Further and higher education

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From apprenticeships to university, if you're thinking about a career in civil engineering, you have lots of options to choose from. Find out more about the best options for you.

This section will guide you through the paths you can take – whether you've just finished your GCSEs or you're already on a higher education course. It will help you decide which qualification to do next and let you plan even further ahead.

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What are your options?

After your GCSEs, you could apply for a level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship. It's a great way to earn while you learn on the job. When you do an apprenticeship you can also work towards becoming professionally qualified as an engineering technician. This gives you the chance to get a better job and a higher salary. You can also use the letters 'EngTech' after your name. This means you'll be respected for your achievements.

Once you've done your A-levels, a full-time Level 3 BTEC or Scottish Highers, you have more options. There are full-time and part-time courses that give you the level of education you need to become professionally qualified.

These courses, which might be in further education or at university, include:

  • Higher National Certificates (HNC)
  • Higher National Diplomas (HND)
  • Foundation degrees
  • Bachelor’s degrees (BEng, BSc)
  • Master’s degrees (MEng, MSc)

So in the future, if you do an HNC, HND or a foundation degree, you could be an engineering technician (EngTech), and if you do an accredited bachelor's or master's degree you could be an incorporated (IEng) or chartered (CEng) engineer.

Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships allow you to work (and be paid), while getting a qualification. You'll usually be directly employed by a civil engineering company. This could be:

  • As a designer with a civil engineering consultancy company
  • On-site with a contractor, with a local council or with a client like the Highways England or Environment Agency

Entry requirements

For a level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship, you'll need at least five GCSEs at A*-C grades, including English, science and maths. Maths must be at grade B or above. Even if you went down another path after your GCSEs – for example, you took A-levels in subjects other than maths and science – you can still do an Advanced Apprenticeship later.

For a Higher Apprenticeship, or a Scottish Technical Apprenticeship, you would normally have completed either:

  • A level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship
  • A BTEC level 3 Diploma or Extended Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment – Civil Engineering, or
  • A-levels (including maths) or Scottish Highers

How to apply

Most vacancies are advertised with:

If you can't find anything to suit you, you can always contact civil engineering employers directly to ask about opportunities.

For details of the level 5 Higher Apprenticeship in the Sustainable Built Environment, go to the Edexcel website.

You can contact us to find out who runs courses near you.

Advanced Apprenticeships

If you do an Advanced Apprenticeship in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, you'll usually go to college for one day and work the rest of the week. If you live in Scotland, you can choose a Modern Apprenticeship at Level 3.

Your college training will normally lead to a BTEC level 3 Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment (Civil Engineering). The learning you do at work will also help you get either an NVQ (an SVQ in Scotland), or ICE’s own Diploma in Civil Engineering for Technicians.

When you’ve finished you can apply to become a professionally qualified engineering technician (EngTech). You can also move on to a Higher Apprenticeship, by studying part-time while you work, with the support of your employer.

Higher Apprenticeships

A Higher Apprenticeship will involve working while studying for a level 4-6 qualification – usually a HNC, HND, Foundation Degree or part-time bachelor's degree (BSc or BEng). In Scotland there are Technical Apprenticeships and Professional Apprenticeships at SQCF level 8 and above, depending on the level you're aiming for.

By the end of your apprenticeship you'll have a permanent job and be an important member of the team. That's one of the great things about apprenticeships – you get the technical skills and knowledge you need and also learn about your employer and how they work.

You can then prepare to become professionally qualified as a technician engineer (EngTech) or an incorporated engineer (IEng). Your qualification will be widely recognised, so you'll have plenty of options to follow a career in the sector that interests you. And if you'd like to take your career even further, you could also aim to become a chartered engineer (CEng).

Already on an apprenticeship?

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Becoming a member of ICE offers you a wealth of benefits, from access to free resources like our Ask Brunel service (get an answer to any civil engineering question!), to a free subscription to New Civil Engineer (NCE) magazine online.

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Further education

If you’ve already passed a BTEC level 3 or have A-levels (in maths and physics), many colleges and some universities offer:

  • Higher National Certificates (HNC) at level 4
  • Higher National Diplomas (HND) at level 5
  • Foundation degrees (level 5) in civil engineering

You can study full-time or part-time.

These courses can be good stepping stones to a civil engineering career, especially if you're not sure about whether to do a three or four-year university course.

After completing an HND or foundation degree, you can go straight into a job. But there's often an opportunity to transfer to a university to take a one or two-year top-up degree to a BSc or BEng and become professionally qualified as an incorporated engineer (IEng).

Entry Requirements

For a HNC, HND or a foundation degree, you'll normally need one of the following:

  • A BTEC level 3 Diploma or Extended Diploma in Construction and the Built Environment (Civil Engineering)
  • A-levels (including maths)
  • Scottish Highers

But please check with the individual college about the grades you need.

How to apply

You can find out about courses on your local college’s website or search the Hotcourses database and apply directly. You can also apply for Higher Nationals and foundation degrees through UCAS.

But you should always make sure the course you're thinking of studying is approved by the Engineering Council. You can do that by looking out for the Engineering Council logo.

Already studying?

If you're already studying for a qualification, then you could be eligible for our FREE student membership.

Becoming a member of ICE offers you a wealth of benefits, from access to free resources like our Ask Brunel service (get an answer to any civil engineering question!), to a free subscription to New Civil Engineer (NCE) magazine online.

