From railways to robots, engineers are behind some of the most amazing things that we use in our everyday lives.
What is engineering?
Engineers are behind many of the amazing objects and structures that we use today, and they come in all shapes and sizes. From the electrical engineers who developed your super light mobile to the formula 1 mechanical engineers who keep the cars on the track, these people use their scientific and mathematical skills to come up with practical 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 around you will have had the once over from an engineer, so there are a massive number of engineering careers to choose from:
- 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 are high fliers specialising 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.
- Biomedical engineering: As a biomedical engineer you could find yourself developing the latest robotic limb technology or new tools for surgeons.
- 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 the phone you are using 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 your building stays standing, or environmental engineers who deal with the smelly business of treating our waste.
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 building things, from paper planes to circuit boards, an engineering career could be for you.
Engineers like thinking through problems logically from start to finish. They are always looking for ways to improve stuff and dreaming up new inventions, so it can be a great career choice whether you enjoy arts or science subjects.
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 big subjects you need for engineering jobs are maths, physics, computing and sciences, or NVQ engineering. You should also aim for at least a 4 in English at GCSE.
Creative subjects like art and design can be useful too, so don’t drop them if you enjoy them.
Many engineers will need a degree in engineering or a technology related subject like computer science. To specialise in a particular area you may also need to study for a master's degree or PhD.
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.
You can also work in the engineering industry without a degree in areas like finance, marketing and HR.
To get a feel for working with machines, the best thing you can do is practise. Try taking an old gadget apart, like a clock, and putting it back together (make sure no one minds you taking it apart first!). Help with DIY tasks at home too. It's so valuable to get stuck in instead of just reading about it.
Once you feel confident with your practical skills you could take on a hackathon or a Young Engineers challenge. Competitions include building cars, making model aircraft or creating a brand new product invention of your own.
Looking for more information about engineering careers? Take a lot at our student jobs board and see what jobs and work experience opportunities are available in engineering today.
What engineering qualifications are available?
There are lots of training opportunities available to engineers through professional bodies including the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE), The Institute of Chemical engineers (IcehmE) and the Institute of Mechanical engineers (IMechE) to name just a few.
Engineering qualifications include chartered engineer (CEng), incorporated engineer (IEng), engineering technician (EngTech). Training involves study and on-the-job work experience.
Did you know these engineering facts?
One of the most famous early examples of engineering is the Pyramids, which date as far back as 2630 BCE and still inspire architects and engineers today.
As well as being quite a good artist, Leonardo Da Vinci was also an engineer. His notebooks are full of designs for flying machines, tanks and even a robotic knight.