Jump to accessibility statement Skip to content

How to become an engineer

Home / Student experience / Discover Sunderland blog / Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing / How to become an engineer

Are you interested in becoming an engineer but not sure where to start? There are several different routes into engineering, and with various qualifications that you can study to reach that goal, it can be confusing to know which route is best for you. So, we’ve put together this handy guide to give you an idea of the different ways you can get into engineering, the types of qualifications available and the exciting career paths you can take. Read on to find out how to become an engineer:

Three engineering students working together in the product development lab


A traditional undergraduate engineering degree is known as a BEng – a Bachelor of Engineering. This is usually a three-year course (or four-year, if you choose to study one of our Integrated Foundation Year courses) that would allow you to start your career as an engineer with an industrial company. You would usually study a BEng degree, specialising in a particular field of engineering, for example here at the University of Sunderland we offer the following three-year, BEng degrees:

The first year of our BEng courses is the same for all disciplines. There’s an advantage to this common first year – out in industry, you’ll work with engineers with various skills, experience and qualifications, and this first year gives you a flavour of working with colleagues who have different knowledge and expertise.

This team approach is something we build across all our engineering courses. What’s more, if you reach the end of the year and find you prefer another discipline to the one you’re currently studying, you can apply to swap courses before you start your second year.

Our BEng courses are accredited by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) as partially fulfilling the educational requirements for Chartered Engineer (CEng) status, so you can fast-track your way to being a Chartered Engineer upon graduation. By becoming a Chartered Engineer and being registered with the Engineering Council in the UK, you’ll open up a wide range of career opportunities and be internationally recognised as having the highest level of professional competencies.

As well as your on-campus teaching, it’s advantageous to get some work experience while you study for your BEng. At Sunderland, we offer you the opportunity to apply to undertake a 35-week placement out in industry between your second and third year, which is sometimes known as a sandwich degree. Placements are an excellent opportunity to put your learning into practice and understand the context for your new knowledge.


A top-up degree allows you to ‘top-up’ an existing qualification, such as a foundation degree or HND to a full honours (BEng) degree. These courses are one year in length if studied full-time and are usually the final year of a three-year undergraduate degree. You’ll graduate as a BEng and will be qualified to undertake the same roles as someone who has studied a three-year BEng course. We offer the following engineering top-up courses:

Higher and Degree Apprenticeships

If you are currently employed in an engineering role, for example a maintenance technician or production engineer, a Degree Apprenticeship may be an option. You’ll be able to obtain your degree through a blend of work-based learning and university attendance, receiving 20% ‘off the job’ time as a minimum. Your course will be funded through the Apprenticeship Levy and through this route, you’ll keep up to date with what is going on in your sector, while building and enhancing your skills, knowledge and behaviours.

Our Engineering Practice Degree Apprenticeship consists of three pathways: Manufacturing Engineering Practice; Electronic and Electrical Engineering Practice; and Design Engineering Practice. Through either of these pathways, you’ll graduate with a strong set of knowledge and skills that will enhance career development opportunities, as well as enable you to make a vital contribution to the business needs of your employer, further improving efficiency and effectiveness of the operation.

Masters conversion course

Even if you’ve studied an undergraduate degree that isn’t related to engineering, it doesn’t mean you can’t become an engineer. The perfect route for you would be to study a masters conversion course, which is an intensive postgraduate degree that enables you to change career direction. You’ll be able to apply skills from your previous degree and we’ll give you the technical skills you’ll need to thrive in your new area of employment.

Further information

As you can see, there are many routes to become a degree qualified engineer. Whichever route you choose, you can be sure that you’ll graduate ready for an exciting and rewarding career in engineering. To learn more about how to get into engineering, join us at our next Open Day. And to hear what it’s really like to study at the University of Sunderland, chat to our students.

Published: 9 August 2021