What subjects do you need to do at school to prepare for an engineering career?
What subjects do you need to do at school to prepare to become a pilot?
Subjects for Engineering
If you are choosing your GCSEs, it is important you start thinking about Science subjects and other areas linked to engineering, such as Design and Technology. You may also find that your school offers GCSE Engineering or the Engineering Diploma.
If your school offers separate science GCSE subjects, ensure you take Physics as one of your options. This is because if you want to go down the degree route to aerospace engineering (particularly if you want to design aircraft), Physics A Level is a must. Chemistry and Biology can relate to certain aspects of aerospace, such as fuel systems but Physics is very important.
If your school offers double Science only, you need to ensure you take Additional Science as well as Core (21st Century) Science. In Additional Science you will cover Physics, Chemistry and Maths in more detail which again will enable you to take A Levels in science subjects.
Other useful subjects include: Languages (aerospace is a truly international industry!); Geography and Business Studies.
Of course, equally important is Maths and English and you should aim to reach grade C or above minimum. Most apprenticeships, colleges and universites will expect you to have 5 GCSEs minimum grades A*-C with these two subjects included.
If you are thinking about studying engineering at university, then A Level Maths and A Level Physics (or equivalent Scottish Highers) are essential choices among your three or four subject choices. If you don't select these subjects, you will need to do an additional year of study - usually a Foundation Degree - before starting the degree course. You can also look at BTEC subjects in Engineering and the Engineering Diploma. Many universities accept these.
Remember that universities can demand high A Level grades for entry on to their courses so think about which universities you are going to apply for and what kind of hard work you may need to do to ensure you get accepted on to their course!
It is worth noting that even after you graduate, some employers will take into account your A Level grades (or UCAS points) as well as your degree outcome when recruiting graduates. There is often a question on this early on in the application form. If you don't do as well as expected, take some career advice to see if you should resit or go straight on to higher education.
Most apprenticeship employers will ask for 5 GCSEs minimum grades A-C and/or two A Levels (or equivalent), usually including a science or design and technology subject. For hands-on roles they will also give you manual tests to see how well you can use tools and materials. So while at school, developing your hands-on skills will help you improve your ability in these areas.
Subjects for Flying
Technically, there are no actual subject demands for pilot cadets apart from 5 GCSEs grades A-C including Maths and English and usually 2 A Levels. In other words, not necessarily a degree is needed, nor science or maths A Levels.
BUT pilot study is difficult and you will need to have aptitude in Maths and Physics to be able to complete the theoretical training. Many airlines and flight training schools will prefer candidates who have studied these subjects at A Level or equivalent and achieved good grades. Given that it is not always easy to get your first flying role, and that being a pilot depends on your health and fitness as well, a back-up plan such as a degree is highly recommended. Then you can prepare for any unexpected changes to your current state of health, or if you simply change your mind about your career at a later date. If you love aircraft and know you want to work in the sector, studying aerospace engineering or aircraft maintenance will mean you can still work in the sector even if you don't go on to pilot training.
With the introduction of the NEW Higher Apprenticeship in Professional Aviation Pilot Practice (HAPAPP), you can also gain a degree and complete your commercial pilot training at the same time.
Check out the Flying Links page to give you ideas and more information and join the Aviation Skills Partnership Network to become part of the network discussions and access the latest aviation information