Article: Engineering - an Introduction


This article covers jobs at all levels in chemical, mechanical, civil and electronics/electrical engineering.

Video: - Various: Engineering


Engineers design, make and improve the vast range of technology that surrounds us, from sports trainers to roads, tunnels and bridges, and from light bulbs to space satellites.

Engineers have shaped much of the modern world. They've given us the mobile phone, nuclear power stations, reservoirs, pipelines and microchips - the list could go on and on.

Branches of engineering

There are four main types of engineer:

  • Chemical engineers are concerned with the processes that cause changes in the chemical or physical make-up of substances. They use this knowledge to produce a very wide range of everyday products, including plastics, fibres, dyes, drugs and medicines, paints, household cleaners and detergents.
  • Mechanical engineers apply their knowledge of mechanics, hydraulics, thermodynamics and materials to design and make all types of machines and their parts. They are involved in many industries, including aerospace, defence, oil and gas, and food and drink processing.
  • Civil engineers plan, design and manage construction projects, such as roads, tunnels, bridges, sewage and water systems, power stations, factories, harbours and dams.
  • Electronics engineers develop and work on products that use electronics, for example, telecommunications systems, electronic imaging devices and computer-controlled systems (from satellite tracking systems to washing machines).

Levels of engineering

Jobs in engineering are available at all levels:

Operators and operatives work the machinery and equipment used in factories and production plants to make and process things.

Craftspeople set up and operate machines and equipment, using drawings and instructions as a guide. Many machines are computer-controlled; the craftsperson keys information into the computer. They usually organise their own work, and may supervise operators. Some craftspeople work in maintenance, repairing and servicing equipment.

Engineering Technicians (EngTech) combine practical engineering work with written planning and design. They're involved in testing, installing and maintaining equipment, helping with research and development work, and checking and controlling the quality of raw materials and products.

Some technicians work as draughtspeople, preparing detailed engineering designs, usually on a computer.

There are two types of professional engineer:

Incorporated Engineers (IEng) usually have a specific level of responsibility for engineering projects. They may work as team leaders or deal with technical aspects of complex technologies.

They supervise quality assurance procedures, as well as manage and develop test and inspection programmes. Incorporated Engineers generally work at middle management levels, and some of their work overlaps with that of Chartered Engineers.

Chartered Engineers (CEng) usually have the greatest level of responsibility for engineering projects. They plan and manage engineering activities and lead the development of new technologies. They make sure that a project is completed on time and within a budget. Chartered Engineers work at the highest management levels.

The skills you need to be an engineer

To be an engineer, you need:

  • Technical and creative ability as well as problem-solving skills.
  • To be able to work as part of a team.
  • Good communication skills for writing technical reports and liaising with other staff, as well as clients and customers.
  • Organisational skills to plan and co-ordinate your work.
  • To remain calm under pressure - engineers work to deadlines.
  • Computer literacy.
  • Willingness to take on responsibility and to lead and motivate others.

Qualifications and training

There are no formal entry requirements for operators, although some GCSEs in practical subjects would be useful. Operators in electrical/electronics engineering may need to have their colour vision tested. Training is usually on-the-job.

Craftspeople usually enter with four GCSEs including English, Maths and a science, technology or engineering subject. It's possible to enter through an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship.

Entry to a trainee technician post is usually with at least four GCSEs at grade C or above, including English, Maths and a science, technology or engineering subject.

It's possible to enter through an Advanced Level Apprenticeship. Technicians can go on to gain Engineering Technician (EngTech) professional status with the Engineering Council.

Professional engineers usually have either an engineering degree or HND. Depending on their level of entry, engineers can go on to register with the ECUK as Chartered Engineers (CEng) or Incorporated Engineers (IEng).

Equivalent qualifications in relevant subjects may also be acceptable for entry into engineering careers.

Further Information

Engineering Council

Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX

Tel: 020 3206 0500


Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)

Address: Blue Court, Church Lane, Kings Langley, Hertfordshire WD4 8JP

Tel: 01923 260000




Women in science, engineering and technology

Address: Quest House, 38 Vicar Lane, Bradford BD1 5LD

Tel: 01274 724009



Inside Careers

Specialists in graduate careers

Address: Unit 6, The Quad, 49 Atalanta Street, Fulham, London SW6 6TU

Tel: 020 7565 7900



Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT

Tel: 0845 6439001



Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)

Address: 1 Birdcage Walk, Westminster, London SW1H 9JJ

Tel: 020 7222 7899



Women's Engineering Society (WES)

Address: Michael Faraday House, Six Hills Way, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 2AY

Tel: 01438 765506



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Address: 105 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1QL

Tel: 0141 2213181



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