By Laura Cronin 28 Oct 2022 5 min read

What does the career path of an aircraft engineer look like?

A career in the aviation industry will give you opportunities to work with cutting edge technology and some top line organisations. 

As an engineer in aviation, your work can cover various components relating to the aircraft and its systems – dealing with state-of-the-art technology to oversee the technological and scientific aspects of the aircraft. An aviation engineer can be involved in the research, designing, development, and maintenance of aircraft and other vehicles including missiles and satellites. Just some of their primary concerns are to maintain the aircraft, improve flight safety procedures and ensure fuel efficiency.

An aviation engineer or an aircraft engineer is also known as an aircraft technician. The terms are used interchangeably in the aviation industry but in the UK, they are widely known as aircraft engineers. 


Career progression of aircraft engineers 

As you move up in your career as an aircraft engineer, there are added responsibilities on you. For those wondering about what the aircraft engineer career path entails, there is a lot of scope in the future. Those entering into the field have to pass training programs, generally supported by the organisation where the employee works. Starting with your role as an engineer, you can progress further by becoming a design engineer or project engineer. 

After gaining experience in the field, an engineer can be promoted to the position of Engineering Supervisor or Senior Engineering Technician. With some more experience and qualification, they can become a Quality Manager and further progress to become Program Manager or Operations Manager. As you advance in your career, you’ll receive a great salary package and a lot of job perks including things like ticket concessions, retirement benefits, medical allowance, and layover benefits. The salary differs at different levels of the job role. 


Career opportunities for aircraft engineers 

Typically, major employers of aircraft maintenance engineers are independent companies and airlines. These organisations require qualified personnel for aircraft maintenance. Maintenance and Overhaul industries also require aircraft engineers for the production of aircraft components as well as testing their performance. Other employees work for small companies including air ambulance, business or private aviation companies, and air taxi companies.

Smaller organisations generally recruit only trained engineers. Larger organisations offer training programs and/or apprenticeships to the aircraft engineers but the competition for job entry is very high. As the aviation industry is expanding worldwide, there is a shortage of aircraft engineers as they are highly skilled and technical workers. Engineers holding a licence are in particular demand, especially those related to avionics. 

Career progression to senior, supervisory levels is very much possible, especially for licensed engineers. Experienced aircraft engineers can also work with MROs at management level, working on design, development or production fitting. The aircraft maintenance engineer career path is exciting yet rewarding. For the investment of time and money that you make to become an aircraft engineer, the financial rewards are quite satisfying. 


Working conditions 

Shift patterns and weekly hours can vary depending on your contract with your employer. It’s not your typical 9 to 5 job; in fact, the job often has unusual hours as the shift schedules can vary. Mostly, the engineers work shifts in order to cover the company’s flying hours. There are pre-flight checks that occur outdoors. Indoor work occurs in hangars. Sometimes the work occurs on a consultation basis, where you have to deal with issues like emergency investigation or change in repair schedule. 

Since aircraft engineers work using computer-operated systems to exhibit models that combine the expertise of software engineering skills, they cannot take a long break in their career. Keeping yourself up to date with the latest industry developments is essential. Self-employment options are limited during the advanced career path. You can work on a consultancy basis, but most of the aircraft engineers are employed by the organisations. 


Salary outlook of aircraft engineers 

The salary of an aircraft engineer is based on numerous factors including experience, qualification, company size, location, and type of the aircraft. Rise in salary is also based on licences held, shift work, line work, etc. The average salary of an aircraft engineer in the UK in 2022 is around £42,000 per year. Candidates with a research qualification can be offered a higher starting salary. Larger organisations like British Airways often also offer higher salaries to their employees. 

In general, salaries of the aviation engineers are often determined by the type of aircraft they service. Those without a licence earn considerably less while aviation mechanics holding a licence earn better salaries and are quickly hired by airlines and other aircraft manufacturing companies.


Browse the latest aircraft maintenance engineer jobs here.