Career routes into engineering

Routes into engineering - man working in labOpportunities exist for engineers at all levels. There are three main routes to qualifying as an engineer – going to college, doing an apprenticeships or studying at university. Each route includes options for additional training, further qualifications and career development.

Engineering at college

Popular engineering qualifications at college include BTECs at levels 2 and 3, or HNC, HND and foundation degrees, either in general engineering, or a particular field of engineering, such as electrical, electronic, aerospace, civil, chemical or mechanical. See Understanding vocational qualifications for more details.

Professional registrationProfessional registration shows you have met a set of standards and recognises skills gained through work. It can enhance your career prospects, offers structured career development and ensures links with professional institutions, making it easier to access further learning and advice.

Engineers have three levels of professional registration: Engineering Technicians (EngTech); Incorporated Engineers (IEng); and Chartered Engineers (CEng).

Find out if your college or university course is accredited by the Engineering Council, as this can help you on your way to professional registration, or if you’re choosing an apprenticeship, you may want to look for one which leads to registered status.

If you’re thinking of going to university, check admissions requirements to ensure you have the right subject combinations for further study. Maths and physics A-Levels (or equivalent) are required for the majority of engineering degrees (chemistry is needed for a chemical engineering degree). Design & technology and computer science can also be useful subjects. What is an FE college? explains more about what colleges offer.

Engineering apprenticeships

Apprenticeships allow you to earn money while you study and can open doors to a wide variety of engineering jobs. You will generally need a minimum of five GCSEs (or equivalent), including English, maths and science or technology subjects, often at A* to C level due to competition for places. To see more about engineering apprenticeships, visit the National Apprenticeship Service. To find out more about apprenticeships in the engineering construction industry visit the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board  

Engineering at university

There are a wide range of engineering courses available. You can pick a specialist course – or choose one which offers a general introduction for a year or two, before specialising. Some courses offer valuable work experience with a year in industry. Entry grades and course content varies, but for most engineering courses you’ll need maths and physics A-level (or equivalent) – or for chemical engineering, chemistry A-level (or equivalent). If you have a specific career in mind, check the course content is right before applying. Visit UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, or contact universities directly for more information. See Choices at 18 for more on choosing a university and student finance.

Further study

Once you’ve finished your first degree, you may decide to continue to study for a postgraduate qualification in engineering – such as a Masters degree (MEng) or Doctorate (PhD) – either full-time or while you’re working. These can lead to both research posts and to some great roles in industry, as the depth of knowledge gained is highly valued by employers. Visit Prospects for postgraduate careers advice.  

Find out more

Tomorrow’s Engineers is a one-stop shop for information and resources about careers in engineering.