Study Aeronautical & Aerospace Engineering – A Comprehensive Subject Guide

Aeronautical and aerospace engineering are two branches of engineering that deal with the design, development, testing, and production of aircraft, spacecraft, and related systems. Both fields require a deep understanding of physics, mathematics, materials science, and engineering principles to design and develop complex aerospace technologies. These engineers play a crucial role in advancing aviation and space exploration.

Aeronautical & Aerospace Engineering

Table of Contents

What is Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering?

Aeronautical and aerospace engineering represent two interconnected branches of engineering that centre on the creation, advancement, and manufacturing of aircraft, spacecraft, and associated technologies. Although they exhibit numerous commonalities, these disciplines also feature unique areas of expertise and application.

  1. Aeronautical Engineering:
    • Definition: Aeronautical engineering primarily deals with the design, development, and maintenance of aircraft that operate within Earth’s atmosphere.
    • Applications: Aeronautical engineers work on various types of aircraft, including airplanes, helicopters, drones, and gliders.
    • Key Areas of Focus: Aerodynamics (the study of airflow around objects), aircraft structures, propulsion systems (engines), avionics (electronics and control systems), and flight mechanics.
    • Challenges: Aeronautical engineers address issues related to lift, drag, stability, fuel efficiency, and safety for aircraft flying in the Earth’s atmosphere.
  2. Aerospace Engineering:
    • Definition: Aerospace engineering encompasses both aeronautical and astronautical engineering. It deals with the design, development, testing, and production of vehicles that operate both within Earth’s atmosphere and in outer space.
    • Applications: Aerospace engineers work on a broader range of vehicles and systems, including aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, rockets, and space exploration vehicles.
    • Key Areas of Focus: Aerospace engineers must have expertise in aerodynamics (for atmospheric flight) as well as astronautics (for space travel). They tackle challenges such as rocket propulsion, spacecraft materials, orbital mechanics, and space mission planning.
    • Challenges: Aerospace engineers deal with issues related to escaping Earth’s gravitational pull, surviving the harsh conditions of space, and ensuring the safety of astronauts and equipment during space missions.

Why Study Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering?

Studying aeronautical and aerospace engineering offers numerous compelling reasons:

  • Advancement of Technology: These fields are at the forefront of technological innovation. They drive progress in aviation and space exploration, contributing to breakthroughs that benefit society as a whole.
  • High Demand for Experts: There is a consistent demand for skilled professionals in aeronautical and aerospace engineering. This demand is driven by the aerospace industry, defence sector, and space exploration agencies.
  • Global Reach: These fields have a global scope, offering opportunities to work on international projects and collaborate with experts from around the world.
  • Challenges and Problem Solving: Aerospace engineers are tasked with solving complex challenges related to space travel, aircraft design, and propulsion systems, making it intellectually stimulating and rewarding.

Best Universities for Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering in the UK

Here is a list of the top UK universities in this field according to the Complete University Guide 2024:

RankUniversity Name
1Imperial College London
2University of Bristol
3University of Southampton
4University of Bath
5University of Sheffield
6University of Nottingham
7University of Leeds
8University of Birmingham
9Loughborough University
10Queen's University Belfast
11University of Glasgow
12University of Surrey
13University of Liverpool
14University of Manchester
15Queen Mary University of London
16University of Leicester
17Swansea University
18City, University of London
19Brunel University London
20Staffordshire University
21Bristol, University of the West of England
22University of Brighton
23University of Central Lancashire
24Coventry University
25Sheffield Hallam University
26University of Salford
27University of the West of Scotland
28University of Hertfordshire
29University of South Wales
30Kingston University
31Teesside University, Middlesbrough
32University of Wolverhampton
33De Montfort University

Entry Requirements for an Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering Degree

Entry requirements for aeronautical and aerospace engineering degree programmes in the UK can vary depending on the specific university and the level of the programme (undergraduate or postgraduate). However, here are some general guidelines:

  • Academic Qualifications:
    • Typically, you will need to have completed your secondary education with qualifications equivalent to A-levels in the UK.
    • Specific subject requirements may vary, but mathematics and physics are often mandatory or highly recommended.
    • Some universities may require additional A-levels or equivalent qualifications in subjects like chemistry or engineering.
  • Aptitude Tests: Some universities may require you to take an aptitude test like the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or BioMedical Admissions Test (BMAT), especially for programmes that have a medical or bioengineering component.
  • Language Proficiency: If English is not your first language, you will likely need to provide proof of English language proficiency through tests like IELTS or TOEFL. Each university may have its own minimum score requirements.

