Mathematics – This subject is very important for many careers. However, for Aerospace & Aviation as you are often dealing with numbers, such as calculating the weight & balance of aircraft before, they take off or using various methods in the aircraft design process to maximize the fuel efficiency. Maths can often be a very difficult subject for many (including myself), but it is important in everything you do. Many people considering a career in aerospace & aviation should be aware of the value of strong Maths skills to the sector. The ability to complete accurate calculations, record measurements and calculate volumes are all highly critical as the industry is one of the most conscious and regulated sectors in the world when it comes to safety. And using maths in the workplace is very different to studying it at school so if you persevere you may be surprised at how much you come to enjoy it!
Lots of people will offer you advice when selecting your GCSEs and their advice is important. However, don’t forget that the most important voice in this decision process is your own. Just like any choice you make the only person that can make it a success is you! So possibly the best advice you can give yourself is to select the subjects you want to study as it will be you that has to complete the work and study for the exams.
Selecting your GCSEs can be tricky and if you are not sure what you want to do after you finish school don’t panic! You are not the first person to not know what career pathway you would like to follow, and you won’t be the last. However, if you are considering a career in Aerospace and/or Aviation or other similar sectors then this information may help you select useful subjects for this.
You may get lots of different advice when thinking about your GCSE subjects and all advice is important! However, don’t forget that the most important decision lies with yourself.
What will you do as an Aerospace Engineer?
The study of engine powered machines provides you with the skills and knowledge to understand how man-made machines work and the maintenance requirements. This century will continue to see revolutionary changes to aircraft design – from environmentally-friendly aeroplanes to space tourism vehicles, there are many challenges ahead for blue-sky thinkers! Aeronautical, or aerospace, engineers design and develop products such as airliners, helicopters, fighter jets, satellites and space vehicles engineers. They also work on components that make up aircraft such as landing gear, engines and electrical/electronic systems also require highly specialised skills. Aerospace engineering may also offer some of the best hands-on jobs in the world! Working for aerospace manufacturers you can become highly skilled in building the airframes or other components which make up the aircraft such as the landing gear, engines or avionics systems. Aircraft maintenance is another exciting alternative – aircraft engineers can travel the world maintaining, inspecting and servicing aircraft to high international safety standards.
Selecting subjects for Aerospace & Aviation
Science (in particular Physics) – 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 an entry level requirement for many university aerospace engineering degrees. 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. A sound understanding of science is also helpful if you are applying for aerospace engineering related apprenticeships.
Design & Technology – Often one of the most creative subjects, this will equip you with the skills the create, design and manufacture products from different materials. You will also build your knowledge of various types of materials that can be used in various design processes. This will be particularly useful if you want to go down the aircraft manufacturing route for your career, as aircraft are now made up of new and often exotic materials, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which is made of a carbon composite which was one of the first aircraft in the world to use this material. This new method makes the aircraft light and more fuel efficient. It takes Materials Engineers within Aerospace Manufactures to help design this. Being able to use tools is also particularly important for aircraft maintenance engineering apprenticeships.
ICT and Computer Science – This can provide you with the knowledge and skills required to understand how technology and computers work and how they are operated. Aerospace & Aviation is ever becoming more technology driven, with the need for the industry to become more sustainable, computers will be able to support new design processes in order to manufacture more environmentally friendly aircraft.
Languages – As the Aerospace & Aviation sector is a global industry, having a language can be very beneficial. Languages including French, German and Spanish may prove valuable for anybody wishing to pursue an international career or want to work for a company in the UK that has connections abroad, such as Airbus, which has a large presence in the UK but is a French company. In many other countries Aerospace & Aviation can provide excellent learning and careers opportunities that become accessible for these who can communicate in other languages.
Leisure and Tourism – You can gain an understanding of business, marketing, customer service, retail and hospitality. This subject is more valuable for careers within Aviation, such as Cabin Crew and various other roles within airlines or airports where you are dealing directly with passengers. There is direct link to the global tourism industry and aviation and as tourism continues to grow this will also influence the growth of the aviation sector. The range of jobs in the aviation sector is wide and varied and can provide plenty of opportunities.
Geography – This multidisciplinary subject includes physical, human and environmental geography. The subject often looks at many environmental topics that are linked to the travel sector. Including, ecosystems, weather, waterways, energy, natural hazards and international development. Aerospace & Aviation requires an understanding of the role the sector plays in terms of global development as well as the environmental issues.
Business Studies – This can be a useful subject to gain an understanding of the knowledge and skills required to run a business, such as managing money and employing staff. The majority of organisations within the sector are large scale companies. However, there are a growing number of SME’s (Small Medium Sized Enterprises) in the UK that could employ 10-20 members of staff. Business studies would be a useful subject for those who would like to work self-employed of start their own company or work as a consultant. There are also some fantastic business-related apprenticeships offered by aerospace manufacturers.
Whilst you are at school, those of you who are considering a career in aerospace and/or aviation may want to consider other qualifications and extra-curricular activities that could assist you in gaining a better understanding of the sector. Whilst additional activities and qualifications do not guarantee employment, they may help you build a CV that employers may value and develop the kind of ‘soft’ skills which employers and universities will value such as teamwork and communication skills. Additional activities such as:
• Duke of Edinburgh Awards
• Air Cadets
• Volunteers at local aerospace museums
• Getting some flying lessons