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Engineering FAQ

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    This FAQ attempts to answer some of the more common questions that get posted. It is a living post, therefore answers will be elaborated on if required, new questions added if useful, and corrections made if necessary. Please don't be afraid to post your questions in here!

    Questions are in no particular order.

    What subjects do I need to gain entry to the degree?
    Generally, as much maths and physics as you can take. If you are studying A-levels, maths and physics are paramount, and further maths is very useful, also. If you are taking Scottish highers, higher maths and physics are important. And if you're taking the IB, then maths and physics at HL are again very important. If you're aiming to do chemical engineering, then chemistry is also usually required. So you can see the pattern here: maths and physics (and chemistry if you're doing chemical engineering).

    Of course, universities also very clearly and openly list their entry requirements on their websites, anticipating that people may be interested in knowing this, so always check out the relevant websites for the courses you are applying to.

    What is the difference between BEng and MEng?
    A BEng is a bachelors of engineering, whereas an MEng is a masters of engineering. The BEng is structured the same as other bachelors degrees. The MEng incorporates an extra academic year after the BEng, as part of the degree, so is therefore a year longer (and let me preempt a question here about funding: yes, student finance will fund the MEng year as they do the BEng years as it is still classed as an undergraduate year). I know this can sound complicated, so bear with me. The MEng is an incorporated masters degree, and if you graduate with an MEng you will only graduate with the MEng - you are not also awarded the BEng, you do not have two graduate ceremonies.

    The MEng is a masters and is equivalent to an MSc, but the MEng is an undergraduate degree (whereas an MSc is a postgraduate degree), and cannot be taken separately from the BEng - e.g. you cannot enrol into the MEng from another course/university like you would an MSc. The MEng also lasts for an academic year (typically September to June), not a full year like an MSc.

    If I don't like physics at school/college, will I like engineering?
    I've seen this a few times, and it can be quite tricky to answer. (Note that physics assumes A-level or Higher physics.) It depends on a couple of things.

    Firstly, the specific content in the syllabus. I did Higher physics, which (at the time, at least), was split into three quite distinct sections: mechanics, electronics, and waves/optics and stuff (i.e. what a lot of people refer to as the really physicsy stuff). To cut to the point, if there are certain bits of physics that you do not like you can still, probably, find a discipline of engineering that does not utilise it; for example, if you dislike electronics, then most engineering disciplines excluding electrical & electronic (and its various sub-disciplines) should be accessible (although it should also be noted that at most universities, everyone will have to study at least some basic electrical theory in the very early parts of the degree).

    Another is whether you dislike physics style material, questions and exams as a whole. Unfortunately, this one is somewhat of a red-flag. Engineering at university is essentially applied physics with projects, software use and practical work bolted on. Engineering theory is applied physics, and this constitutes the meat of the degree. I could show you my past papers (well I couldn't literally as the terms and conditions likely prohibit me from sharing them publicly, but you know what I mean) and you'd see that the style of questions are very similar to what you would likely encounter in a Higher or A-level physics exam, but obviously more advanced. I'm sure if you Google it, you will be able to find university level engineering past papers to see what I mean.

    There is some light at the end of the tunnel, though, as apparently those of you who do A-levels study mechanics as part of the maths syllabus rather than physics. If you like mechanics you'll get on with several disciplines of engineering, such as mechanical. Hopefully this has not confused you too much. If you are still confused, then I would try to look for university level past papers to get a feel for what the questions are typically like (City University has some of theirs on their website), and have a look at some textbooks too.

    Will I need to run specific/specialist software on my own computer?
    No, your department should have computers with all of the software you will require installed on them.

    That's not to say that you can't also have such software on your own computer, it's just not a necessity. But it certainly can be very convenient, though, especially when it comes to FEA and CFD simulations which can sometimes take over a day to run! Some departments provide software licenses to students, and some software has student (i.e. limited) versions that are available free to students.

    Do I need work experience to get a place on a degree?
    The short answer is no. The longer answer is that it is actually very difficult to get work experience if you are still of school/college age, and even if you were to get some work experience, it would not typically prepare you academically for an engineering degree anyway. At the organisations I have worked at, some have had a few work experience students, but from what I recall they were only there for a week and did not perform any engineering tasks. I don't know if organisations would be that keen on giving someone who has no engineering knowledge actual engineering tasks to perform, to be honest. Universities, being aware of this, do not require work experience for admissions into their undergraduate degree programmes.

    If you can get something, it would be advisable to take it so that you have at least some insight into what engineers actually do. But it won't make or break your application.

    What is the level of maths on the course?
    This is quite often asked by people who are concerned they may not cope with the maths element of the course. But remember, it's engineering, not maths. The maths element is there to supplement the engineering. Overall, it's not insurmountable, even to those who have to really work at maths to "get it".

