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Become an engineer

Discover your route into an engineering career

Finding your path

There are so many different routes into engineering, and which one you choose could depend on what field you want to work in or how you like to learn. If you aren't sure which type of engineering specialism you want to go into, there are still options which mean you don't need to narrow down your choices just yet.  

How do I become an engineer?

No matter what stage you're at – choosing school subjects, doing work experience, thinking about further study, or entering the world of work – you'll find a range of options. There’s no right way, just a way that’s right for you.

When you're in secondary school you'll be making choices about your subjects: how do you know what's best for you and your future plans?

Work experience is also a great opportunity to get some real-life insights into different roles and a chance to develop your skills.

Choosing school subjects

To become an engineer you'll need a good understanding of maths and science, but you don't need the highest qualifications – a grade 4 or 5 (C) at GCSE or equivalent will get you to the next step.

You might also like to think about taking:

  • Design Technology for product design and design engineering
  • Chemistry for chemical and biomedical engineering
  • Biology for biomechanical engineering
  • Geography for civil and environmental engineering
  • Computing for software engineering
  • Languages as you can travel the world as an engineer.
Students working in classroom

Work experience

Work experience is a great opportunity to learn more about a role or sector.

There are many organisations that can help match you with companies so you can get hands-on experience.

Acoustics engineer

Further education is for anyone over 16 years of age and can be the stepping stone between school and your next step, whether university or straight into the workplace.

There are different types available depending on how you learn best, including A Levels, T Levels, vocational courses and apprenticeships.

Academic learning

If you like learning at school through a mixture of lessons and practicals, the academic route may be for you. 

Qualifications at this stage include A Levels, International Baccalaureate and Scottish Highers.

You might want to consider how your subject choices match your interests and any future job or study requirements.

Tanda Kabanda: Female software engineer presents on whiteboard to her team

Hands-on learning with vocational courses

Vocational courses are well regarded by engineering employers, who help design the qualifications.

Vocational study could be right for you if:

  • You prefer hands-on rather than classroom study
  • You aren’t quite ready or don’t want to go to university
  • You prefer a smaller class size
  • You want to keep your career options flexible

People who take vocational courses often progress straight into the workplace, or go to university, to study an engineering degree.

Male mechanical engineer designs electric vehicles

A mix of academic and hands-on with T Levels

T Levels are two-year courses designed to give a head start towards the  career you want. They are equivalent to 3 A Levels. You'll spend 80% of your course in a classroom and 20% in an industry placement. 

T Levels could be right for you if:

  • You’re not sure what you’d like to do next
  • You want to keep your options open and possibly pursue an advanced apprenticeship, degree apprenticeship or degree in the future 
  • You’d like to combine theoretical knowledge with work experience
  • You want to meet potential future employers
Female software engineers stand in front of a whiteboard with diagrams on

Earn and learn with an apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are real jobs with real employers, allowing you to work, earn a salary and gain valuable qualifications and experience.

Apprenticeships could be right for you if:

  • You want hands-on experience while earning a salary and a qualification at the same time
  • You know what industry / employer you want to go into
  • You want to progress your qualification level as you go

People who do an apprenticeship often progress to a degree apprenticeship, or straight into an entry level engineering career. 

"I love the 'hands-on' learning approach of my apprenticeship. I get a really good understanding of the industry from working alongside experts, valuable workplace skills, and I get paid!"

— Harvey, Building Services Engineering Apprentice at Vital Energi

Going into higher education and getting a degree in engineering can be useful starting point for a career in engineering or even another sector. You can start a degree having completed A levels, Scottish Highers, T levels or vocational courses.

There are two options: university degrees and degree apprenticeships.

Study for an engineering degree at university

There are a variety of engineering degree types to chose from; you can study broad degrees, or specialise early if you're passionate about one topic.

Getting a degree at university may be for you if:

  • You'd like to move away from home and balance studying with socialising
  • You'd like the option of a paid placement year to gain experience and skills before going in to work

Get an engineering degree through an apprenticeship

These are higher level apprenticeships that can lead to a degree. They're often called 'degree apprenticeships', or 'graduate apprenticeships' in Scotland.

Gaining a degree through an apprenticeship may be for you if:

  • You want to gain work experience and achieve a degree
  • You don't want to study full-time
  • You have concerns about the financial implications of doing a university degree – apprentices earn a weekly wage, and the cost of the degree is covered
One female and two male engineers discussing ideas around a laptop