Jobs for Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering Graduates

Here are the career prospects for graduates in this field:

  • Aerospace Engineer:
    • Aerospace engineers work on the design, development, testing, and production of aircraft, spacecraft, and related systems.
    • They may specialise in areas such as aerodynamics, propulsion systems, avionics, or structural engineering.
  • Aircraft Design Engineer: These engineers focus specifically on designing aircraft, including commercial airplanes, military jets, and unmanned aerial vehicles (drones).
  • Aircraft Maintenance Engineer: Aircraft maintenance engineers are responsible for inspecting, repairing, and maintaining aircraft to ensure they operate safely and efficiently.
  • Aircraft Systems Engineer: These engineers work on the systems that are crucial for aircraft operation, including navigation, communication, and control systems.
  • Aircraft Manufacturing Engineer: These professionals are involved in the production and manufacturing of aircraft, ensuring that they meet safety and quality standards.

Salary for Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering Graduates

Check out the average salary for graduates in this field: 

Low skilled: £21,000

Medium-skilled: £22,000

High-skilled: £28,000

Topics for Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering Dissertation

Below, we present a diverse array of research areas, each offering an opportunity to delve into the complexities of Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering and make a significant contribution to its advancement:

  1. Design and Optimisation of Wing Shapes for Improved Aircraft Performance: Investigate how different wing shapes impact aircraft efficiency, stability, and fuel consumption.
  2. Advanced Materials for Aerospace Applications: Explore the use of innovative materials, such as composites or nano-materials, in aircraft or spacecraft construction for enhanced performance and reduced weight.
  3. Aerodynamic Analysis and Design of Supersonic or Hypersonic Aircraft: Study the aerodynamics of high-speed flight and propose designs for supersonic or hypersonic vehicles.
  4. Spacecraft Propulsion Systems: Examine the latest developments in propulsion technology for spacecraft, including ion propulsion, nuclear propulsion, or alternative propulsion methods.
  5. Aircraft Noise Reduction Strategies: Investigate methods to reduce aircraft noise pollution, focusing on advancements in engine design, materials, and aerodynamics.

How Many People Study Aeronautical and Aerospace Engineering?

In 2020/21 there were 5,275 entrants studying aeronautical and aerospace engineering in higher education, comprised of 3,945 undergraduate students (first degree and other undergraduate) along with 1,330 postgraduate students.

Aeronautical and aerospace engineering courses were the 5th most popular choice for undergraduate degrees in engineering and technology in 2020/21, representing 10% of all engineering and technology entrants at this level.

In 2020, two thirds of students who graduated aeronautical and aerospace engineering degrees were in paid employment 15 months after graduation (67.0%). Of these, 57.3% were working in engineering companies.

How Much Does it Cost to Study in the UK

One of the most important things to consider is how much the degree is going to cost. Here is a general guide for 2023/2024:

  • For home students in England, universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree.
  • In Wales, institutions can charge up to £9,000 for home students. However, Welsh students can apply for a fee grant to cover some of the cost of their tuition fees. This grant is currently not repayable or income-assessed.
  • Northern Irish universities will charge up to £4,275 for home students and may charge up to £9,250 for students from elsewhere in the UK.
  • Scotland does not charge home students fees at the undergraduate level; however, students from England, Wales, or Northern Ireland are expected to pay up to £9,250 per year. International students from outside of the UK will pay significantly more to study in Scotland.
  • International students can expect to pay between £10,000 and £26,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees at universities across the UK. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to £58,600 per year. As for postgraduate degrees, the average cost is estimated to be around £17,109 per year.
Besides the tuition fees, there are also several other cost considerations such as food, accommodation, phone bills, books, social life, memberships, and others. Remember to check out our free student budget calculator

Other Subjects to Consider

Given that you are interested in this subject area, you might also want to consider the following options: 

  • Mechanical Engineering: Mechanical engineering is a versatile field that covers a wide range of applications, including machine design, robotics, manufacturing, and energy systems.
  • Electrical Engineering: Electrical engineering focuses on the study of electronics, power systems, telecommunications, and control systems, among other areas.
  • Computer Science and Engineering: This field deals with software development, computer systems, artificial intelligence, and data science, offering opportunities in technology and innovation.
  • Civil Engineering: Civil engineers design and build infrastructure such as bridges, buildings, roads, and dams, contributing to the development of society.
  • Environmental Engineering: Environmental engineers work on projects related to sustainable resource management, pollution control, and environmental conservation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Consider your interests, passions, and career goals. Research various degree programmes and their content to see which aligns best with your aspirations.

While earning potential is important, it’s also crucial to select a degree that you’re passionate about and suits your skills. A balance between your interests and potential career prospects is ideal.

Location can impact your overall university experience. Consider factors like cost of living, proximity to industry hubs, and personal preferences.

Evaluate tuition fees, available scholarships, and potential for part-time work. Create a budget to ensure you can manage your finances during your studies.

Consider combining your passions with practical skills. For example, if you love art but want job security, explore fields like graphic design or digital marketing.

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