The Different Routes into Engineering: What Should You Choose?
Qualifying as an engineer isn’t a one-route only journey; there are several ways of beginning your career in engineering, and they might include studying, hands-on experience, or a combination of both.
If you’re considering a career in engineering, you might be wondering which route you can take, and what the factors to consider are. You might decide on a degree, on work experience, or on an apprenticeship. Each has different learning methods:
Getting an engineering degree is considered to be one of the most direct routes you can take to get into engineering and becoming fully-qualified and accredited. Courses will last three to four years with an extensive academic and theoretical work combined with practical work.
Some universities offer degrees incorporated with engineering placements to provide you with experience as a graduate engineer, and to help build up your skills. It might also be beneficial in giving you connections within the industry.
This route does have its disadvantage: paying tuition fees can be costly, even though a loan will help you pay them. If you don’t want to start your professional career with a loan, maybe a different route into engineering will be a better option for you.
Businesses value work experience immensely, as it shows that you have hands-on experience in the industry that complements your degree. If you don’t have a degree in engineering, it will show companies that you are committed to the sector and that you have the necessary skills.
Employees will consider your CV as a whole, and charity work and volunteering will aid you and distinguish you from other applicants. However, you must be able to show that your activities have provided you with skills to undertake work experience in the industry, and it might be a bit tricky to make your CV stand out.
A career commitment with an engineer focused CV will be a key factor for employers; it is possible to get a work experience position by showing your eagerness to learn and your applicable skills to the industry.
An apprenticeship is work-based; while a degree will have a bigger theoretical part, with an apprenticeship you will spend more time gaining hands-on experience. It also allows you to earn money while you study, and it will provide you with a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) award. Some apprenticeships might provide you with a BTEC (usually for students over 16 and taken in combination with GCSEs) or a City & Guilds certificate, but can equally lead to more advanced qualifications.
You might be offered a full-time job after your apprenticeship is completed but, if you aren’t, you will have the recognised qualifications and hands-on skills in your chosen field, plus a good general understanding of other engineering disciplines.
The downside of an apprenticeship isn’t the scheme itself, which is proven to attribute an applicant with a wide range of skills; apprenticeships need to be applied for like normal jobs, as positions will become available and be advertised by businesses. There might be a bigger demand, and a placement isn’t guaranteed.
Ultimately, the route you take will be a personal choice. You might be suited to a more theoretical way of learning, or you might benefit from more of a hands-on approach. Each route has disadvantages, and you need to take them into consideration before beginning your journey into engineering.
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