What Qualifications Will I Need?
If you’ve set your heart on a job in engineering then there are a number of routes you can take.
Typically to apply at a university for a degree in engineering you will need Science and Maths, with Physics also being a preferred option. Most universities will require at least three A-levels with some, such as Oxford and Cambridge, requiring chemistry and further maths.
Other subjects that would be useful to have are:
Design and Technology, IT, computing, electronics, construction, art and geography.
To take on an engineering higher or graduate level apprenticeship, your prospective employer will expect you to have three A-levels, typically in maths and science-based subjects.
Another route to take would be to participate in a student placement scheme, as the more relevant experience you can demonstrate, the better your chances of finding a placement. There are helpful websites that will guide you through obtaining a placement, such as www.theengineer.co.uk or university websites such as www.imperial.ac.uk.
Of course, it depends on the type of engineering path you wish to choose as to which subjects would best support your entry into a job in engineering.
The Different Types of Engineering
There are many different sectors when it comes to engineering, and it’s worth exploring your options before you focus on your chosen route.
• Aerospace and Aeronautical
• Civil and Structural
• Electrical and Electronic
• General Engineering
• Production and Manufacturing
• Software Engineering and Computing
The key to becoming a good engineer is to be able to work with engineers from other fields of work. A lot of engineering jobs overlap between specialist areas, being able to work together as a team is a crucial skill.
University Verses Apprenticeship
University is not for everyone; you may find that a more hands-on approach suits you more. In which case you may consider applying for a higher or degree level apprenticeship. Both have their merits and their downside. Here are a few things to consider.
If you already know which area of engineering you would like to work in, and you would prefer to study while earning, then apprenticeships are an excellent option. You will learn on the job while being fully trained by engineering professionals. This is by no means an easy option as you will face daily ‘real world’ challenges and be continually assessed.
Applicants who are under the age of 25 are funded partially by the government and partially by the employer. This means that you will not be accumulating a student debt and will effectively get paid to learn.
If you enrol on a degree level apprenticeship, you will also gain a qualification from a university or college at the end. Also, if you chose to participate in an apprenticeship, there is nothing preventing you from applying for a university degree at a later date.
You may not have a clear idea of where you would like your future to lay. University will afford you the opportunity to spend the next three years studying everything there is to know about your chosen area of engineering. Alternatively, you can take a general engineering course if you are undecided about your interests.
While at university you will receive a high level of education, be able to study, participate in research and attend seminars and workshops. You will get to attend lectures and enter into debates with fellow students.
However, tuition fees are a consideration that many are unsure about. Tuition fees alone are, on average, £9,000 a year, and these costs are rising all the time. You will then need to take into account your cost of living expenses on top of this. With many students leaving university with huge debts, averaging £50,000, this is not always the viable option.
University is still the most popular option for further education as some believe that you will be in a much stronger position looking for employment if you have a degree. To find out what courses are on offer, and where, search UCAS at www.ucas.com.
Why Choose a Career in Engineering
Engineering apprentices are paid more than double the national apprentice minimum wage. The starting salary for engineering and technology graduates are, on average, 20% higher than the average graduate starting salary.
Engineers can be high earners that are in demand all around the world. The skills of an engineer are highly desirable from many employers. It is also a very well respected career path. Once qualified, many engineers choose to become professionally registered. This can also help improve your future earning potential.
Those willing to work hard and demonstrate their value are able to move quickly up the pay scale.
What Are Employers Looking For?
Potential employers will be on the lookout for those stand out candidates. Most employers will be looking for high-level science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals.
You will need to demonstrate the ability to work as part of a team. Teamwork is a huge part of engineering, often not just within your own company.
As teamwork is so important, so is the ability to communicate. You will need to demonstrate that you have excellent communication skills.
Accuracy is obviously essential in engineering, so being able to demonstrate that you pay attention to detail will be highly desirable.
Engineering is often about problem solving. It is a career path where you are at the forefront of innovation. Therefore being able to show you can think outside of the box and get creative to solve real life problems is important.
A downside to engineering is that you will face many challenges and setbacks. So a potential employer will be looking for that candidate that can demonstrate resilience. You must be able to pick yourself back up and try a new approach should things not work the first time. You will also need to demonstrate that you have self-discipline. An employer will want you to be able to refocus yourself and keep motivated towards the end goal.