Ask the Experts: Jacqueline Hall Answers the Most Common Questions About Engineering
Head of Policy and Strategy, Enginuity
Enginuity insight, Industry insight
We’ve collated some of the most popular questions asked online about engineering and engineering skills – covering everything from ‘what is engineering’ to ‘what skills are required to be an engineer?’ – and put them to Enginuity’s expert Head of Policy and Strategy, Jacqueline Hall, to find out the answers.
What is engineering?
Engineering is a discipline which uses maths and science to learn how things work, solve problems and provide innovative practical solutions.
Why is engineering important?
Without engineering, the world we know today simply wouldn’t exist. Everything from the buildings we live in to the food we eat and the smart devices we use every day, will have been designed or created with the input or influence of an engineer.
What are the six types of engineering?
This is a question which causes a great deal of debate, as there are hundreds of different, specialisations and fields of study involved in engineering. In other words, it can be tricky to narrow all of these down into a universally accepted list of six.
Historically though, the four oldest ‘major’ disciplines are considered to be Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical engineering. To complete the list of six, two of today’s more popular choices are Aeronautical and Computer engineering.
You can find out more about the core engineering sectors we support here.
Do you need to do an engineering degree to become an engineer?
In the UK the most common route into engineering is to do A-levels in relevant subjects such as maths and the sciences, and then do an engineering degree at university.
You can also go on to postgraduate study and complete a Masters or PhD. However, there are alternative options which don’t require a degree, such as doing an engineering apprenticeship.
Whichever path you choose, there are also additional qualifications you can gain while you’re employed from different professional engineering bodies. Enginuity can provide further guidance on this and can explain more about what career paths and opportunities are available to you.
“Without engineering, the world we know today simply wouldn’t exist.”
How long does it take to become an engineer?
This will depend on your chosen course of study, but an engineering degree will take either three or four years depending on whether or not you have any work placements. Any further study you undertake should also be factored in, and if you start an entry-level graduate scheme this can last up to two years.
Engineering apprenticeships can be between two and four years in length depending on the provider and what is included in the qualification.
Is engineering difficult to study?
Like any academic subject there will be parts of your engineering studies that you’ll find more challenging than others. But if you have a passion for engineering and a desire to succeed this can certainly go a long way towards achieving your goals and overcoming the aspects that you find more difficult.
What skills are required to be an engineer?
Naturally there are the specific technical skills needed for each specialism – which is something Enginuity can provide more details about – but on a general level there are wider ‘soft skills’ that can improve your engineering abilities and potentially make you more employable.
What soft skills are important for engineers?
Being able to communicate well with others is becoming more and more important in engineering. By this, we mean being able to explain – both in writing and verbally – what can sometimes be complex work or processes in a clear and accessible way.
In addition to this, being able to work well as part of a team and being disciplined enough to work as an individual can make you more productive and successful as an engineer. In a similar vein, being prepared to take the lead and demonstrate your ability to take responsibility for your work can help when you want to develop your engineering career.
Other important soft skills include: having good problem-solving abilities and interpersonal and social skills; being organised, creative, and from a vocational point of view, being able to build and manage relationships with clients and customers, as this can be key for businesses.
How can you further develop your skills?
You can help develop these skills by completing additional qualifications and training, but also from the experience you’ll gain during your studies and in the working world. Again, this is something Enginuity can help with by providing you with guidance and practical solutions to enhance your abilities.
“If you have a passion for engineering and a desire to succeed this can certainly go a long way towards achieving your goals.”
What specific engineering skills do employers look for?
Most employers will primarily value the quality of your technical abilities within your particular field of engineering, but the additional soft skills we mentioned earlier can help set you apart from others.
If you can demonstrate that you offer something more than just your engineering knowledge, then you’re more likely to grab the attention of an employer.
Before you begin applying for graduate schemes or new roles, it can be worth assessing your own abilities to see where you might have a soft skills gap. Then you’ll be able to work out what additional support or training you might need to improve your career prospects.
Where can you get more engineering experience?
In addition to degree placements, graduate schemes and apprenticeships, there are other ways you can gain more engineering experience.
You could try reaching out to engineering companies in the local area or sending out speculative applications to large firms to see if they offer any internship or work experience programmes. However, such opportunities are likely to be unpaid, so you’ll need to make sure this is something you can afford to do.
Another option you have is to look for any temporary roles within engineering firms, which could give you an opportunity to get your foot in the door.
“If you can demonstrate that you offer something more than just your engineering knowledge, then you’re more likely to grab the attention of an employer.”
How much do engineers earn?
Like any profession, your salary will be subject to factors such as your experience and qualifications, the type of sector you work in and your geographical location.
*Recent studies and analysis of UK salaries have shown that on average junior or graduate engineers earn around £30,000 a year, while mid-level professionals earn up to £48,000 and those at senior or director levels earn roughly £72,000.
*Data from The Engineer’s Salary Survey 2018.
What are the biggest engineering industry trends?
Unsurprisingly, many of the current major engineering trends are technology-based and are very much a reflection of the digital age we live in today.
Industry 4.0 is making a notable impression on the sector, in particular with how Data Engineers are studying, analysing and using Big Data. More and more companies are harvesting and acquiring data from their working processes and customers, and thanks to Data Engineers, this is being utilised to streamline and improve workflows and provide valuable insights into consumer behaviours and preferences.
Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are also big engineering trends linked to Industry 4.0. These are some of the fastest-growing technologies in the world right now and as machines are becoming more sophisticated and productive, engineers are changing their working processes to utilise these new tools.
One of the most interesting aspects of the engineering world is that it’s an ever-changing entity that continues to provide us with new and exciting developments.
Find out how Enginuity can help you
The helpful answers above are only a snapshot of the wide-ranging expertise we have at Enginiuty. What’s more, we have the ability to use this knowledge and understanding to help you develop your skills in engineering, whether you’re an employer, educator, professional or career seeker.
So to find out more, get in touch with us today and we can create practical solutions tailored to you and your individual needs.
This article was first published in RevEAL Spring 2020.
Women in Engineering
We look at engineering and focus attention on the amazing achievements of women engineers, it's important to acknowledge the additional challenges women still face within the sector.
Guide to inclusive meetings
During National Inclusion Week we are all being encouraged to think about what we can do to be more inclusive. In the current climate we are having more virtual meetings, so how do we give everyone the opportunity to perform at their very best? Here are some tips to help you drive inclusivity and make a difference to the people you work with.
Robotics in Engineering
Robotics in engineering can be traced back to the first use of automation in the early (3rd) Industrial Revolution. But now individual machines are connected to systems that make decisions about the production process in real-time, it’s clear that Industry 4.0 is rapidly changing the manufacturing and engineering industry.