University’s not for me. How can I become an engineer?

By J&C Team

Great earning potential, undeniable job prospects and a well-publicised current demand for engineers and technicians to fill the skills-gap: it’s no wonder more and more people are beginning to consider engineering careers.

Here we’ll be exploring four of the non-traditional routes into engineering – apprenticeships, school and college-leaver programmes, sponsored degrees and engineering gateways.


An important consideration for many when deciding on the next step is cost, and many people would like to avoid university debt. The good news is that there are plentiful opportunities to “earn while you learn” in the engineering sector.

Apprenticeships, Advanced Apprenticeships and Higher Apprenticeships are for anybody over the age of 16, including career-changing adults. They combine on-the-job training with study and are designed by employers, industry and professional bodies, and training providers. Higher Apprenticeships often give apprentices the opportunity to gain a degree and professional registration with the Engineering Council.

Apprentices are paid a weekly training wage during the apprenticeship (which will last anything from one to five years, depending on the level and sector) and are almost guaranteed a job with the employer on successful completion of the scheme. A quick search of apprenticeship opportunities with some of the big engineering employers (such as BT, Siemens, Nestlé, Jaguar Land Rover, Dyson and TFL) shows that demand is high and salaries are competitive: they can be in excess of £32,000 on completion of some schemes.

It’s not just the big employers though. Look locally and you’ll find smaller companies also offer interesting and rewarding apprenticeships. Try searching the National Apprenticeship Website or Careers Wales for current opportunities. Entry requirements vary but a minimum of five ‘C’ grades including English, maths and science GCSEs (or equivalent) are generally required for Advanced Apprenticeships. Relevant A-levels (or equivalent) are generally required for Higher Apprenticeships.

School and college-leaver schemes

School and college-leaver schemes have become increasingly popular. If you have A-levels (or equivalent) – or you’re a career-changer – leading engineering employers will offer the opportunity to work for them while you study a university degree of professional qualification. Sound familiar? School-leaver programmes share many similarities with Higher Apprenticeships. Take a look at AllAboutSchoolLeavers for details on current opportunities with these schemes.

Sponsored degrees

School-leaver schemes also share similarities with sponsored degrees, where employers pick up the bill for a candidate’s university tuition fees and guarantee them a position on graduation. These often require a strong academic record and generally last for at least four years. NotGoingToUni is a good site to look at for information about sponsored degrees, apprenticeships, and more.

Engineering Gateways

Our final port of call is Engineering Gateways. They offer a route to professional qualification for employed engineers interested in becoming professionally qualified but unable to commit to full-time study. With the support of their employer, employees can demonstrate the required competences for professional registration, as well as meeting the learning outcomes for an academic qualification.


If you want to get into engineering, you need a passion for the subject and the ability to convert that passion into employment through one of the many opportunities available. Internships, work-shadowing, traineeships, short courses, academic study, and on-the-job training are all good places to start. Where the rest of your career takes you is up to you!