National Motorsport Academy

Getting Started in Motorsport Engineering Part 1

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In the first two parts of our Getting Started in Motorsport series, we looked at the highly competitive ambition of becoming a professional racing driver and embarking on a career in the commercial side of motorsport. This week, it is the turn of the subject most close to our hearts here at the NMA – motorsport engineering.

A career in motorsport engineering is exciting, challenging and incredibly fulfilling. As with all other areas of the industry, finding a job in the most exciting (in our opinion) end of motorsport will involve hard work, dedication and some sacrifice on your behalf. But think of the all the fun you will have when you get there!

This guide is for those of you who have some degree of experience already – the vehicle technicians, the graduates, the unqualified but skilled mechanics.  We’ll get to the newbies, school leavers and apprentices in Part 2 later this week.

Here is the first part of our guide to Getting Started in Motorsport Engineering.

Consider Your Current Skillset

Setting realistic goals is something we all should do and something which comes easier with age. Remember when you wanted to become an astronaut/racing driver/professional footballer/policeman? Some of you may have always wanted to work on performance cars and gotten side-tracked from the dream. Being realistic in your career aspirations is the first step towards achieving them. Below we have laid out some of the most common circumstances of people looking to carve out a career in motorsport engineering.

“I currently work in a garage as an automotive technician – how do I get into motorsport engineering”

A large number of our students are already working as experienced motor vehicle technicians. Whether you’re working with a main dealer or independent garage, your skills and experience will stand you in good stead to study our BSc (Hons) Motorsport Engineering.

As part of our entry requirements, we require students to be qualified to Level 3 in either an automotive or engineering discipline. As an experienced vehicle technician chances are your qualification were gained on the job or at college. This, combined with your ‘on the job’ experience, will give you a good grounding in motorsport engineering from a practical perspective. You already understand what all the bits are and how they work, or at least you should! It’s just a case of ‘suping’ it up a bit.

The biggest learning curve for those looking to transfer to a career in motorsport engineering from an automotive technician background is the academic side of things. It may be a while since you qualified as a mechanic and going back to ‘school’ is a big step. Whether you trained at college, in an apprenticeship or learning on the job, chances are it didn’t involve writing in-depth assignments or calculating complex mathematical formulas.

Our tutors understand that you may not be used to an academic way of learning. Our course materials and assignments are all in plain English wherever possible and despite our courses being delivered online, you still have access to tutor support via email, phone and the Virtual Learning Studio every step of the way.

If you think that your skills could do with a refresh, there are some great free online courses you can take just to get you geared up. The Khan Academy is a non-profit online provider of free courses and their library of learning is extensive. You can find refresher courses in physics and different mathematical theory such as geometry, trigonometry and basic algebra. The first module of the BSc Motorsport Engineering so brushing up your skills can be a great way to prepare yourself. Don’t panic, you’ll find that the course is filled with real-life examples to make your learning relevant to the subject matter.

“I’ve always loved working on cars and want to get serious but have no qualifications”

We get a lot of enquiries about forging a career in motorsport engineering without any formal qualifications. We have engineers and motorsport enthusiasts who have been tinkering with cars for years but never worked in the industry. Our entry requirements can be quite flexible for adult learners who have extensive experience but perhaps never actually qualified. It can be difficult to get all of your experience down on paper for this type of application so here are some tips:

  • Be honest with yourself – a degree is a big commitment and steep learning curve. Are you ready for that?
  • Make sure you detail as much technical experience as possible on your application and make it relevant. Our tutors won’t be able to assess your suitability if they don’t know your current level of understanding.
  • Add any and all motorsport or related expertise, whether that be engine builds, auto-electrical projects, track car preparation – anything you’ve done with cars or bikes will help.
  • Don’t include every single job and bit of experience you’ve ever had. We don’t care if you worked behind a bar or as a delivery driver but if you’ve studied computer science or worked as an electrician put it on your application!

It may be that our tutors decide that you need a little more experience before approving your application. As mentioned above, studying an entry-level engineering course online can be great way to give yourself the grounding you need to study at degree level. We accept the Engineers Academy’s Mechanical Bundle for entry onto our BSc Motorsport Engineering degree. It’s 100% online and you can also pay for it monthly to help you spread the cost of your learning.

“I have an engineering qualification but no real hands-on experience with cars”

If you have a background in engineering, chances are you’ll already have a good level or understanding of mechanical engineering principles. We accept applications from anyone with an existing engineering degree but require all students to participate in motorsport in some way. That can be building your own track car, volunteering as a scrutineer or marshal, working with a supplier or manufacturer – anything where you get your hands dirty and get some practical, hands-on experience.

There are 3 entry points for those who already have an engineering qualification at Level 3 or above:

  • BSc (Hons) Motorsport Engineering

    Our BSc Motorsport Engineering full degree is most suitable for those who come from a different type of engineering setting. If you come from a civil engineering, electrical engineering and any other non-mechanical background, you may need to start from scratch to make sure that you have all of the relevant knowledge to get your career in motorsport off to the best start. The full BSc degree is also the best point of entry for anyone with a Level 3/BTEC or equivalent engineering qualification.

  • BSc (Hons) Motorsport Engineering Final Year Top-Up

    Our BSc Motorsport Engineering Final Year Top Up is ideal for anyone with an existing engineering degree or Level 4/HND as long as our tutors are convinced that you already have a good enough grounding in the areas you’d miss. A Top Up degree allows you to study just the final year of the degree course yet still achieve a full BSc degree. This is most suitable for those with an existing aerospace or mechanical engineering degree where you will probably already have covered areas such as fluid dynamics, R&D simulation and mathematics. You will miss out on the Fundamentals of Motorsport Technology, Race Car Design & Preparation, Engine Design, Development and Simulation and Vehicle Mechanics & Data Acquisition as well but these modules are available separately as CPD so if there’s a specific subject area you’d like to cover you can study this first and then move onto the Top Up Degree.

  • MSc Advanced Motorsport Engineering

    The MSc Advanced Motorsport Engineering is suitable for anyone who already has an engineering degree and understands mechanical engineering principles but perhaps lacks recent hands-on experience. You’ll study Advanced Vehicle Dynamics, Design & Modelling of Motorsport Systems and Multi-Physics Analysis for Motorsport so any background in physics and engineering will be a plus. Again, if you’re not currently working in motorsport, we recommend that you participate in the industry in some respect. The Master’s culminates in a final advanced motorsport project so any hands-on experience you can get can be used towards your degree. You could buy a track car and develop it as a project or offer your skills to a local team or manufacturer.

Immerse Yourself

Immersing yourself in the industry is of the best ways to improve your career prospects. Read as much as you can, learn as much as you can and get as much hands-on experience as possible. This is one industry which rewards the hard work and dedication of those who sacrifice to succeed. Careers in motorsport are hard work but massively rewarding. Studying for a motorsport degree is a sure-fire way to improve your career in motorsport. You’ll learn all the skills to convert your current experience into specialist knowledge. If you’d like to find out more about working in motorsport, you’ll find some great resources on our blog or visit our industry zone for more information about the different career options in motorsport.  

Accelerate Your Career in Motorsport

You can find out more about the National Motorsport Academy's specialist motorsport degrees by downloading our course guide.

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