Aeronautical engineers specialise in the design and engineering of aircraft. Lighting engineers design and oversee lighting arrangements for events such as concerts, TV shows and films. Planning engineers work with project managers to oversee project operations.
Who can I work for?
A wide array of companies within a team environment with both civilian and military personnel. Private firms, agencies, military, research centres, engineering bodies and universities. Most major employers are global businesses, especially in the aeronautics or defence businesses. Lighting engineers can work for film studios, TV networks, specialist audio visual installation firms, clubs and music venues and stage and theatre companies. Planning engineers can work for the energy private sector, oil-rich governments, the construction and transport industries and companies involved in one-off events, such as the Olympic Games.
Where and when can I work?
Aeronautical engineers work 9-5. But you may sometimes have to work late to meet deadlines. You'll normally work in a single location, but should expect to occasionally work off-site with buyers or suppliers on location. Lighting engineers work long hours, often 12-hour shifts in a TV studio, film set or open-air concert setting. Planning engineers generally work 40-hour weeks. But those based on construction sites can work six-day weeks totaling 60 hours.
What can I earn?
Aeronautical engineers are likely to start on around £25,000 rising to £40,000 with around three-five years' experience. Seniors' salaries start at £60,000 but specialists can earn more. Lighting engineers in a theatre can earn £15,000-£30,000 a year, depending on experience. Major feature film production lighting engineers have a minimum daily rate of £251.20 for a 12-hour day. A staff planning engineer can earn over £40,000 or £350 a day if used as a contractor.
What are the benefits?
Major employers will offer a wide variety of health and pension benefits and offer largely secure, well-established positions.
Are there chances of promotion?
Specialisation and progression are available for aeronautical engineers. Industry, sales roles and senior management roles are all possibilities. Lighting engineers can become lighting designers on big projects where they become less manual and more preoccupied with design and management of technician teams. Planning engineers can eventually progress to become a project controls manager. Here, you will be responsible for planning the project, controlling costs and making complex estimates.
What will I be responsible for?
Aeronautical engineers test the physical properties of materials so they are fit for purpose. You will advise on which materials and components can be used to balance between technological and cost efficiency. Development and design of engines and electronics – involving specialist modelling, design tools and computer programmes. Testing aircraft to ensure safety requirements are met. Maintaining, repairing and servicing aircraft, including written instructions on how aircraft or their components are to be serviced in the future. Accident inspection. Lighting engineers, working with stagehands, electricians and riggers, set up configurations of lights which are then remotely controlled. Often, computer programming is needing to configure the series and sequences of effects. A planning engineer are responsible for work out a sequence of activities that are required to complete a project, then linking them together. This is a very important role, since most project contracts include penalty clauses which could force your firm's company to pay millions of pounds if deadlines are not met. Planning engineers, liaising regularly with project managers, develop easy-to-understand schedules and graphs in order to meet deadlines. They can provide visual aids to help explain the work schedule, including bar charts and network diagrams.
What qualifications do I need?
Aeronautical engineers will need a strong set of A-levels in science or maths-based subjects. You can't become a chartered engineer or incorporated engineer without a relevant qualification. There are aeronautic-specific courses at some leading universities. Any of the following courses will qualify you to work as a lighting engineer: BTEC National Award (NA) in Stage Lighting, Rigging and Operation; BA in Theatre Practice in Lighting Design; BA in Theatre Practice in Production Lighting; and BSc in Lighting Design and Technology. There is no degree for planning engineers. But employers are increasingly valuing an Association of Cost Engineers-run Project Controls NVQ.
Do I need any experience?
This is a very competitive field. Most aeronautical engineer graduate recruiters operate on a placement basis. Here, you'll gain experience across a range of the firm's business lines for six-month periods. It may also include a secondment abroad. Experience is highly valued in the lighting engineering trade, so don't rely on qualifications alone. You should be prepared to work for little or no money to start off with, finding work experience at BBC work placements, lighting firms, fringe arts festivals and/or student or amateur productions. Planning engineers need a smattering of general industry knowledge without getting too bogged down in the detail as they will always need to see the wider picture.
What attributes are needed?
All engineers need to work well in a team and possess great attention to detail. Aeronautical engineers need to apply maths, physics and chemistry in a research environment. Lighting engineers need to be comfortable with heights and physical strong, since they will be dealing with heavy equipment. Planning engineers need good leadership, numeracy and literacy skills.