Today I am sharing my journey into the world of engineering with you and the things I found useful when deciding to study Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol. Every engineer has a different story about how they entered the profession and this is mine.
When I first started seriously considering what I wanted to do with my life, the number of options, whilst exciting, was also overwhelming. I decided the best place to start was to think about what I wanted from a career and what my strengths were.
I have always enjoyed problem solving and challenging myself, and my academic strengths leant towards Maths and Physics. These all align with becoming an engineer. It is worth pointing out, though, that you don’t have to be naturally good at Maths and Physics. Hard work and perseverance in these subjects will be rewarded if you do want to pursue a career in engineering.
The big moment for me came when I met a lady who was a Rocket Scientist - what a cool job title! Taking every opportunity to talk to engineers about what they do is something I would definitely recommend - always ask questions. If you want to know something, then you can be confident that another student in the room wants to know it too and if not, they might find the answer useful.
We will soon be starting a series on the blog called ‘Ask an Engineer’ for which we will be interviewing people from a range of different engineering backgrounds. If there are any engineering disciplines you are keen to learn more about or if there are any questions you would like answered, please do let us know!
Since I was starting to consider my options I went away and looked into engineering. Many Google searches later and I was pretty sure engineering was for me. Around this time, I was also lucky enough to attend an Inspire course at Bristol, where we worked on a project with Engineers Without Borders. The overwhelming takeaway from the course was that studying engineering would allow me to help people. I was now certain this is what I wanted to study.
With engineering in mind, I chose my A Levels: Physics, Maths, Further Maths, and Geography. I hadn’t originally planned to study Further Maths but, with the encouragement of a fantastic teacher, I decided to give it a go and I am so glad I did. There is no requirement for you to take Further Maths in order to study engineering, however I do think it set me up well for when I started my degree.
All engineering students at Bristol take an Engineering Maths module in their first year designed to bring everyone up to the same level. If you have taken Further Maths many of the concepts taught in the module are familiar which helps immensely. When so much of your life is changing with the transition to university life this is a welcome constant. On the other hand, there were extra tutorials offered for those without Further Maths. You should n’t be disadvantaged if you haven’t had the option to study it at A-level, so don’t let that put you off pursuing a career in engineering.
Once I was sure that I wanted to study engineering I then had to make another decision about the specific stream of engineering. There are so many options: mechanical, aerospace, chemical just to name a few. I kept coming back to Aerospace Engineering but I was concerned the course could limit my future options. I now know this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Aerospace is so broad with many different disciplines to specialise in. This was confirmed during my work experience at Nissan Technical Centre Europe and Nissan Design Europe (see Patrick’s article here on getting a placement with no prior experience). The people I met there were so encouraging of studying Aerospace and really opened my eyes to how broad it can be.
Also, around this time I attended a Headstart course at the University of Liverpool focused on Aerospace Engineering - it was a fantastic few days and confirmed that Aerospace Engineering was for me. The first activity we took part in was to design, build and compete a model glider. This is a project you can also do at home or in your school’s DT department by following a YouTube video – it could be a fantastic addition to a personal statement!
Image Credit: Dominic Roe
The other inspiring experience I enjoyed was working with test pilots and researchers to modify a training aircraft such that it could complete the Red Bull Air Race. The designs were then inputted to a simulator and tested. From what I can remember my team’s aircraft performed terribly but the process was great fun all the same!
The experiences I gained from the taster courses I attended were invaluable and they provided a great insight into the course and what my time studying would be like. If you are unsure if engineering is for you or what stream of engineering you want to study then I would definitely encourage you to find something similar. A great place to start looking for sessions you could get involved with are Bristol’s Engineering outreach webpage and the wider university outreach webpage. Attending an event like this also makes a great addition to your personal statement which is always a bonus!
If this isn’t possible, university open days are another great way to learn about the course you want to study as well as confirming where you want to go to university. Bristol is holding a virtual open day on 26 June which you can register your interest for now. Or sign up to this online platform created by the University of Bristol that includes course specific tasters. Another option would be to listen to ‘Turning Insight into Inspiration’, which Patrick was recently a guest on. This details a number of students’ journeys into engineering and what their chosen course is all about.
I hope by sharing my engineering journey so far it has given you some ideas about how to explore your career options and I can’t wait to share the ‘Ask an Engineer’ series with you. I think this will be a great way to learn more about different engineering disciplines. It will hopefully allow you to see the breadth of engineering careers available and the various paths people have taken to get to where they are.