What is engineering?
Engineering involves applying maths and science to solve problems. Engineers find practical uses for scientific and mathematical discoveries, so they're the ones behind many of the amazing objects, products and structures we use in our everyday lives. Engineering is responsible for innovations that push society forward.
There are a huge range of engineering careers, from the electrical engineers who developed your phone to the software engineers who designed the apps on it. Then there are civil engineering jobs which involve designing the railways, buildings and bridges you use every day, and the environmental engineers who create structures to protect the environment.
Engineers use their technical know-how and lateral thinking skills to come up with ways to make our buildings, technology and machines faster, stronger and safer.
What engineering jobs can I do?
Almost every gadget or built object you see has had a contribution from an engineer. The engineering field in the UK employs 5.6 million people. So there are plenty of different job roles within the sector to choose from. Engineering careers include:
- Mechanical engineers: Design and build all kind of machines, from your dishwasher to a Formula One car engine. Mechanical engineers can also specialise in manufacturing – developing the machines that build our products, or building systems to generate and store energy including solar power and wind. Aeronautic and aerospace engineers specialise in planes, missiles and spacecraft.
- Chemical engineers: Create products from raw chemical materials and have been behind some of our biggest discoveries from nuclear science to paper, plastics, drugs, and even new kinds of food.
- Software engineers: Design computer programmes and applications for consumers like you and me, as well as for companies, governments, and medical and scientific research.
- Biomedical engineering: Develop the latest robotic limb technology or new tools for surgeons.
- Environmental engineers: Protect the environment, for instance by designing a structure to protect the coast from erosion.
- Electronic engineers: Look at circuitry and ways to make our gadgets smaller and more efficient. Without electrical and electronic engineering, computers would still be as big as houses and your phone wouldn’t exist.
- Civil engineers: These engineers are needed for big construction projects like bridges, hospitals, skyscrapers and roads. There are lots of civil engineering jobs within this area, including structural engineers, who work closely with architects to choose the right materials to make sure buildings stay standing.
Is a career in engineering for me?
If you've ever been tempted to pull something apart to see how it works, or if you enjoy making things - everything from paper planes or jewellery, through to apps and games - then an engineering career could be for you. It's also key that you enjoy thinking outside the box to find creative solutions to problems.
Engineers have excellent:
- Problem-solving skills.
- Analytical thinking.
- Creative thinking.
- Attention to detail.
- Communication skills.
You'll also need to be calm under pressure, enjoy taking on responsibility and working as part of a big team.
How can I start an engineering career?
The school subjects you'll usually need for engineering jobs are maths, physics and computer science, particularly if you want to study it at university. You should also aim for at least a grade 4 in English at GCSE.
However, it's important to remember that engineering is not all about science and maths. Art and design can be useful too.
The university route
Many engineers will need a degree in engineering or a technology related subject like computer science. Degrees are usually a four-year combined course taking you up to master's level (called an MEng or master's of engineering). If you see a course advertised as a BEng (bachelor's of engineering), you may need to do an extra qualification at the end to pursue an engineering career.
To specialise in a particular area you may also need to study for a PhD.
The apprenticeship route
You can now become an engineer by doing an apprenticeship, meaning you study on the job, rather than going to university.
Learn about the different types of engineering apprenticeships
Lots of big manufacturing companies, including car and appliance manufacturers, also offer intermediate/advanced apprenticeships for school leavers to train as technicians or study towards a BTEC in engineering.
What engineering qualifications are available?
After completing a degree, apprenticeship or vocational qualification in engineering, you could go on to gain professional registration as Engineering or ICT Technician (EngTech or ICTTech), Incorporated Engineer (IEng) or Chartered Engineer (CEng). Like doctors and lawyers, professionally registered engineers are well respected. The letters after your name demonstrate academic ability, expertise, competence developed by work place experience and commitment to your chosen career.
Did you know these engineering facts?
186,000 engineering roles will be needed in the UK by 2024.
Space engineers hope to get humans to Mars by 2020.
In the future, marine engineers will building structures that float on our oceans and generate energy from waves. Mechatronics engineers will design and build robots that help us in all aspects of our lives.