How to become a motorsport engineer (With skills and FAQs)

Updated 6 June 2023

Motorsport engineering is a specialisation of engineering that focuses on the building and testing of racing vehicles. These might be race cars or bikes, either during production or for racing events. If you're interested in becoming a motorsport engineer, knowing the job's requirements can help you get started. In this article, we explain what a motorsport engineer is, describe how to become a motorsport engineer, list key skills for this role and answer some frequently asked questions.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

What is a motorsport engineer?

A motorsport engineer designs, builds, tests and otherwise works on racing vehicles. These could be track cars, off-road cars, rally cars, bikes and various other versions of these vehicles. Motorsport engineering is very similar to mechanical engineering and automotive engineering. The key difference is that motorsport engineers typically focus on the performance of the vehicles in question in race scenarios, meaning the vehicles on which they work are going to undergo much greater stress.

There are broadly two areas of work for a motorsport engineer. The first is in the initial design and production of these vehicles, such as in factories and laboratories. They might develop new designs, make prototypes, use computer-aided design (CAD) software, test various components, build production models and perform quality control work. The other area is within the racing industry itself, where the motorsport engineer can prepare a vehicle for specific races, monitor its performance, make adjustments to increase performance and inspect the vehicle afterwards to check for damage.

Related: What does an engineer do? (Plus types of engineering jobs)

Find motorsport engineer jobs

How to become a motorsport engineer

If you want to know how to become a motorsport engineer, consider the steps and options below:

1. Get A-levels

Becoming an engineer typically entails getting a degree or a similarly advanced level of education. For this reason, you're going to require some A-levels to access higher learning. The number of A-levels is going to differ from one route and institution to another. For instance, a bachelor's degree is usually going to require around two or three A-levels or their equivalent. Some universities might require minimum grades, such as C and above (4 or higher).

Another option is apprenticeships, with the entry requirements varying based on the level and employer in question. A Level 3 apprenticeship is often just going to require four or five GCSEs with minimum grades of C (4). A Level 6 apprenticeship is going to require these GCSEs plus one or more A-levels. In all cases, GCSEs in English and maths are typically going to be necessary. Other good subjects to consider include physics, information technology, design and technology, computer science and further mathematics.

Related: A practical guide: 'What degrees can I do with my A-levels?'

2. Acquire a degree

One route to becoming a motorsport engineer is to complete a degree in a relevant subject. This is usually going to be a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) degree. Ideally, you'd look for a degree in motorsport engineering. Alternatively, a degree in a related discipline can be useful, such as automotive engineering, mechanical engineering and even electronic engineering. If possible, prioritise any degree programmes you find that include work placement opportunities.

Something else to prioritise is a university that participates in Formula Student (FS). This is an engineering competition for students from universities across Europe, where each team designs and tests a race car. Involvement in FS can be very advantageous for getting a job in the motorsport industry after graduation. These degrees usually take three or four years to complete full time.

Related: Careers you can get with a mechanical engineer degree

3. Complete an apprenticeship (optional)

An alternative route to a degree is to complete an apprenticeship. The advantages of an apprenticeship include a significant practical component and the opportunity to earn an income. The disadvantage is that an apprenticeship often takes longer to complete than an equivalent-level educational qualification. For instance, a degree apprenticeship often takes longer than an equivalent degree. Depending on your A-levels, you can either go straight to a degree apprenticeship or start at a lower level. The degree apprenticeship in question is a Level 6 electro-mechanical engineer apprenticeship.

If you want to first start with a lower-level apprenticeship, consider a Level 3 engineering technician apprenticeship. Upon completing this, you could then apply for the degree apprenticeship. The Level 3 apprenticeship takes around 42 months to complete, and the Level 6 apprenticeship can take around 50 months. Each of these also typically has an end-point assessment (EPA) period beyond these durations. During an apprenticeship, you'd typically spend four-fifths of your time getting on-the-job experience and the remaining fifth studying with a partner institution such as a university.

Related: What is a Level 6 apprenticeship? (And how to get one)

4. Look for employers

Once you've got the necessary education and qualifications, you can start looking for job opportunities. Use job sites, such as Indeed, to browse for work and check the websites of employers you know. It can also be useful to attend motorsport shows or events, as these can grant you the opportunity to meet people in the industry and network. Speak to recruiters at these events to discuss any opportunities that exist. Following motorsport companies' social media profiles and reading motorsport magazines and other publications can also be helpful for learning more and finding job opportunities.

Related: Your complete guide to networking at events (With steps)

Motorsport engineer skills

Motorsport engineers use a combination of hard and soft skills to do their job. A hard skill is a technical competency that enables you to perform a task, such as using CAD software. A soft skill is a transferable ability that's useful in a variety of circumstances, such as attention to detail. Here are some skills to develop if you want to become a motorsport engineer:

  • Knowledge of motorsports

  • Knowledge of mechanical and automotive engineering

  • Ability to maintain, repair and use machines

  • Knowledge of electronics

  • Analysis and critical thinking

  • Competency with CAD software

  • Thoroughness and attention to detail

  • Initiative and creativity

  • Problem-solving skills

  • Responsiveness

  • Ability to work under pressure

Related: What it takes to be an F1 engineer (With duties and skills)

Frequently asked questions

Below are some frequently asked questions about motorsport engineers, along with their respective answers:

What are the career progression options?

There are broadly two routes to consider for career progression. One is to attain greater seniority within your current work environment, and the other is to specialise. Specialisations in motorsport engineering include areas such as electronics and engine transmissions. More senior positions include becoming a workshop manager, technical manager or chief engineer. A potentially useful boost to your career prospects is to get chartered engineer status from the Engineering Council.

Related: What does a head engineer do? (Plus skills and steps)

Where do motorsport engineers work?

Motorsport engineers can work for various employers who might participate in the motorsport industry. These comprise either motorsport production or work involving the competitions themselves. These engineers could work for specific motorsports teams, automotive companies or companies that produce parts for these vehicles, such as tyres.

Related: 10 types of engineer jobs (With salaries and duties)

Are there any other degree options?

To become a motorsport engineer, you typically want to study a degree related to motorsport, automotive or mechanical engineering. You may find that there are different names for different courses in addition to BEng and Bachelor of Science (BSc) degrees. Alternative degree names that you might encounter include Automotive and Motorsport Technology or Motorsport Technology. Beyond this, it might be useful to consider a master's degree to further increase your skills and distinguish yourself from other candidates when applying for jobs.

Explore more articles

  • How to become a social media assistant (steps and benefits)
  • What does an executive do? (Examples of roles and duties)
  • 8 jobs for innovators (with primary duties and salaries)
  • Why is plumbing a good career path? (With 11 reasons)
  • How to become a housing officer (plus duties and skills)
  • How To Become A Stonemason in 6 Steps (Plus Their Duties)
  • How to become a contractor (with steps and examples)?
  • 8 apprenticeships for adults with no qualifications
  • 9 big data jobs (with duties and salary information)
  • The role of a project controller: duties and skills
  • How To Become a Ghostwriter in 8 Steps (Plus Salary Info)
  • How to become a florist (with skills and main duties)