The academic route into mechanical engineering gives you lots of career choices to keep your options open, and puts you in a good position to make the most of the further development opportunities available exclusively to mechanical engineers.
Mechanical engineering at university
You’ll need appropriate qualifications in maths and physics to apply for most mechanical engineering degree courses, equivalent to A-level or BTEC level 3. Some courses may require chemistry or biology instead of physics, depending on the nature of the work you want to do.
Design and technology qualifications may also be useful to you, while some schools and colleges now also offer a dedicated engineering A-level.
Don’t worry if you don’t have the right qualifications to study a mechanical engineering degree. Many universities will allow you to take a one-year Foundation course to prepare you in advance of doing a degree.
Choosing the right degree
Most universities offer a mechanical engineering degree course, which is the most straightforward route into the profession.
Other relevant degrees for a mechanical engineering career include physics, mathematics, applied sciences, and other engineering disciplines such as civil, structural, electronic etc.
If you already have an idea of the industries you’d like to work in, you might find specific degree courses relevant to that field such as automotive engineering, biomedical engineering or industrial design and technology.
You may also choose to study a combined course, such as mathematics and physics or materials science with engineering.
Speak to a course advisor at your chosen university to understand more about the topics covered on any particular course, and the eventual career options open to you.
Look out for degree courses that have been accredited by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers or another professional body. These have been independently verified as equipping graduates with the knowledge and understanding required by the profession.
Foundation degrees last for one or two years, and give a good grounding in a particular engineering field. They are most useful as a springboard into further study, or as the basis for a Higher Apprenticeship.
BEng or BSc courses are typically 3/4 year programmes giving a broad understanding of the field, with more detail in specific areas. They provide an excellent starting point for careers in mechanical engineering.
MEng or MSc courses are 4/5 years long, and involve more in-depth study. They often include a research component, and will open up further academic opportunities or careers in particularly demanding sectors.
Many engineering degrees can be taken as sandwich courses. These include a year-long industrial placement in the middle of your degree. You get valuable work experience, and learn new skills which may help make you more employable.
Lots of students now study engineering degrees that include a year abroad. This helps prepare mechanical engineers for the global nature of the profession.
Once you’ve graduated, you’ll be able to work towards professional registration. Becoming a professional engineer - either Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) - helps you develop further, gives you a big salary boost, and puts you on the path to the top of the industry.
Student Affiliate membership
If you study a relevant degree at university, you may be eligible to become a Student Affiliate member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers free-of-charge. Learn more.
UCAS - www.ucas.com
The Guardian University Guide - www.theguardian.com/education/universityguide
Prospects – www.prospects.ac.uk
The Year in Industry - www.etrust.org.uk/the-year-in-industry
Scholarships and grants
If you go on to study mechanical engineering at university, you may be eligible for an Institution of Mechanical Engineers scholarship or award. These are designed to support your development and learning. Find out more about our scholarships and awards.