How to become an Engineer

Engineers are problem-solvers, creators, builders. They use their scientific and mathematical knowledge to improve the world around us. A recent survey we conducted here at Scholastica showed that over 75% of young people wanting to pursue a career in engineering made it successfully into this career. This is more than any other career aspiration, so clearly it’s a highly attractive career!

Traditionally, engineering is generally divided into four main branches:

Chemical Engineering

Civil Engineering

Electrical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering

A fifth, rapidly developing field is that of Biological Engineering (sometimes called Bioengineering) which applies the discipline of engineering to biological and medicinal problems.

Many universities allow you to study a particular branch of engineering right from the outset of your degree, whilst others begin with a more general course giving you the foundations to specialise at a later date. Whichever branch you end up following, a career in engineering will likely see you working in a team of people solving problems, building new processes and systems, and generally being innovative to make the world a better place.

Check out what a Day in the Life of an Engineering student is like!

What subjects do you need?


Maths and Physics make up the core preparatory subjects for engineering, with some universities also requiring Further Maths as well (when students are following the A-level system).

If you’re hoping to specialise in Chemical or Biological engineering then obviously Chemistry and Biology will be necessary to set you up for those courses. Design Technology and similar courses may also prove beneficial. 

How do I get there?

An engineering degree is certainly a common way into engineering, but it is by no means the only route. Many engineering firms, both small and large, offer apprenticeships to school-leavers which give high-quality training without the burden of student debt. If you can find a firm offering an apprenticeship in the type of engineering that you’re interested in then it can be a great way into the industry. However, this route isn’t for everyone as apprenticeships can limit you to the particular type of engineering that the company is interested in.

A general Engineering Science degree is an excellent foundation to a build a career in engineering on. Many employers from large companies such as Shell, VW, and Nestlé, to much smaller local enterprises, offer jobs to engineering graduates. However, if you are looking to work in Chemical, Electrical, or Mechanical engineering then it is often good to have a degree in this specific field.

It is quite common for Engineering graduates to continue with postgraduate study onto a master’s degree or doctorate. This not only opens up a career in academia; many companies actively seek prospective employees with postgraduate degrees.

Like any career path, your application will always be strengthened by work experience. In Engineering it is very common for undergraduate students to undertake summer vacation schemes/internships with employers. Often this can lead to the conditional offer of employment upon completion of their studies.



What books can I read?

The 7 Habits of Highly effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Stephen R. Covey

(2004: Simon and Schuster)


Engineer to Win

Carroll Smith

(1988: Motorbooks International)


To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design

Henry Petroski

(1992: Vintage Books)