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9 Routes into a Rewarding Engineering Career

By: Dr Mark McBride-Wright

Choosing to pursue an engineering career opens the door to a wide range of rewarding opportunities. Fields such as aerospace, design, environment, food technology, industrial, lighting, mechanical, marine, nuclear, building and agriculture all play an active part in changing the world for the better. Engineering saves lives, helps the environment and makes a difference to people’s everyday wellbeing.

There are various routes into engineering and ways to gain engineering experience, with many of these routes open to diverse candidates from a range of different backgrounds. Below, we’re going to discuss some of the ways you can kick start your engineering career.


Perhaps the most traditional route into engineering, studying engineering at university requires A-Levels, T-levels, IB, Highers, BTEC Level 3 or an equivalent in either maths or physics (although there are exceptions). A degree in engineering can last 3 – 4 years (BEng), whereas a Masters can last 4 – 5 years (Meng). There are various options available in terms of courses, such as general, civil, electronic, design or mechanical, so it’s worth knowing what kind of engineer you want to be before you commit to a course.


An apprenticeship is a combination of study and on-the-job training. They are a great way to earn money for those who can’t or don’t want to spend 3 – 5 years at university. Due to the high competition, in order to qualify for most apprenticeships, a minimum of 5 GCSEs with grades A* to C (or equivalent) are required.


Similar to an apprenticeship, traineeships combine education and work experience for young people who are interested in a career in engineering. Lasting up to 6 months depending on the needs of the employer, they may or may not be paid (although travel and meal costs should be covered). They are a great way to gain experience and secure future long-term employment.

Work shadowing

Work shadowing is an informal, short-term and unpaid arrangement between an employer and work shadower, who will merely observe someone doing a role they’re interested in to better understand how to do that job. This insight and initiative is looked at favourably by future employees.

Work placements

In order to pass some engineering degrees, a work placement is required. Known as a ‘sandwich’ year or ‘year in industry,’ they are essential for engineering experience and insight. As they offer proven work experience alongside a degree, students are encouraged to pick their work placement carefully.

T-Levels (technical qualifications)

Staring in September 2020, T-Levels are qualifications that will follow GCSEs as an option alongside apprenticeships and A-levels. They will be more suited to individuals who aren’t sure what engineering route they want to take and are still exploring their options. They will involve a mixture of classroom learning and on-the-job experience, opening the door to further study, a higher apprenticeship or skilled employment.

Traditional rotating internships

A TRI is a good option for individuals who haven’t decided on the engineering career or speciality they want to explore. Some people take more time to figure this out than others, which is why a broader general rotating internship is useful for them, as it lets them explore all avenues while they find their niche.

Supported internships

A supported internship differs from a TRI in terms of structure. The study programmes are generally based on the needs of the employer, are unpaid, and last for a minimum of six months. However, the main benefit of a supported internship is that, wherever possible, they help the young person gain paid employment after the programme is completed.


Similar to an internship, a returnship is adapted for experienced workers looking to re-enter the workforce after a period of time away from the industry, whether it’s in a similar capacity or, as is more popular, a new line of work altogether.

For more content like this, head over to the EqualEngineers blog page where there are more articles, resources and top tips for helping those in the engineering industry. Source link: https://equalengineers.com/blog/