Opportunities exist for professional engineers at all levels. There are several routes into engineering; the work-based learning route (apprenticeships), the university route (degrees) and the vocational route (college courses).
Apprenticeships allow you to earn money while you combine on-the-job training with studying. They can open doors to a wide variety of engineering jobs. You will generally need a minimum of five GCSEs (or equivalent), including English, mathematics and science or technology subjects, often at grades A* to C due to competition for places.
By continuing with relevant subjects after your GCSEs (or equivalent), you could progress onto an engineering degree course at university or a higher level engineering, manufacturing or IT apprenticeship. Relevant subjects include: Maths, Further Maths and Physics. Chemistry is important for certain engineering degree courses, such as chemical engineering and medical engineering courses. Other useful subjects include: Further Maths, Design & Technology, Computer Science, Art, Geography, Architecture and Geology.
Vocational courses are those that prepare you for a particular job, industry or sector.They are often very practical and may include coursework assignments related to real-work scenarios, as well as links with employers and work experience placements. These courses are offered at different levels and can lead onto further training, further education, higher education (university) or employment.
Engineering skills are in high demand and engineering careers are therefore an attractive prospect for graduates looking for jobs with high earning potential, good long-term prospects and scope for moving across different industries and sectors. Starting graduate salaries for engineers are, on average, around £2,600 more than the average graduate starting salary. In fact, engineering and technology graduate starting salaries consistently appear in the top three in the league tables for the highest graduate starting salaries.
Pick a specialist course in a particular field of engineering, or try a broad one for a year or two before specialising. A Bachelor’s degree (BEng) takes three years while a Master’s (MEng) takes four. Some courses also include a year’s work placement, either at home or abroad. Entry requirements vary, as does the course content, but for most engineering courses you’ll need maths and physics A level (or equivalent) – or for chemical engineering, chemistry A level (or equivalent).
For engineering courses at university it is helpful to know if your course is accredited by the Engineering Council. The Engineering Council holds details of academic qualifications that meet the education requirement for professional registration as a Chartered Engineer (CEng) or an Incorporated Engineer (IEng).
As well as course content, think about what you want from a university when choosing where to go. Is it close to home? What is the cost of living? Is there plenty of student accommodation? Is it in a city or the countryside? Does it have a good reputation for the course you have chosen? There is lots of information available to support a decision about which universities to apply for.
Once you graduate, you may decide to continue to study for a postgraduate qualification in engineering – such as a Master’s degree (MEng) or Doctorate (PhD) – either full time or while you’re working. Not only can these lead to research roles, but they can also land you some great roles in industry, as the depth of knowledge gained is highly valued by employers.
Foundation degrees combine academic study with work place learning.
They help prepare students for a particular job or profession as they are partly designed by employers. A foundation degree is the equivalent of two thirds of a full honours degree and is a fully flexible qualification allowing students to study part-time or full-time to fit their lifestyle.
Traineeships prepare young people aged 16 to 23 for their future careers by helping them to become ‘work ready’.
They combine work experience – allowing people to develop work skills – with maths and English support, enabling young people to reach a stage at which they are ready to apply for an apprenticeship or other job.