Lyons O'Neill

How to become an engineer

In recent years, we’ve seen lots of initiatives hoping to get young people more interested in engineering. However, the number of engineering paths to choose from means it can still be difficult for prospective students to determine which will be the right fit for them. We’re hoping to make things a little clearer with this handy guide, because we firmly believe that engineering should be an accessible career option for all.

First of all, to become an engineer, relevant qualifications are required. Some may also find that further study or accreditation boosts their career prospects even further. At A-Level, studying Maths and Physics is often a prerequisite, as is Chemistry if you’re interested in Chemical Engineering. Different universities accept different subjects and grades, so it’s worth taking the time to see what different institutions look for at this stage.

In broad terms, there are four main types of engineering. They are:

  • Electrical engineering, which is concerned with the application of electrical power. This can include the design, development and testing of electrical equipment. This type of engineering may be for you if you’re interested in the inner workings of electrical devices and systems.

  • Mechanical engineers tend to solve problems related to mechanical systems. It is often known as one of the broadest forms of engineering as you can be involved in all stages of a project, including the final installation. This stream could be for you if you’re interested in how moving parts operate.

  • Civil engineering involves the design and development of infrastructure. This can cover schools and hospitals to bridges and transport links. Civil engineering could be for you if you’re interested in the built environment and its impact on towns and cities.

  • Chemical engineering is concerned with the altering of raw materials into a required product. This can range from creating plastics and new foods to developing pharmaceuticals. This type of engineering could be for you if you enjoy chemistry and creating new products.

But there are more specific streams too. Lyons O’Neill is both a civil and structural engineering firm. As structural engineers, we assess buildings and structures to ensure they are able to withstand time and physical pressures.

Typically, engineers will study one of the four disciplines and specialise later in their career. It’s easy to become overwhelmed, but many of the skills learnt in any of the four main disciplines can be transferable to other specialisms.

These are the most common ways of becoming an engineer:


A university degree is often a necessary step in becoming an engineer. A Bachelors of Engineering (BEng) is usually desired, but don’t be dismayed if you hold another science or technology related degree. Engineering conversion courses and professional qualifications are available to put you on your desired track. Many courses also offer the option to take a year out to work in industry, which can offer a great insight into the world of engineering work before you graduate.

If you plan to later seek accreditation as an engineer, you will need to obtain a Masters of Engineering (MEng) or higher.

Vocational learning and apprenticeships 

However, whilst a degree may be a prerequisite for some roles, it is not the only way to become an engineer. Apprenticeships offer a great opportunity to earn money as you study, and can support you in obtaining qualifications like BTECs and NVQs in engineering.

Great work experience is desirable for any employer, so don’t let the lack of a degree put you off from an engineering career.


Whether you opt for university or apprenticeship, you have the option of joining a professional body. This can help you gain contacts in your desired field, but is ultimately required if you ever wanted to become a chartered engineer (CEng). This accreditation demonstrates a level of quality that employers or clients may find desirable.

Some examples of professional engineering bodies are:

Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)

Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE)

Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)

Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)

Work experience 

Overall, gaining solid work experience is a great way to discover what type of engineering and style of learning is right for you. You’ll be able to learn which areas you must enjoy and use this information to assist you with your career choices.

Ultimately, however, there are a number of routes you can take to become an engineer, and all paths are valuable in their own right.