Do I need a degree to Work in F1?

Posted on Posted in Educational routes to motorsport

Do I need a degree to work for a Formula 1 Team? A common question but there has to be a short answer and a long answer…

The short answer

The short answer is NO ! You definately don’t need a degree to work in F1. The vast majority of people who work in F1 do not have degrees and it should be no barrier at all to getting the job of your dreams. Simple.

A slightly longer answer

The long answer on the other hand however is that it depends on what specific job you want to do. The vast majority of the queries I get about working in F1 are from people who want to be designers, aerodynamicists or race engineers. These are the most technically specialised roles in F1 and yes, the vast majority of people in these roles have degrees. It’s an unavoidable fact.

Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics now dominates car performance and the very theoretical nature of the subject and the complexity of the fundamental concepts of fluid dynamics means that to be an aerodynamicist you’ll need a degree. Fact. To work in an aerodynamics department however there are just as many opportunities for those without degrees to get involved and contribute. Running a windtunnel requires practical help from technicians both in setting up and maintaining the tunnel and running it. These are hands on roles which take place at the sharp end of a team’s development where you don’t need a degree.

A small army of people are required to design and manufacture the wind tunnel model car(you generally don’t use a real full size car in the tunnel), looking after the various development bodywork pieces and the sensors and instruments which measure pressure and downforce. No degree needed here either. A show of promise in these roles often allows people to progress to being a CAD surfacer for the full scale car too. You could even design the nose shape, sidepods or engine cover, all without a degree.

Designers

The car’s mechanical designers will generally also be degree qualified but here there are more opportunities for those who have not been to university. Many of the best designers I know have graduated from the shop floor because they bring with them broad understanding of what it takes to put a car together, something that many graduates lack. It may not be something you can step straight into but design is an area where those without degrees can still excel.

Race Engineering

Traditionally race engineers would not have had degrees. In fact, several of the F1 engineers still do not. This trend however is changing as more and more race engineers come from theoretical vehicle dynamics backgrounds. A good grounding in the lower formulas however can still allow a non-degree qualified person to be a race engineer and outside of F1 this is still quite common. If this interests you read my post on how to become a Race Engineer.

The pitcrew

The other role that many people aspire to is to be involved in the pit crew of an F1 team. The pit crew is generally made of up the car’s mechanics, truck drivers or anybody else in the race team who shows willing and talent for it. Being a tyre changer is not a dedicated role and certainly doesn’t require a degree.

What about the rest of them?

The majority of the race team(ie the people who actually go to races) will not be from a university background and so if this is your aim then you are in luck! In the factory, most of the manufacturing, purchasing, assembly and research people will not need degrees and you will soon find that people in Formula 1 are valued (and paid) based on their ability and their input not on their qualifications. In my team, we could not do without the experience and insight of a number of people who left school at 16. The number of opportunities are surprisingly large.

So, getting back to the short answer again, whilst a degree is necessary for several very specialised roles in Formula 1, enthusiasm, drive and eventually experience are far more valuable assets for a prospective employee than a university education. No-one should think that not having a degree prevents you from being involved at the sharp end of F1.

Thanks for reading my blog and if you’d like to know more please follow me or leave a comment on my post. You can also go to my Facebook page where you can comment or discuss your experiences with others. I’m also on Twitter @Work_in_f1 where I am happy to answer questions. I’d really like to hear from you about what you want to do in F1 so that I can give you the right advice and point you in the right direction.

Best of luck and maybe see you on the grid someday.

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24 thoughts on “Do I need a degree to Work in F1?

  1. Hi thanks for setting up the blog it’s really informative. I dream of working F1 team. Is it possible to join in to the team without any prior Motorsport experience and as a fresh graduate?

    1. Hi

      Thanks for reading my blog

      Yes it’s definately possible. Not many teams advertise for ‘graduate’ jobs but you’ll often see the word ‘junior’ instead. These types of job are the ones to aim for.
      Teams offer undergraduate placements a lot now which are effectively long job interviews. Much of their graduate intake comes from this. I don’t know where you are in terms of your education but this would be the thing to aim for.

