Engineering degrees can vary from broad degree disciplines, such as Mechanical Engineering to more specialised degrees such as Aeronautical Engineering. Some degrees award joint honours (e.g. Ship Science with Engineering Management).
Degrees can take between three to five years and will award a BSc, BTech, BEng or MEng dependent upon the content and duration of the course. It is possible to become a professional engineer after completing your secondary education, but you may not be able to become a chartered engineer without some form of further or higher education.
It is strongly recommended that you complete qualifications which are accredited by one or more of the professional engineering institutions as your education forms the academic requirement for the IEng or CEng registration. You can search for accredited courses using the Engineering Council’s website.
Most employers require a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C or above that include English, Mathematics and Science. Some employers recruit apprentices after GCSE level and large employers may demand higher grades from school leavers on their apprenticeship programmes.
Three good A level grades (excluding General Studies and Critical Thinking) are essential entry requirements onto an engineering degree course.
Mathematics and Physics are the two most important A levels sought by universities offering engineering programmes, although other A levels are needed for specific engineering programmes. For example, A level Chemistry is required for Chemical Engineering, while a Bioengineer working on the engineering of biological systems would need a good understanding of Biology.
An Electronics A level is desirable for Electronic Engineering degrees, but is not essential. Qualifications in ICT and Design & Technology are also extremely useful.
In addition, universities and employers really like the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) at post-GCSE level, so if you have an opportunity to take the EPQ, do so. The EPQ demonstrates your ability to study independently, run your own project and write a report on your findings, which is how you will study at university level.
A good HNC or HND is valued by engineering companies and BTEC National Extended Diplomas are still recognised.
Most graduate employers stipulate that engineering graduates must achieve at least a 2:1 BEng in their relevant degree discipline. Some employers prefer MEng graduates as these graduates are perceived as more mature and, as a result of an extra year of their degree, have gained additional engineering knowledge and skills. MEng graduates also take less time to reach CEng status, which a company may be keen to help you achieve, if the company markets its services by the number of employees with CEng status. For engineering consultancy roles, most companies demand very high calibre graduates, as you will be given a lot of responsibility very quickly and will need to be very articulate in front of the client.
Physics graduates can also be accepted into engineering roles depending upon the specific role. Don’t forget that an engineering company is like any other business that needs people to perform a variety of business functions from HR to Finance. You can still work in the sector of engineering but not be an engineer; graduates from any degree discipline could, for example, be a project manager if that graduate demonstrates strong organisational and planning abilities.
The Engineering Council UK (ECUK) regulates the engineering profession in the UK. It works through 36 professional engineering institutions and societies, which it has licensed to assess those of their members who wish to become registered with the ECUK as Engineering Technicians (EngTech), Incorporated Engineers (IEng) or Chartered Engineers (CEng).
Many engineers seek the highest level of recognition as a Chartered Engineer CEng, and applications and assessments are made through the relevant engineering institution licensed by the Engineering Council. For example, the oldest engineering organisation, the Institute for Civil Engineers, is able to assess CEng, IEng and EngTech applications, which are then awarded by the Engineering Council.
Even if you do not apply for chartered status, a registration with a professional engineering institution demonstrates your competence, commitment, skills and experience. Choose an institution that is most closely aligned to the discipline of engineering in which you are working or studying.
For some students, such as Electrical Engineering with Computer Science joint honours graduates, it may be relevant to join both the British Computing Society and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
There are three routes to achieve CEng status: an academic route, a work-based learning route and through an employer accreditation scheme. To register with the Engineering Council costs approximately £40, depending on the year of registration. In addition you will have to pay to register with the relevant engineering professional body and costs can vary. For more information please visit www.engc.org.uk.