Pretty much everything that has been said in previous posts has been spot on during my route into F1. Being born in Perth Australia isn't exactly helpful when F1 is on the other side of the world!! I figured I would add my 2 cents in here:
I began uni at 17 (at Edith Cowan University) and did a Bachelor of Motorsport Technology (equivalent to a 3yr BSc in the UK) and then followed that up with a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering finishing at age 21. During my Motorsports degree, I was placed within the aerodynamics team for the FSAE car and so through both those degrees, my projects and final thesis were based on aerodynamics. Once they were over, I knew that I had to get over to the UK sometime to make things easier, and I knew that I needed to find a way to stand out from the crowd in order to get my dream job in F1. So I googled "Masters of Race" to see what popped up and The University of Southampton offered an "MSc Race Car Aerodynamics". Figured I would apply, and low and behold, I got in --- So I was going to the UK for this, thinking the whole time that I could build connections, get used to life in the UK and that the Uni (as they promoted it to me) would essentially give me a "golden ticket" into F1 as only 8 people internationally were chosen for this degree each year. It was NOT the case...
Basically, the degree is known by teams, but all that garners you is a "uh huh I've heard of it" during your interviews. Given that I was now 22 with 2 Bachelors and a Masters, I figured that surely I would stand out and that the so called "famous MSc" would carry me into a team. Yeah nah... In all honesty, no one cared that I had spent about £35,000 on education and that I had 3 degrees at 22yrs of age. F1 is full of smart people; people who are plenty smarter than me and those bits of paper are just that: bits of paper. Yes you need them to show that you have at least "some" level of competency at what you did, but University is quite frankly dead easy to "pass"... It is, however, hard to get a good mark.
In the end, I had applied to 109 jobs (across multiple top end racing formulas) before I landed a job within an F1 team --- and that number is just the ones that I heard back from!! Yes, all of these things, along with moving to the other side of the world alone, not caring what salary I got, being relatively young and having 3 degrees all specifically relevant to what I wanted to do, blah blah blah, helped... But it what really helped me, was showing them that I WANT THIS JOB... That I will do ANYTHING to get it... and that I have proven that I am capable of doing the job by these degrees, thesis' and spare time projects which I do because I love it and I have subsequently got high marks.
If I could give you one piece of advice on your journey? It is to actually DO what your dream job entails in your spare time, and create a place for you to show off that work. To give an example, if I ask someone what they want to be and they answer a writer; my next question is "okay, where do you write? Do you keep a blog?" and 99/100 they answer "no..."!!! If you want to be a mechanical engineer in F1, then download CAD models from the Internet, setup a virtual machine, install the free opensource OpenFOAM package on it, and get to it!! Create a website and just upload once a month with a new simulation or something you have been working on; explain how the stress propagates through the object and where stress concentrations are along with potential improvements for it or something. You want to get to an interview and be able to say that you "want this job with every fibre of your being" and that you have simulated parts in your spare time and keep a website explaining them. Give them something to go away and look at.
In summary (in general!!):
1. Masters helps, PhD not so much - unless it is 100% directly related to what you will be doing in the team.
2. Money spent on education, meh...
3. Number of degrees: do you have a Masters? then others are interesting, but still meh...
4. Doing what you love in your spare time and creating a place to showcase it: BIG HELP!! Get involved in FSAE or Formula Student. Volunteer at racing events. Show that you love what you do.
5. If you're asked a question and you don't know, just say so... don't try to BS through it, cause we know...
6. Often, if you're at the interview stage, it's because you have shown in your CV that you are of some interest to us. Most of the time, the interview is used as a way to find out specifics on what you do in your job roles, and to see how you fit within the team - meaning, do you have the charisma of a brick, or are you a happy, cheerful, friendly person? You could be the best person in the world at what you do, but if you are an asshole, then no one will hire you. Simple.
7. Applying to 5 jobs and failing does not constitute you to take the position of "I can't get a job".... How much do you really want this? If F1 isn't working, then go to LMP1 or WRC or IndyCars or Formula E or Nascar or anything else that you can some day twist and manipulate to show an F1 team why your experience as a <insert job here> is relevant to them.
8. Resume: This is your one way of showing people who and what you are. It is not a good method, but it is the only method we have. I am recruiting some members for my team now, and it astonishes me how little consideration people give this....
a) 2 pages MAX!!
b) Cover Letter - next to never read
c) Spelling mistakes - shows you don't have attention to detail
d) Downloaded template from internet - make sure that you remove any unused section headings, footnotes, etc.
e) NO PHOTOS - you're not a small claims lawyer advertising on a bus stop seat........
f) Bullet points - if I have to spend more than 10 seconds trying to find out what you learnt at job XYZ, then I don't bother
g) Tailor your CV: for example, if you are applying to a huge corporation, chances are that some HR person who has no idea about your field is going to go through your CV and tick a box on the application form whether you have experience in the things which the job says are required/desirable. So make sure you include those points!! If you are applying to a smaller team, chances are that someone in the department you are looking to get into will be the one reading your CV so you need to include a little more detail about it.
h) ... Make sure that your CV you sent in has the correct company name on it............. *facepalm*
i) 2 pages may be tricky to fit to -- If you have a lot of previous jobs, then only display the ones relevant to the role, and then lump the rest together in a short bullet point list with your job title. If we are interested, we will ask.
j) If English isn't your first language, then the odd mistake here and there might be overlooked; having said that, this is the one way for us to gauge who you are. If you stick "English - Proficient" on your CV, then make sure your CV actually is... Hell, hire some native English speaker to look over your CV and make it PERFECT.
This is what worked for me anyway... Having said that, luck does play an important part
Good luck mate!