Your STEM career: the aerospace industry

Aerospace organisations such as Boeing & Airbus offer cutting-edge careers for graduates. Find out how to break into the industry & which degrees are in demand.
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Overview of the aerospace industry

Since the dawn of commercial and passenger flight, Australia’s size, and its distance from trading partners has made the aerospace sector a national priority. Australia’s largest airline, Qantas, is the third oldest airline in the world (we were narrowly beaten by the Netherlands and Spain), and its contributions to the global aerospace industry include innovations like the ‘safety black box’ and a widely respected standards and governance framework.

As reported by the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, the Australian aerospace industry contains around 830 firms that together employ 14,000 people. It generates around $4 billion of revenue each year, one-quarter of which is generated by exports. Significant businesses in this sector include Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Jetstar, Qantas, and Virgin.

What does the aerospace industry involve?

Organisations in the aerospace industry are involved in four main activities: the manufacture of commercial and military aircraft; the maintenance and repair of existing aircraft related hardware; research and development; and training and business services.

Numerous processes contribute to the achievement of these goals. They include systems and software design, engineering, tooling and assembly, and air systems integration. According to the Australian Trade Commission, our aerospace industry is particularly outstanding when it
comes to the manufacture of sophisticated components as well as the development and supply of systems engineering and avionics.

Where do people in this sector work?

The aerospace industry is global – and this is undoubtedly part of the appeal for many people who decide to join it. Unsurprisingly, its largest employers, like Boeing, Airbus, and Lockheed Martin, employ well over 120,000 people each.

As a graduate in the aerospace sector, you’re as likely to find yourself working as an engineer in a professional office as you are to find yourself on the tarmac of an airport performing flight checks. The range of possible settings and locations in this sector is enormous.

Entering the aerospace sector

There are a variety of entry paths into larger companies, including graduate training schemes and internships. Direct entry is also possible, although it tends to be more common with senior positions that require significant professional experience.

Recruiters look for technical aptitude and a scientific, maths-based background. High value is also placed on non-technical transferable skills. These may include attention to detail, the ability to balance different and sometimes competing requirements simultaneously, and the capacity to look at an issue from different perspectives.

Career prospects in the aerospace industry

The Australian aerospace industry is highly active, with recognised expertise in diverse areas including the development of advanced composite structures, research into next-generation technology, and the provision of training and business services. According to a recent study by IBISWorld (Aircraft Manufacturing and Repair Services in Australia), 13,000 new aircraft will be required in the Asia Pacific (AP) region, and nearly 36,000 globally, within the next 20 years. It’s widely expected that Australia will profit from its ability to meet these new demands.

What this means for you as a graduate is that, by choosing an aerospace career, you’ll be entering an industry that is poised for innovation and growth, and capable of taking you around the world.

How can I take advantage of my STEM background?

A large number of roles within the aerospace industry will require you to have a STEM background, whether it be in engineering or statistical modelling. While the aerospace industry does contain non-technical roles – such as in management, training, and business administration – the completion of a STEM degree is the best way to ensure your applications are competitive for desirable jobs.

Popular degrees sought by this industry:

Engineering (electrical, mechanical, aerospace, software, production, chemical), computer science, IT, data science, maths, psychology, physics and chemistry.

For more engineering career advice, visit our advice page, and for the latest graduate job vacancies and career advice, sign up here.