Join ICE today

Find out more about FREE student membership

Already a student member?

If you're already a student member of ICE, don't forget you could be eligible for a wide range of awards and scholarships.

 Find out more about our student awards and scholarships

University

If you want to go to university you have two main types of course to choose from.

  • You can pick a specialist civil engineering degree
    or
  • You can choose a degree that lets you study a wider range of topics in the first and second year, before focusing on a specific subject/area

Many universities specialise in particular areas of civil engineering. These include structural engineering, environmental engineering and coastal engineering, so look at university websites before deciding.

Types of degree

A bachelor's degree (BSc or BEng) usually takes three years to complete, while a master's (MEng) will take an extra year. In Scotland you'll take four years to complete a bachelor's degree and five years to gain an MEng degree. Some courses arrange a year’s work placement as part of the course, while others let you spend a year studying abroad. After graduating with a bachelor's degree, you can often go on to do an MSc or a PhD, either full-time or part-time while working. This is postgraduate study, and can lead to research careers and specialist roles in industry.

ICE student membership

You can apply for free student membership while you’re at university, so why not join and make the most of the great benefits on offer?

We'll give you help and advice on your career direction and support you to become a civil engineer. Look out for ICE events at your university and get involved with your local ICE region.

If you have an accredited bachelor's degree you'' be able to go on to become an incorporated engineer (IEng). If you have an accredited MEng degree, or, go on to do an accredited MSc programme after your bachelor's degree, you'll be able to specialise in a particular area of civil engineering and become a chartered engineer (CEng). If your first degree is not accredited, please get in touch with us for advice, by emailing aqp@ice.org.uk.

Entry requirements

Visit the UCAS website to find out more about the universities you're thinking about applying to, and their entry requirements.

Entry grades and course content varies, but for most, you’ll need maths A-level (some will ask for further maths) and physics A-level (or equivalent). Design subjects and languages are also useful. BTECs may be accepted too – you'll usually need a distinction or merit. But remember, each university is different so make sure you check.

You can also check the university's own website.

How to apply

Apply through UCAS for undergraduate degrees. For postgraduate courses and part-time undergraduate degrees, apply directly to the universities.

Don't forget to check that your degree is accredited by looking out for the Engineering Council logo. And check ICE's listings too.

Good luck and we hope you'll join ICE soon as a student member.

Meet students

Find out more about what others are doing and why they're interested in a career in civil engineering.

  • Catriona Salvini

    Catriona Salvini, studying at university

    Catriona is in the first year of an MEng in Structural Engineering with International Studies at Heriot Watt University.

    Why civil engineering?

    I’ve always been exposed to civil engineering. I lived close to South Queensferry, so the Forth bridges were a common sight, and my home town Broxburn is on the canal system.

    I was a member of my school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) club, which won a number of national awards but, even at that point, I wasn’t considering engineering as a career. That changed after talking to my physics teacher. He told me about his engineering degree and the projects he'd worked on before going into teaching. It sounded like what I wanted to do with my life.

    About your course

    I really enjoy site visits and guest lectures from practising civil engineers. I also get to do a year of my course at a university in another country – hopefully Canada or the USA. And, from the fourth year, I’ll specialise in structural engineering modules.

    The future

    When I finish my course I plan to join Morgan Sindall – my QUEST sponsor – and become a chartered engineer.

    I’d like to be involved in the Crossrail project or work on-site at the Forth Replacement Crossing.

    My dream job would be designing structures for use in space. At one time, bridges were also one-off projects, but now make up a vast sector of the industry. I think the same will happen with the commercialisation of space.

     

    Read more
  • Ben Hicklin

    Ben Hicklin, degree student

    Ben is in the fifth year of an MEng in Civil Engineering at Heriot Watt University.

    Why civil engineering?

    There are lots of earthquakes in New Zealand, where I'm from, so I've always had an interest in buildings and structures. I decided to study civil engineering as I wasn’t happy with my job at the time and was looking for something that would challenge me and provide a future. My three brother-in-laws are also civil engineers.

    About your course

    I enjoy the problem-solving aspect of the course. It’s great to be challenged and this is an environment which has really helped me to develop. I also enjoy the practical and lab work because the hands-on experience helps me understand the theory and makes the course more interesting.

    I also work part-time as a lab assistant and researcher at the university’s Pipeline Technology Centre. This involves testing equipment and trialling methods used to extract oil and gas from the sea bed. It’s given me an insight into the challenges of extracting, processing and transporting oil and gas. It’s very rewarding to find solutions and complete successful tests.

    The future

    I’m interested in geotechnics and soil mechanics and I'd like to find a job in this field. It would be good to work for a consultancy that provides challenges, variety and the possibility of working in other countries. Eventually, I’d like to progress to a senior role or work as a self-employed consultant.

    Read more

Already studying?

If you're already studying for a qualification, then you could be eligible for our FREE student membership.

Becoming a member of ICE offers you a wealth of benefits, from access to free resources like our Ask Brunel service (get an answer to any civil engineering question!), to a free subscription to New Civil Engineer (NCE) magazine online.

Join ICE today

Find out more about FREE student membership

Already a student member?

If you're already a student member of ICE, don't forget you could be eligible for a wide range of awards and scholarships.

Find out more about our student awards and scholarships

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