According to the Guardian, almost half of all young people go on to higher education. However, not all those students take a degree course. Many end up on a career path that is totally unrelated to their degree. So, how important is a degree for an engineering career?

The breadth of an engineering career

According to engineering recruitment specialists, there are many jobs within the engineering, aerospace, defense, and energy sectors that require a degree in chemical, electrical or mechanical engineering. However, there are many jobs that don’t.

Engineering covers a plethora of jobs and there is a shortage of suitable staff to fill the more skilled positions. A recent report by Engineering UK shows that the engineering sector is facing key challenges in finding suitably qualified and experienced staff to fill the growing demand for engineering skills. The report projects that 124,000 engineers and technicians will be needed annually up to 2024.

The good news is that there is a demand for engineers with degrees as well as for technicians who can learn the job from the bottom up.

Whether you have a degree or not, you might want to consider what qualities are required to be a leading engineer. Head-hunters look for an ethic of hard work, the ability to communicate and a balance of optimism mixed with down-to-earth reality.

Benefits of having an engineering degree

Benefits of a degree for engineeringEngineering is perhaps the fastest moving sector of this generation. Wherever you look there is new technology. Everything is getting faster, smaller and more portable thanks to computers and smartphone technology.

Newly qualified engineers with a degree are likely to be at the forefront of future development in all industries. Consider the automotive industry (think e-cars), health (gene editing and better diagnostic tools), electronics, 3D printing (bespoke parts at your fingertips), science, food…everything is progressing at a rapid rate. That’s largely down to the accelerated effects of engineering technology.

One area of engineering where there is a huge shortage is that of specialist teachers. This is a role that requires a degree. The Royal Academy of Engineers has been petitioning the Government to increase the teaching of core subjects currently needed in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). The number of specialist teachers in these core subjects is stagnating yet demand in the workplace is growing year-on-year.

For those who want to head this exciting new era in engineering, a degree is your “open sesame” to the best jobs, whether it is teaching, working in research and development (R&D) or being more hands-on.

Benefits of not having an engineering degree

If your passion is practical engineering or design, there are many engineering jobs that do not require a degree at entry-level. These include positions such as computer design technician, civil engineering technician, maintenance technician, agricultural engineering technician, food technologist and more. Note that these jobs are all starting roles for technicians where you will be assisting qualified engineers.

apprenticeshipsThe role of a technician is also reflected in the pay grade. However, while other students are spending three years studying theory at uni, technicians can be earning from day one. What’s more, you can be gaining valuable practical experience as you will work alongside qualified engineers.

Some students can apply for an apprenticeship, which allows them to learn job skills while employed. Other options are to take an engineering job at technician level and supplement it with a college course in the evening.

If you’re thinking about a career in engineering, it’s important to understand what is necessary for your particular career role. Consider what jobs are available before you sign up for three years of hard work and debt at university. Yes, some leading roles in engineering require a degree. But there are plenty of jobs available for those with suitable A levels or other practical experience. As with all careers, if you love what you do, it really won’t seem like a job!

Thanks for this post go to our friend Sarah Anderson. part freelance writer, part STEM ambassador. She’s on a personal mission to encourage more students into engineering roles.