One of the prime reasons that I started this website was because I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked “How do I get a job in F1?”
I wanted this website to be an answer to the question and many more of the common questions that people have about working in F1.
What degree do I need to work in F1?
This post is going to concentrate on the question of degree qualifications and suggest which types of courses are best for those wishing to get a job in F1. Firstly, you DON’T need a degree to work in F1. Motorsport has a huge number of different roles within the industry and the majority of people who work in F1 don’t have degrees. Read my earlier post here as some background as to why.
For those wishing to be designers, aerodynamicists or engineers, a degree will almost certainly be required as academic qualifications count for a lot in this type of job. This is an unavoidable fact.
The good news is that you don’t need a specialist degree to work in F1. The vast majority of engineers and designers will have solid degrees in quite standard subjects like Mechanical or Aeronautical Engineering. A good grade in a traditional engineering subject from a reputable university is exactly the background that teams are looking for. A candidate who can mix this academic background with practical experience and demonstrate that they have used their initiative to learn about racing has the ideal background for F1. Easier said than done of course, but this is what you should be aiming for.
What about specialist Motorsport degrees and courses?
An increasing number of institutions are offering motorsport specific degrees as an alternative to the traditional general engineering courses. Should you take one of these instead?
A difficult question but in general I would advise some caution. There are a number of very good courses of this type on offer but they are nestled amongst several gimmick type courses which neglect the fundamentals of engineering which are so important. A good engineer with a solid fundamental understanding can apply him or herself to just about any technical issue in Formula 1 with just a small amount of learning time. A candidate who has learnt from a specialist course at the expense of the fundamentals may struggle if the subject or problem strays too far from their course matter. The latter type of candidate is of much less use in F1 than the former.
I would say you should research your course and your institution fully before making a decision. Where have previous graduates gone after leaving? Is the course new or does it have a long history? Does it have strong industrial links? The course entry requirements may give you the best clue, if they are lower than other courses you should be suspicious!
A degree of specialism does however have advantages. Many degree courses are long and an element of applied motorsport project work or modules may keep you motivated towards your target and help maintain the link between what you study and what you hope to do. Many people lose sight after 3 or more years of exams.
It can also make your CV stand out from the crowd but many teams are skeptical unless they recognise the university name which has run the course. It’s a fine balance.
I hope to list Motorsport courses which I recommend elsewhere on this site or in a future post.
A big exception to the above is for those wishing to be aerodynamicists. Aeronautics is a relatively new discipline and not every university will offer a course as it requires specialist staff and equipment to teach the practical elements. If you do want to be an aerodynamicist however I would recommend that you study an aeronautical engineering degree if at all possible. Mechanical engineers can ‘convert’, particularly if they are very bright but the subjects are diverse enough that in this case the specialists will have an advantage.
There are a number of post graduate courses in aeronautical engineering for those who wish to keep their options open in their first degree but it will mean extra study and time before you can start work and earning a living.
Please take a look elsewhere on this site for other help and guidance on what you need to do to work in F1. The FAQ section should soon be up and running and be the first port of call to answer many commonly asked questions.
You can also follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1 or on Facebook.
Best of luck and see you on the grid someday.