      Hope that helps. Keep reading and I’ll try and write a longer post on this subject

      Thanks again

  2. Today I have read all your blog posts and they gave me a little bit of hope but a little bit of discouragement too. OK, I know I’ll never be an aerodynamicist or a designer, but how can I get to those jobs that people who left school at 16 are doing, how can I be the guy who cleans the wind tunnel, the guy who is setting up or taking sensors down the model car, or cleaning the tires during the race weekend since I have never seen a job like this listed in the “Jobs” section of a team’s website. I would like to earn my living by working in F1 and I know that I have more passion and love for the sport (following F1 since I was 7) than many who have fancy-named degrees, but this “closed circle” appearance that F1 has is very discouraging and seing your blog makes me think you are not who you are saying.

    Thank you for the blog, it is very informative and if you really are what you say, good luck in the 2013 season.

  3. There are many who work in F1 and other higher levels of motorsport who do not possess degrees. Many of these are the men and women who work as machinists, composites laminators, model makers and fabricators. They are highly skilled individuals who have learnt their trade, often through going to a technical college and learning on the job. I was Enstone only last week and the quality of workmanship extant in the area where exhaust systems were being fabricated was of the highest order.

  4. Hi, i’m just about to start GCSE’s and looking for a career in Motorsport when I grow up and i just had a quick look around the site. To be an aerodynamicist you say that I may need a degree. Do I really have to go to university as I am torn between weather I should go to collage or uni. This is because I have heard that you are better off going to collage and getting real experience rather than studying at university. also the most wealthy people I know went to collage and not university. The people who I know that did go to uni are struggling to find a job. Can you please help me as I need advice from someone who has been through this. Thanks.

    1. Hi Luke

      Thanks for the comment. I understand where you are coming from about college vs uni. Latter is expensive and doesn’t guarantee you a job.

      Problem is aerodynamics is a very academic subject and not something that you can fully understand without studying it properly. It’s actually very mathematical and complex physics. Practical experience is good for most areas of Motorsport, especially the mechanical aspects but in aero it’s less relevant. Universities tend to be the only institutions with wind tunnels and so it’s unlikely that you could get practical experience at a local college.

      Having said all that, you can still work in an aerodynamics group as a wind tunnel technician, a model designer or even a CAD surfacer without having that degree. It wouldn’t preclude you completely but to be a top aero you’d almost certainly need a degree. Look up fluid dynamics, Reynolds numbers and Navier-Stokes on google and see if it scares you! That’s what these guys talk about all day :-))

      Hope that helps.

      1. Thanks a lot. But as my options are still open, what about being the person to construct the car when you get to the race track and to prepare the car for a session? Because that seems a really good job that you can’t study for.

        1. You wouldn’t.need a degree to be a mechanic no but you need experience more than anything. Volunteering is the best way to begin with (see elsewhere on my site.) you could try karting too as that is great experience.

          To get to f1 you could try for an apprenticeship at any engineering firm and then work/volunteer at weekends in lower category racing. You need to learn as much as you can about racing and racing cars, the only way to do that is to go to races and see the cars and get involved. There are lots of non-F1 races on around the country, it doesnt matter what to begin with. Watching tv is not enough.

          Hope that helps

  5. First off, I just want to say when I found your blog it was like the sky opened up and heaven’s light illuminated my computer. I swear I can still hear the angels singing now. It has always been my dream to work in F1, but living in the US it is difficult to find any information on how to succeed in the industry. Your blog posts have helped me gain so much insight and hope, so thank you, thank you, thank you! However, I am hoping to work in the marketing side of F1, and I was wondering if you had any information on that, that you could share. Any knowledge would be incredibly appreciated (: and I just want to say again THANK YOU for creating this blog. I hope to hear from you soon.

    1. Hi Casey

      Thanks so much for the great compliment for my blog. Really appreciate that.

      From the US it’s quite possible to work in F1. The biggest advantage you have over other non Europeans is that the US has such a strong domestic racing scene. IndyCar and NASCAR are huge operations and I would recommend you tried to get involved there or even at a lower level first. I’d say that the marketing around US racing is more developed, or at least better exploited in the US than it is in F1.

      I’m no marketing expert but I’ve vowed the do some more research into it and write some specific material for it on this blog in the future.

      Hope that helps!!

      1. Thank you so much! I’m definitely looking into INDY and NASCAR and am currently involved with several national karting series, so I’m working on getting involved and making connections. Can’t wait to hear more from you on this blog (:

  6. Hi,

    Fantastic posts by the way extremely helpful.

