Aerospace and Aviation Career Guide

Ever dreamed of being a pilot? The aerospace and aviation sector is an exciting one to work in, even if you aren’t interested in getting in the cockpit. There are roles in engineering, management, and general maintenance, as well as the potential to work as cabin crew for the large range of airlines operating across the UK. Airports and aviation companies often also require people for fundamental positions like HR, marketing, and management. This means that even if you don’t want to work as ground crew or an engineer, you can still get involved in this sector if it’s one that interests you. 

Unlike many industries, the skills and qualifications you’ll need to be successful here can vary greatly, depending on what role you’re aiming for. Training to be a pilot for, example, will generally take a lot longer than training to be cabin crew, and will have completely different requirements in terms of qualifications and skills. Even so, there are a few fundamental qualifications that can be useful to have whatever area you’re looking to focus on, as we’ll see.  

 

Potential Roles in Aerospace and Aviation


It’s hard to find any other sector that offers the sheer variety of experiences available compared to Aerospace and Aviation. From flying a plane to working on spacecraft, loading luggage or managing an airport here’s an overview of some of the most popular roles in this sector:

  • Aerospace Engineer: A potentially very interesting role. Aerospace engineers can work on anything from passenger or commercial aeroplanes to missiles, and even spacecraft.
  • Aviation management: This can cover anything from managing an entire airport to running ground crew. Leadership, organisation, and communication skills are important for these kinds of roles. 
  • Pilot: Fairly self-explanatory. Pilots often work for passenger airlines, but there is also a steady demand for commercial cargo pilots, as well as private pilots for helicopters and smaller aircraft. A trained helicopter pilot can also often find roles in public service industries like the police or air ambulance service.
  • Cabin Crew: If you’re great with customer service skills and enjoy travelling, being part of the cabin crew for a passenger airline can be a very rewarding job. 
  • Air Traffic Controller: While this is probably one of the most stressful jobs out there, it’s also arguably one of the most rewarding. An ideal role if you love fast-paced, exciting and challenging environments, and are confident in making decisions. 

 

Salary and Career Progression


Potential earnings and career progression mainly depends on the kind of position and role you’re working in. Pilots can earn, on average, around £36k per year, but this can rise to £100,000 given the right experience and time flying. Cabin crew tend to take home around £15 – 20k per year, and up to 24K is possible depending on the airline. It’s worth noting that while the average earnings for cabin crew are quite low, you often benefit from perks like free or heavily discounted flights. 

Air traffic controllers can expect to take home around £80,000 per year on average. Ground crew and general airport staff earnings tend to be in the region of £25,000, but this can change based on the exact kind of role, and your experience and qualifications. 

Salary and Career Progression

 

Qualifications, Education and Experience


If you’re planning on some of the more advanced careers in the aviation industry, like piloting, air traffic control, or engineering, then you’ll need at least:

  • Five GSCE’s, ideally Maths, English and Science at grade C and above.
  • Core subject A-Levels including Maths, English, Physics, Chemistry (and Geography for pilots).

These qualifications are generally useful whatever career path you choose, so make for a good starting point in general, even if you decide to change career path at any point. Degree level education is required for many of these roles – especially when it comes to engineering and management. That said, it’s worth noting that trainee pilots can often move straight from A-level to flight training directly, via an airline cadet program. 

 

Skills


Soft skills are important for any job in this sector, but especially when it comes to management and cabin crew roles. Being able to remain calm under pressure, or in stressful situations, are useful traits to have whether you’re scheduling flights or keeping passengers reassured during a delay. Having the following hard and soft skills then, are beneficial whatever role you’re aiming for:

  • Customer service
  • Concentration
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision making
  • Flexibility
  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Confidence

As is the case with qualifications for this sector, even if you don’t directly need these skills for a particular role, they’re still very useful to have in general. 

 

Working Hours


Most roles in aviation, whether you’re working as management, a pilot, or ground crew, will have fairly strenuous working hours. Given that airports are 24 hour operations, and that airlines operate across multiple time zones, you’ll need to be ready to work everything from early mornings to nights, and almost everything in between. 

There doesn’t tend to be any real flexibility, or options for remote working for most roles in aviation, as a result. Hours can be especially long for pilots and cabin crew due to jetlag, and there’s a very high chance that you’ll be working over weekends and public holidays, when airlines and airports are at their busiest. While part-time roles for cabin crew are sometimes available, they’re still quite demanding. If you’re working as ground or aircrew, then it’s also keeping in mind that hours can often change based on external factors like weather or mechanical faults. 

A plane parked on an airport runway, a common sight for airport ground crew.

 

Notable Locations


As well as five major locations in London, the UK has a total of 40 commercial airports. These range in size from the sprawling terminals of Heathrow, to the modest Land’s End airport that provides daily services to the Isle of Scilly. 

UnsurprisinglyLondon has the most opportunities, as it has the most airlines and airports. This does also mean it’s the most competitive location to try and find a job, of course. Other large cities, such as Birmingham and Manchester, are also busy travel hubs, so shouldn’t be overlooked. Smaller regional and freight airports should also be considered if they fit your career goals. 

 

Notable Companies


A number of airlines and aerospace companies operate in the UK. Some of these include:

  • British Airways
  • Easy Jet
  • BAE Systems
  • Airbus
  • Cobham
  • Thales
  • Heathrow Airport Limited
  • Flybe
  • Wizz Air
  • Jet2

 

Next Steps


If you’re sure that a career in aviation is the one for you, then register with us now. You can create and upload your CV, and get up to date job alerts for the latest roles in the industry. 

If you need additional help with CV writing, interview techniques, and more, then have a look through our jobseeker guides section in our blog, Explore. Good luck!

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