How to become an aerospace engineer: Ben's story

Meet Ben. He's 27 and lives in north Yorkshire. He's the co-founder of a company called StratoBooster. They test space launch systems. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

"My favourite part of this job is when we do rocket testing - it's always fun to see a rocket go off!"

What does your job involve?

StratoBooster, the company that I co-founded, runs a small space launch system. We use balloons to take small rockets (about 30 - 40 cm long) up to a high altitude and send small satellites into space.

I deal with a lot of the technical engineering, as well as the business side, such as writing applications for funding, dealing with finances and clients.

Day-to-day, I do a lot of computer software testing and analysing potential products. I use software to test the rockets in flight, looking at things like temperature and pressure. I also use another software to test which materials work best for the rockets.

What skills do you use in your job?

I use a lot of the maths skills that I learnt in school, for example, algebra, statistics and trigonometry. I use my Physics knowledge too, as well as the Design and Technology that I learnt at GCSE. Computer skills are also important.

In terms of soft skills, time management is really important – I try and break up my tasks throughout the day. I also use leadership and people management skills as I manage interns and supervise engineers. I need good organisational skills to keep in contact with so many people.

Ben uses computer software to test rockets.

Was this a job you always knew you wanted to do?

No! My Dad was in the Royal Air Force, so I always thought I’d be in the military. For personal reasons, I couldn't do this, so I became a lifeguard. I did this job for many years, but found that it wasn't right for me.

So, I started military training with the Royal Marines, but after three months I realised that that wasn't the right fit either. I decided that I wanted to do military aircraft engineering instead. To do this I would need to go to university.

At university, I was involved in managing a student project. We wanted to enter a competition and our company has developed from that.

What was your educational career path?

I took History, Geography and Resistant Materials at GCSE. I then went to college and did a BTEC in Uniformed Public Services with the aim of joining the armed forces, but this didn't happen.

Later on, I tried Royal Marine Training, but left to go to university when I had a better idea of what I wanted to be. I did an engineering foundation year and am now in my final year studying Aerospace Engineering.

Top tips

  • When I left college and I didn’t get into the military, I was in and out of jobs for a while. It hasn't been an easy ride to get where I am now. Don't give up

  • Don’t rush into university. At 18, I never imagined that I’d be going to university – it took me until 23 to realise what I wanted to do

  • Networking is really important when you're setting up a business. Try not to be shy and speak to as many people as you can.

What to expect if you want to be an aerospace engineer

Ben is studying Aerospace Engineering at university. Aerospace engineers design, build and maintain planes, spacecraft and satellites.

  • Aerospace engineer salary: from £20,000 to £60,000 per year
  • Aerospace engineer working hours: 39 to 41 hours per week

What qualifications do you need to be an aerospace engineer?

  • Typical entry requirements: You can get into this job through a university course, college course or apprenticeship. At college, you could study a higher national certificate (HNC) or diploma (HND) in Engineering before applying for a job with an aerospace company. You'll usually need one or two A-levels (or equivalent) to get on to a course like this. At university, you could do a foundation degree, higher national diploma or degree in Aerospace Engineering, Avionics, or a related subject. You'll usually need one or two A-levels (or equivalent) for a foundation degree or higher national diploma, or two or three A-levels (or equivalent), including Maths for a degree. Alternatively, you could do a degree apprenticeship as an aerospace engineer or you could join a company as an engineering technician and train on the job. You can find out more about careers in aerospace engineering from Careers in Aerospace.

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