    I am going back to college in September to do a year in engineering and then a BTEC in mechanical and Motorsport engineering. Unfortunately I’m a little older than a school leaver at the age of 26. My career path is clear now, I want to be a race engineer.

    I want to be a race engineer in the DTM series or even the GT series. Is there a certain direction to take to go down this avenue?

    I will be 30 by the time I finish my college course so if I can avoid UNI then that would be better.

    Any advice would be a massive advantage for me.

    Thanks.

    1. Hi Jeremy

      Thanks for the questions. Sounds like you are doing all the right things and your age shouldn’t be too much of a barrier. It depends on how applicable your previous experience has been.

      For GT’s / DTM, I would concentrate on experience in lower formulas, ie F3, BTCC etc as much as you can as this is the most valued currency. Academics is not as important outside of F1, so experience becomes key.

  7. Hello,
    First i want to thank you for your time and explanations, great work creating this blog and making motorsports fans want to pursue their dreams. A big thank you.
    I have always been passioned by cars and performance. Of course my dream was to be a rally or f1 driver but i guess im too old for that and i dont have the necessary backup. Im in my first year of college, studying business and kept far away from the field where i would like to excell at. i have no real practical experience as a mechanic but i have spent endless hours reading about anything related to a car and i am amazed when i look the work and the wonders that engineers create. (Keep in mind that cars are my hobby/passion so i try to know everything i can on the subject, though i know i havent learned a thing yet but i would do everything to). I would be the most happy person if i could contribute to the magical world of f1, but i dont know how to approach it neither what to do in order to be someday part of it. Should i study mechanical engineering? i have always struggled with maths (lack of work mainly), but i would do anything possible in the world if i knew someday i’d have the possibility to live my dream.

    Thanks again and sorry for this long post. Good luck in your job with your team.
    P.S: And i hope Pirelli finally lets us see real racing and not the 24 hours of le mans with formula one cars.

  8. tnx for the blog, actually im i love with this sport fomular 1 and i really want to work in this sport, anything i will do help mi out tnx,

  9. bro i am a good racer . i stay in bangalore . my dream is to drive a f1 car nd put my countries fame higher . so now i am a student of 22yrs
    what is the procedure from the initial !?
    i wanna race
    itz my spirit
    hopng for ur answer

    thank u

  10. Hey,
    This may sound a little awkward because I’ve only learnt about F1 from my fiancĂ© whos a mad fan so this is guess work on my part but i take it F1 is a bit like science I have a degree in biomedical science and I’m wondering what sort of job i could get in F1? I’m a quick leaner and I can work quickly when necessary while being accurate. Any advice would be much appreciated as I’m looking to branch out as my field hasn’t got much work going at the minute.
    Thanks.

    1. Hi Megan

      F1 is very science driven and technical. If you have a science background its a good start but it depends on whether you want to be a designer and draw components of the car or be an aerodynamicist and work in a windtunnel. There are more jobs besides these but it depends as much on what you want to do as it does your qualifications.

  11. What kind of opportunities would there be for an American with a mathematics degree? I assume there would be opportunity due to the highly quantitative nature of F1 but just how big is that opportunity? Lastly, being an American, how far would that set me back, meaning there are no teams to my knowledge that are anywhere even relatively near here (I know I would probably have to move and I am fine with that) but most importantly would my American earned degree be rubbish to European manufacturers?

    1. Hi Alec

      Firstly there are many Americans working in F1. American degrees are not rubbished at all but clearly you would be at an immediate disadvantage against an equally qualified and experienced candidate from Europe. A team would have to have a specific reason to take you over a local candidate.

      Several of the Americans that I know in the industry have studied in the UK, normally as a post grad as a kind of way in and to make themselves ‘local’. This seems to work. Have you looked around on LinkedIn and see if you can find US people from F1? It might be worth making contact and speaking to them about their experiences.

      A maths degree should have some relevance but it is obviously the applied side of maths that is most important. Engineering degrees are the most common but pure maths people find work in data analysis and processing, statistical analysis for strategy software and such like. F1 teams generate huge amounts of data and one of the biggest problems is them processing it into a useful and compact form for analysis. Lifting useful trends out of the data and processing it quickly and easily are the key methods.

      Hope that makes some sense for you?

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