Thinking of applying for engineering?

Thinking of applying for a degree in engineering or related subject?

As with many subjects, studying engineering at university requires you to have taken certain A' Levels. Check university prospectuses for their specific requirements, but as a general rule you will need to have studied maths and physics at A-Level. For chemical engineering, you will generally be required to have done chemistry and maths A-Level, and possibly physics too. Other subjects that may be useful or complimentary include biology and further maths.

Choosing a course

Engineering is a very broad field, and covers a number of different specialisms, such as:

• Mechanical engineering

• Chemical engineering

• Civil engineering

• Aeronautical engineering

• Electrical and electronics engineering

You need to decide which of these areas of engineering you’d like to study, or if you’d prefer instead to study a ‘general engineering’ degree and choose a specialism later. To help you decide, have a look at course outlines for the different courses, and make sure you go on open days to university engineering departments.

You may also find it informative to attend a Headstart course. These are week-long summer schools at a leading university, and are a brilliant introduction to the course, as well as looking great on your UCAS form.

When choosing an engineering course it is important to check if it is accredited by the engineering council. You can do so on their website. You can be confident that accredited degrees bring students up to the standards required by the industry.

Top engineers often hold a masters (MEng) degree. Holding a postgraduate degree can lead to interesting research roles, as well as top jobs in industry. One way of doing this is to apply for a 4-year MEng course. One major advantage of this route is that the fees and funding are the same for all 4 years of study. Masters degrees are usually significantly more expensive than bachelors degrees, and postgraduate students do not receive the same student finance support as undergraduates. Studying a 4-year MEng degree means that you can do a masters for the same price as a year of undergraduate study, as opposed to paying the increased fees of an individual masters course. It is also possible to study a 3-year BEng course followed by a 1-year MEng course, however this route is likely to be significantly more expensive. This route may, however, suit students who want to defer deciding on their specialism until a later stage in their studies. Studying a 4-year MEng degree or a 3-year BEng degree + a year of postgraduate study will make you a Chartered Engineer (CEng). If you simply study the BEng you will become an Incorporate Engineer (IEng). It is, however, still possible to become a chartered engineer with some additional training.

Enhancing your application to study engineering

It is a really good idea to get some work experience in the field if you can. One option would be a Nuffield research placement, which give 1,000 students a year the opportunity to work alongside engineers and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) professionals. You could also contact companies directly about the possibility of work experience. You may also want to consider taking a gap year between sixth form and university, and using it to gain a placement with a large engineering firm. The Year in Industry scheme can help you find one of these, and if you perform well then there’s a chance you’d be offered a job during university holidays, or even a guaranteed job at the end of your course.

As with any competitive and highly academic course, reading around the subject is really important. This proves to the admissions officer that you are dedicated to the subject. Cambridge university publishes a list of suggested reading for prospective engineering students here.

External links: (the Royal Academy of Engineering site)