There are many choices.

And why do you want to be an engineer? It matters because that will determine where you start.

Perhaps you  want to be an aircraft engineer because you like working with your hands as well as your head. But also, probably, because you think aeroplanes are beautiful so you want to be around them, look after them, touch them, smell them and repair them when they break.

That’s a good start!

The maintenance technician

Perhaps you see yourself working in a pristine hangar as an aircraft maintenance technician, or on the busy, windy airport flight line where you help an airline – or the military – replenish and repair the aircraft between flights and see them off again.

Or do you want to build aircraft? Do you dream of work as a technician on the final assembly line of manufacturers such as Airbus, AgustaWestland, Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer or Lockheed Martin?

Maintenance and manufacturing technicians (some countries call them mechanics) are invited pretty early on in their training to choose the path of mechanical, electrical or avionic specialisation. But one of the advantages of engineering training is that that no knowledge is ever wasted, so if you decide to switch specialisations later, there are ways of doing that.

The aeronautical engineer

But maybe you have more cerebral engineering ambitions and want to design aircraft and their components. Or perhaps, eventually, to mastermind the creation of an entirely new aircraft from just an idea.

This description by one of the top UK universities, Cambridge, sums up what its engineering degree course aims to prepare you for: “Engineering is about designing processes and making products to solve real-world problems. Our course enables you to develop your engineering knowledge, skills, imagination and experience to the highest level of readiness for your future career”.

If your aspiration is aircraft manufacturing rather than maintenance, you can add Manufacturing Engineering into your degree course. This is what Cambridge University has to say about learning for a manufacturing career:

“Successful, wealth-creating industries are increasingly managed by engineers with appropriately broad education and training. Manufacturing engineers naturally have particular expertise in the design and operation of manufacturing facilities, but increasingly their role is as leaders of multidisciplinary teams.”

But a career in maintenance engineering can also be fulfilling if you have management ambitions. Perhaps an aim that would inspire you is to run the engineering department for one of the world’s great airlines, or the military equivalent at a major air force base or on an aircraft carrier.


Read the next part of the article about becoming an aircraft engineer, Education and training
Back to Becoming an engineer


Visit Careers Portal

Back to listing