• Question: What would you say is the best educational path to become an engineer?

    Asked by JumaimaC on 22 Jun 2020.
    • Photo: Rosina Simmons

      Rosina Simmons answered on 22 Jun 2020:


      There are two direct paths to become an Engineer – University Degrees and Apprenticeships; there’s no “right” way as one option might not be the best for someone.
      Whilst I did go to University to get a Mechanical Engineering degree, if I had my time again, I would really consider looking at an apprenticeship, because I did not enjoy University very much as I’m not very academic.

      University is similar to school: you have loads of lessons (they’re called lectures) every day, lots of homework, some group work projects and some individual projects. You’ll have exams at the end of every year on what you’ve learnt.

      Apprenticeships have a bit the University aspects to them, but also include a lot of practical work, like making things in a workshop, and you spend part of your time in an company (either an office or a workshop) in part-time employment.

    • Photo: April Redford

      April Redford answered on 22 Jun 2020: last edited 22 Jun 2020 12:24 pm


      Without repeating everything Rosina mentions above, I also went to University but if I had the option again I would also strongly consider an Apprenticeship. We have an Apprentice in our Highways team who is doing brilliantly working with us in the office 4 days per week and goes to college 1 day per week. He will eventually progress to University / Office work. An Apprenticeship offers the best of both worlds in my opinion. On the job learning is invaluable and can give you opportunities to take the theory learned in the lectures and apply to real work scenarios.

    • Photo: Kimberly Bartlett

      Kimberly Bartlett answered on 22 Jun 2020:


      There is also the traineeship route for some types of engineering. Similar to the apprenticeship but managed slightly differently in that you have most of your time in the workplace, learning the skills needed and then supplemented with time at college or uni to formalise them. These aren’t tied to the apprenticeship framework so can be a lot more flexible – especially for the more niche or specialist types of engineering.

    • Photo: Oana Lazar

      Oana Lazar answered on 22 Jun 2020:


      In addition to the other answers, I’d just like to point out that on some degrees at some universities you do get a lot of workshops and lab work as well, where you get to apply what you’ve learned during the lectures on real projects, so it’s not all just listening to people talk and writing things down!

      I also think a very good start is looking at a summer course in the areas you’re interested in – a lot of places offer online/virtual courses right now due to COVID, but usually they’re held at universities. I think trying things out in an environment like that is one of the best ways of knowing exactly what you like and don’t like, and on top of that summer courses give you something to talk about when applying for universities/apprenticeships/etc after school, and help you stand out!

    • Photo: Steve Cottam

      Steve Cottam answered on 22 Jun 2020:


      all of Rosinas answers, plus reading around subjects – engineering is not all maths and science, be curious, ask ‘what’ and ‘how’ and ‘why’ a lot

    • Photo: Tom Stewart-Brackenridge

      Tom Stewart-Brackenridge answered on 22 Jun 2020:


      I think a university-based course, with a year in industry or some form of work experience, would be beneficial so you can get a feel of what the working world is like once you graduate with your degree in engineering.

    • Photo: Juan Carlos Fallas-Chinchilla

      Juan Carlos Fallas-Chinchilla answered on 22 Jun 2020:


      I agree with the comments about apprenticeship / time in industry. It is really good to come out of Uni with work experience. Graduate programs in industry (after finishing Uni) are also really good to start your career.

    • Photo: Fidel Olaye

      Fidel Olaye answered on 23 Jun 2020:


      I don’t believe there is one overall. There’s only the best path for you and that’s purely based on your preferences and how you learn.

    • Photo: Jean-Luc Bulber

      Jean-Luc Bulber answered on 23 Jun 2020:


      I would recommend an apprenticeship. It means that you learn the skills while you earn also money. In my workplace we have 3 apprentices, and the whole course takes 4 years. They spent almost the complete first year at the training centre, and only occasionally with us on site. This will change now and they are going to spend the next 3 years mostly on site. The course has been tailored by the training centre and us, to meet the skills requirements that we need, and share with other similar companies.

      How much money the apprentices get depends of course on the company, but we pay them £269/week. I think it is a much wiser option than going to uni and start your working life in debts.

    • Photo: David Linsell

      David Linsell answered on 24 Jun 2020:


      As other contributors have stated there are several pathways; Apprenticeship, Degree, etc. There is no one perfect pathway and what you should consider is what sort of learning environment is best for you and what sort of work-place/work-environment is best for you. After that how far you can progress is down to your own commitment, determination and abilities.
      I received my engineering education and experience as a result of joining the Royal Navy. All three UK Armed Services provide excellent engineering opportunities at Apprentice or Degree entry level. In each case the education (theory) will be combined with large dollops of hands-on practical experience and lead to significant responsibility at an early stage.
      Engineering training in the Armed Services is second to none. The Services will take Apprentice entries and for capable candidates provide opportunities to up-grade to Degree level. One also learns about so much more than just engineering. This makes ex-Service Engineers a highly marketable quantity in civvy-street.

    • Photo: Asha Panchal

      Asha Panchal answered on 3 Jul 2020:


      There is no right or best way to become an engineer. It depends entirely on the type of person you are and how you “learn”. I went through the conventional route by going to university, but I am a very practical person and sometimes struggled to follow lectures. I learnt better in the laboratories where the concept was shown to me and I could see how it works/relates.
      More practical options could be apprenticeships or even day-release courses where you work and your company send you on a course for 1 day a week

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