    To give a more tangible answer, the maths you'll cover is mainly based on calculus, trigonometry, vectors, matrices, complex numbers, and the like. Relative to the field of mathematics as a whole, it's a very narrow. Usually (I say usually, but I haven't heard of anywhere that does it differently, although there may be universities out there that do), the maths will be taught in separate, "pure" maths classes - I put "pure" in quotation marks because it's certainly not pure maths as a mathematician would recognise it, but the course/module is design to teach maths, and will be based on the maths, rather than engineering theory. These modules may be taught by the maths or another related department, and may be shared with other degrees that utilise maths in a similar way to engineering.

    And there probably won't be too many maths modules, because, again, it's engineering, not maths. My degree contained four of them, which, given that it was a five year degree (Scotland), averages less than one per year. They're quite likely to be front-loaded, too, so that you have the mathematical knowledge early on to tackle the engineering theory that comes up throughout the degree.

    MEng vs MSc?
    Ah, this old chestnut. Lots of people in the past have wondered whether an MEng or MSc is more appealing to employers, or, overall, which is the "best" option to obtain your masters. As both are masters level qualifications, neither is more "impressive" to potential employers, and both can get you onto a PhD (in fact you can go straight from BEng to PhD).

    When deciding, you need to remember that cost is a factor, as you will have to fund the MSc yourself. Although, given that in many English and Welsh universities the MEng year now costs £9,000 (possibly a lot more if you're international), it's possible that an MSc can be of roughly the same cost. An MSc will also typically be a lot more specialised than an MEng, so if you want to study a specific subject in more detail an MSc may be better for you, whereas the MEng is broader so may be a better option for many, and, to be honest, it's much simpler to just do the integrated masters as you don't have to worry about things like starting a whole new degree or possibly moving universities.

    So overall there is no right or wrong answer to this; neither is "better". It depends on you, your circumstances and the costs involved.

    If I am enrolled on the BEng, can I transfer to the MEng?
    A lot of people ask this as they might have enrolled on the BEng. The answer is yes, provided you meet the grades. This is usually assessed over the first two years, and the criteria is often you must be averaging at least a 2:1, but it can differ from university to university.

    However, you should also be aware that the revers is also true - under performing MEng students can be dropped down to the bachelors!

    Will I get an place on the BEng if I miss my MEng offer, but reach the BEng entry requirements?
    It is entirely up to the university's discretion whether they offer those who have missed the MEng offer a place on the BEng programme (if they have met the BEng entry requirements). If you think you may miss the MEng, it's safer to apply to the BEng, providing it has lower entry requirements (which isn't always the case), as you can then move up to the MEng if you perform well (see above).

    How do I find out if a course is accredited? If the course is accredited, it will usually mention it on the website, proudly displaying the logo of the institution(s) that has accredited it. However, if not, you should be able to find lists of accredited degrees on the relevant institution's website (e.g. IMechE for mechanical degrees). And failing that, you can always ask the university yourself - there should be an email or a phone number to call to ask such questions.

    What is Chartership? How do I become Chartered?
    Becoming a chartered engineer is essentially a recognition that you have reached a certain level of competence within your profession. Chartered engineers are registered with the Engineering Council UK (ECUK), with the various engineering bodies (e.g. IMechE, IET etc.) being licensed to award the title on its behalf (e.g. IMechE will charter mechanical engineers). To become a chartered engineer you need to demonstrate both strong academics, being educated to masters level, and meeting certain competencies to certain levels, gained through relevant and suitable work experience. The requirements are found here, in the UK-SPEC (UK standard for professional engineering competence).

    The simplest and most direct way to become a chartered engineer is to study an accredited MEng degree and then join a company with an accredited graduate training programme. Yes, as well as accredit degrees and award chartership on behalf of the ECUK, the engineering institutions can also accredit company graduate training programmes to ensure that as part of the programme you will receive suitable experience to propel you towards becoming a chartered engineer.

    Let's dispel some myths about chartership. A key one is that it's not automatically granted upon completion of a certain number of years of experience (typically four is bandied about). It's about meeting competencies (see the UK-SPEC). There, it's entirely possible that some people will have the opportunities at work to go for chartership relatively soon after graduation (say, around four years), whereas others may take longer. And, given this, it's also entirely possible that some people may even need to consider moving position, or even companies, to get the opportunities that would allow them to meet the competencies they need to.

    Do I need further maths?
    The most reliable answer to this would be to check the websites of the universities you are interested in applying to. As of writing this, I don't think that many list it as an entry requirement, although it certainly is helpful. The previous question on the level of maths provides more background, but if you have taken further maths you will have already covered some of the maths material that will be covered on the degree, and hence will have a slightly easier time. Overall, further maths is more useful for engineering than most other subjects you could take, so if you can take it, it is advisable that you do.
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