Chartered status: what civil engineers need to know to get a job
Although your educational qualifications prove what you know, a professional qualification shows that your practical experience meets certain recognised standards. This can boost your career prospects, level of responsibility at work and earning potential, plus it’s internationally recognised, so it can increase your chances of finding work abroad.
Why graduates need to know about engineering qualifications to get a job
Knowing about the route to professional qualifications is not just about the long-term goals – it’s essential for your immediate job hunt too.
- It will help you decide which organisations to apply to, based on the support they give towards professional qualification.
- It gives you a great answer to typical interview questions, such as ‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’, ‘What do you think will be the biggest challenge in the first two years of the job?’ and ‘Why have you applied to us?’
- It’s a source of questions to ask the recruiter at the end of the interview. For example, you could ask for more detail on the support the employer offers.
- You could also discuss it with recruiters at careers fairs or events.
Bringing up this knowledge with employers demonstrates your commitment to the profession and how clued-up you are about your career aspirations.
What are chartered and incorporated civil and structural engineers?
There are three registration categories: engineering technician (EngTech), incorporated engineer (IEng) and chartered engineer (CEng). Graduate engineers tend to aim for either incorporated or chartered engineer status. Incorporated status is generally quicker to gain than chartered and it’s also possible to move on to becoming chartered after gaining incorporated status first.
Professional institutions grant professional qualification. They include the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Structural Engineers, as well as specialist institutions, such as the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (ICES) and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT).
The base standard for professional development is set by the Engineering Council and the guidelines for this are contained within the UK-SPEC (UK Standards for Professional Engineering Competence), which is available online.
How to become a chartered or incorporated civil or structural engineer
Each qualification requires certain knowledge, beginning with academic qualifications.
- Incorporated engineers need an accredited undergraduate degree or equivalent.
- Chartered engineers need either an accredited MEng degree or an accredited BEng (Hons) degree plus either an approved masters degree or a period of further learning in the workplace (eg the technical report route – see below).
Once in the workplace, engineers start initial professional development (IPD), which runs over a number of years depending on the qualification and the educational starting point as well as the engineer’s situation and motivation. An engineer needs to demonstrate professional competencies in personal skills, engineering skills, and management and commercial skills. IPD leads to the professional review, where an engineer is assessed in an interview and, in some cases, by an additional examination.
However, there is a variety of routes through to professional qualification, such as the technical report route, since engineers come from a range of backgrounds. If you are unsure of your academic eligibility or need more information on the numerous routes to membership, contact the relevant professional institution.
Finding an employer who'll support you towards CEng or IEng
All civil and structural engineering employers will claim to provide training but you need to find out the details. Do thorough research to find schemes approved by the relevant professional institution.
Talk to current graduate employees about training on social media sites and at careers fairs and find out when they expect to go forward to professional review. When you talk to employers, ask them about mentors, the level of support they provide and how you will gain the practical experience you need to qualify.
Joining a professional institution as a student
Student membership looks good on your CV and it’s free for both the ICE and the Institution of Structural Engineers. Both provide student members with online services, such as access to publications and literature, technical updates, a members’ online area and invaluable connections.
Branches, meetings and conferences are networking events where you can meet other students and graduates, experienced engineers and potential employers. It’s the ultimate way to get a personal view of the industry and work that may interest you. These events will also help you gain knowledge of your professional institution, which is a core objective of professional qualification.
The technical report route
If you don’t have the benchmark educational qualifications but want to work towards chartered status, you could explore the technical report route. Engineers have to prove that they possess masters-level competencies through the submission of a technical report based on on-the-job learning. This route costs less than staying at university and suits people who prefer learning through experience, but it can take longer than further study.