07 January 2020

What qualifications do I need to become an engineer? 

Engineering is a diverse and varied profession with an equally wide range of requisite skillsets. One kind of engineer might spend most of their days overseeing the safe functioning of a reactor in a nuclear power plant whereas another might spend theirs at a computer creating complex pieces of software.

While there are some common traits and skills sets that all types of engineer share, such as a strong understanding of mathematics. However, the specific qualifications you’ll need to become one will depend on what type of engineer you would like to be, and whether you intend to enter the profession through the university route or to complete an apprenticeship instead.

University route

Engineering is a hugely popular subject choice at university with around 121,000 students a year studying an engineering degree at undergraduate level. Many of these degrees are four-year courses with an integrated masters which allows students to quickly acquire Chartered Engineer status from an accredited body.

According to UCAS, you’ll need at least two A-levels to get onto an engineering degree course in the UK, but a great many universities require you to have at least three. Requirements tend to range from AAA to CCC and Maths A-level is, no surprise, an essential entry criteria for many courses.

Some universities also like prospective students to have a good A-level in Physics, with biotech and chemical engineering degrees often requiring two science A-levels. Entry requirements for Scottish Highers students are usually from ABBB to AAAAB. Some institutions also accept students who have completed vocational courses such as a Pearson BTEC Level 3 in Engineering.

Apprenticeship route

If you don’t think university is for you, and you would like to combine your study with hands-on work in the industry then an apprenticeship might be the right option. There are around 120 different types of apprenticeship in the engineering sector, with even more in development.

Specific entry requirements for these will vary depending on the type of engineering apprenticeship you’re applying for and by the employer offering it. Typically higher apprenticeships (level 4) and degree apprenticeships ‘Levels 5-7’ require applicants to have A-levels in subjects such as maths, IT, science and technology whereas apprenticeships aimed at school leavers (16-year-olds) will accept GCSEs and BTECs again in the above subjects.

It’s important to understand that the expectations of applicants for apprenticeships vary hugely with a wide range of employers and colleges offering apprenticeships, but the competition for places is extremely high meaning that leaving school at 16 to start an apprenticeship in engineering is by no means ‘the easy route’.

Once in the workplace

Engineering in any field is a continually developing profession and many engineers continue to complete short courses and part-time study in order to advance their understanding of their field throughout their careers.

Looking for careers in engineering? Check out our jobs here.