The engineering sector constantly changes and moves forwards, that’s why postgraduate study can provide skills and knowledge in high demand from employers, and pave the way towards exciting career opportunities. Madhvi Pankhania takes a look at the benefits of further study.
There are a number of reasons students take postgraduate engineering degrees before diving into the world of work. Many employers look favourably upon further study as it provides potential candidates with a better sense of independence and self management, both of which are essential in high level jobs. Employers are also interested in postgrads who have taken courses that specialise in relevant fields to their particular industry, and which are supported by prestigious organisations including the department of education. The earning potential for engineering postgrads is higher than in any other industry, and is a big draw for those looking for lucrative career opportunities.
Companies benefit from sponsoring students before they begin full-time work because they gain maturity, and have the ability to develop their analytical and communication skills. Postgraduate courses are intellectually challenging and diverse; one of the biggest benefits to students being they can specialise in fields not covered in enough detail at undergraduate level. Some universities allow a significant amount of creative freedom whereby students can pursue in depth a topic of real interest, allowing an intellectually stimulating course suited to personal requirements.
With the engineering industry facing a shortage in qualified workers, employers now also welcome applications from those who may not have studied related subjects at degree level, but have taken an engineering postgraduate course. Indeed, Chartered status (CEng), a title desired by many looking to complete their postgraduate qualifications and move into strategic, planning or researching roles, can only be gained through an accredited degree studied to MEng level, or via an alternative "matching section". Emphasis is increasingly being placed on the managerial aspects for senior engineering roles, particularly in areas where they are required to implement change in practices, which is why specialised Master of Administration courses (MBA) are heavily populated by engineers (around 25 per cent) as an alternative ‘matching section’; a combination of management and engineering courses which provides Chartered status upon completion. This degree is suited to students who have some level of work experience, as theoretical study is combined with practical working elements through the use of case studies to give a more holistic approach to the industry than is offered by undergraduate technical degrees.
Before deciding whether or not to pursue postgraduate study, it is important to research your options and make sure the final decision is the right one. Otherwise you could be committing a substantial amount of time (and money) to studies that may not lead directly to the position you desire. Studies are obviously the most straightforward route into academic and research based roles, but for other areas you need to be discerning employers may prefer candidates to have excellent professional experience and practical knowledge. There are many part-time courses available that can be taken alongside work placements, and some universities offer flexible points at which students can leave study for work.
The other factor to bear in mind is the cost. Fees are higher than those for undergraduate degrees and vary between institutions. However, there are institutions that offer funding. Many universities will provide information about bursaries; the Research council provides a number of scholarships each year; there are a range of part-time courses available, and also a number of employers who will offer sponsorship. With fierce competition for funding, institutions usually ask for a 2:1 or higher at degree level, but if you are serious about settling down to more education, this could eventually be your ticket to a very lucrative career.