Why study a masters in Engineering

It’s a cliché, but without engineering then modern civilization would simply not exist. From the earliest human structures right through to the deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope, each depend on the skill of engineers. Becoming an engineer takes dedication and hard work and so this guide explains why now is a great time to study an engineering masters.

What is engineering?

In essence, an engineer is someone who can solve problems. Our built environment and infrastructure, the devices we use to communicate, the processes that manufacture our medicines, have all been designed, assembled or managed by an engineer. Over time humanity has faced particular challenges to adapt their environment for survival. On the whole, humans apply different methods to solve problems, then repeat and improve on these.

As we evolved these methods became established until it was possible to apply mathematical rules.

Engineering governs everything we see around us that is made, from AirPods to Zesters. Engineering is applied to the study of the natural world as well as the built environment. Software Engineering was ‘invented’ in the early 1960’s. The development of the space program at NASA was pioneered by engineers such as Margaret Hamilton.

The structure of particles, the behaviour of chemicals, the physical effects of liquids and gases require engineers in order to harness and apply these effects in order to create structures and products.

How do you become an engineer?

If you find solving problems and coming up with solutions exciting, then you will enjoy the study of engineering. Engineers typically have a study background in science and mathematics.

Engineers understand the principals that determine how materials behave. They then apply the mathematical models to the design of the engineering solution.

Engineering is one of the group of specialised subjects. These encourage students to complete a four-year programme that includes a masters qualification in the final year. The Integrated Masters degree – MEng – is a very popular choice among graduates.

Career destinations for engineering masters students (jobs with an engineering masters degree)

Undergraduate engineers can choose from a wide variety of pathways when they set out to study engineering.

Aeronautics and Aerospace

A masters in Aeronautics focusses on advanced skills in computational modelling, numerical techniques and an in-depth understanding of engineering approaches to current aerospace problems. In general, core modules offer the capacity to specialise in one of several highly-sophisticated fields. These include, for example: spacecraft design, flight control and simulation, aeroelasticity, computational fluid dynamics, advanced aerodynamics and robotics.

Many UK universities with engineering facilities attract students worldwide to study for future careers in the sector. Specific regions of the UK have long associations with aerospace, such as Derby as the home of Rolls Royce.

Innovation led the boom in postwar UK universities and many included research parks within campuses. Aerospace is one such specialisation, and the UK is one of the leading innovators in satellite technology as well as defence systems.

Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineers work on tackling modern healthcare challenges. This includes products and systems required for microscopic investigation up to full body scanners. Typical masters degrees in Biomedical Engineering have specialist pathways such as: -

  • Biomechanics which relates to the study of problems in cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, orthopaedic, ophthalmic, and respiratory systems.
  • Use of biomaterials in medical and surgical environments. In short, biomaterials.
  • Medical Physics and Imaging pathway for healthcare and medical research, specifically with focus on human physiology, radiotherapy and clinical imaging.
  • Neurotechnology for the purpose of investigating brain functions.

Biomechanical engineers make a valuable contribution to wellbeing. The global population is ageing which increases the demand for biomedical engineers to create new devices to improve medical diagnostic equipment. Opportunities exist for qualified graduates to gain employment in a growing industry.

Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering at masters level consolidates the knowledge acquired from a previous science based undergraduate degree. In high-ranking UK universities students study at advanced level on a core curriculum of modules with specialization pathways in subjects such as biotechnology, process systems engineering and product engineering. The Institution of Chemical Engineers is the accrediting organisation. This body ensures masters programmes meet applicable industry standards.

The field of Chemical Engineering has adapted over time from its traditional origins. Global demand for chemicals is intense as much of the worlds food production relies on the application of chemical fertilisers. The production of sustainable chemicals is an area where students can make an important contribution to managing global resources and minimising the effects on the environment of producing and applying chemicals.

Typical content of sustainable chemical engineering degrees for the most part includes:-

  • Energy management
  • Sustainable design and manufacturing
  • Recycling and life cycle assessment for sustainable materials
  • Environmental auditing
  • Carbon accounting
  • Research and communication skills
Civil Engineering

A masters in Civil Engineering builds on the core knowledge acquired at undergraduate level. It's a common pathway to qualification as a Chartered Civil Engineer.
Typical Civil Engineering masters programmes introduce advanced level study in areas such as structural dynamics, sustainable building design, transport, fluids, geotechnics, water and drainage, environmental and coastal engineering, planning and construction.

The programmes are designed around core modules on infrastructure, design, construction and maintenance, with a wide range of optional modules that enable the student to use appropriate techniques for modelling and numerical methods.

Civil Engineering has applicability in every environment, and with importance on supporting communities at threat from climate change its more important than ever that qualified Civil Engineers are able to apply sustainable techniques to mitigate the effects of global warming.

Electrical Engineering

An Electrical Engineering masters degree prepares students for careers in a key infrastructure sector with the main power grid providers. The so called ‘Triple E’ masters courses include Electronics in the programme. Core modules enable graduates to take up roles in associated businesses, such as: –

  • Electrical supply industries
  • Telecommunications and IT
  • Consulting and design companies
  • Healthcare and aerospace

Electrical Engineering spans a wide range of business environments. Most masters courses enable the study of core modules covering modern industry practice. Programmes offer a wide range of optional modules. For this reason these align with in-demand, specialist career pathways. These include areas such as: -

  • Wireless Communications Systems Design
  • Power Electronics and Drives
  • Electric Power Generation by Renewable Sources
  • FPGA Design for System-on-Chip
  • Control Systems Design
  • Embedded Microprocessor System Design
  • Medical Electronics and E-Health
  • Renewable Generation Technologies
  • Sensing Systems and Signal Processing
Marine Engineering

Around 90% of global trade is transported by shipping, so there is no doubt that marine engineering supports the safe and reliable delivery of goods that support the world’s population. Geopolitically, naval defence plays a very significant role in maintaining stability, as shipping lanes and territorial waters have to be protected.

Modern shipping uses highly sophisticated systems, so marine engineers are vital in the development of reliable systems and the maintenance of shipping fleets. Modern vessels can be operated over many years but this is only possible if they are constantly maintained and refitted as new innovations become available.

Marine engineers are always in demand, not only in the field of defence but also the hundreds of support roles within sectors such as surveying, hydro power, tidal energy, offshore drilling and pipelines etc. Masters graduates specialise in a number of fields including fluid mechanics, propulsion, applied mathematics, control engineering, naval operations, design and logistics etc.

A masters in marine engineering includes a number of study modules such as:-

  • Applied Thermodynamics and Turbomachinery
  • Power Transmission and Auxiliary Machinery Systems
  • Advanced Computer Applications
  • Electrical Power Systems and Electrical Propulsion
  • Ship Design Exercise for Marine Engineers

Some universities have specialist facilities for studying marine engineering, for example water tanks for measuring ship designs and naval architecture. Research in the motion of waves and how naval vessels perform is really important for future developments for ships and submarines and all craft that use the sea.

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical Engineering covers every aspect of a mechanical process, from concept to design, manufacture, testing and production. Scale is important when considering the impact of mechanical engineering.

Graduates can work on projects from the smallest devices though to the largest constructions because the principals of mechanics apply regardless of the problem that is being examined. Matters of safety are absolutely vital when manufacturing is being contemplated, both from the perspective of the process itself as well as the purpose of the product.

Mechanical Engineers learn how to skillfully apply well established principals to ensure that cars, aircraft, ships and space vehicles are safe to use and operate. Everyday products are subject to the same mechanical design constraints that are applied to one-off devices such as the JWST.

Research-led universities offer masters students a unique opportunity to make a contribution to science and technology, thus taking that experience onwards into manufacturing business and the service sector. A masters degree in mechanical engineering covers all the main aspects of engineering design, and hence function across a number of sectors.

A masters in mechanical engineering includes the principal functions associated with mechanics, namely:-

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Vehicle Engineering
  • Bio-medical and Micro Engineering
  • Industrial Automation and Robotics
  • Fuels and Powertrain Systems
  • Mechanics and Thermal Systems
  • Intelligent Automation
Structural Engineering

Structural engineers are concerned with all aspects of building and construction of structures. Qualified structural engineers are primarily focused on civil buildings or have a role at the planning stage to consider if an architectural design can be constructed from the materials selected.

A typical masters degree in structural engineering covers a number of the important materials and processes associated with modern building design, such as the uses of concrete and steel, timber and masonry, as well as the traditional sciences of structural dynamics, analysis of loads and understanding the composition of soils, earthquake analysis etc.

There seems to be few limits in the scale of building design currently undertaken, with structures such as the Burj Khalifa achieving 829.8 m (2,722 ft). Populations will continue to migrate to cities that can support an infrastructure, so the demand for structural engineering professionals will continue unabated.

Telecomms and Network engineering

The origins of telecomms and network engineering were founded from the first telegraphy services that were established in the 1830s. Since then, modern telecommunications has exploded to the extent that every part of the globe is interconnected or can link to a device via a satellite.

Telecoms and network masters students are in great demand, and the world wide web would simply not exist without the millions of interconnected nodes and servers that support the infrastructure.

Telecomms giants such as Cisco and Huawei and their many infrastructure partners require thousands of qualified network engineers to maintain and support network infrastructures, particularly services such as SDN.

Typical course modules include the following core subjects:-

  • Optical communications
  • Telecommunication networks
  • Network theory
  • Digital communications

How do I become a Professional Chartered Engineer?

If you're aiming to become a Chartered Engineer (CEng) you'll need a Masters of Engineering (MEng) degree or Engineering Doctorate (EngD), accredited by the professional engineering institution, the IEEE.

This organisation sets the professional and educational standards for engineering and technology. Reputable university courses use the standards agreed with the IEEE so that students qualify with engineering skills ready to take up roles in the sector.

Scholarships for engineers

A number of top universities offer scholarships to high achieving students interested in engineering. These comprise of fee reductions up to 15% and in some cases additional bursaries depending upon the academic achievements of the applicant. For international students these reductions can amount to more than £3,400.