A professional qualification from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) or Institution of Structural Engineers shows that your practical experience meets certain recognised standards. Being a qualified engineer can boost your salary and career prospects – plus the qualifications are internationally recognised, so they can increase your chances of finding work abroad. But knowing about engineering professional qualifications is not just important for your long-term career; it’s essential for your immediate job hunt too. We explain what you need to know and why.
What are the engineering professional qualifications?
There are three categories of professional qualification:
- Engineering technician (EngTech)
- Incorporated engineer (IEng)
- Chartered engineer (CEng).
The base standards for these professional qualifications are set by the Engineering Council. But individual engineering professional institutions grant professional qualifications. The most relevant bodies for graduate civil and structural engineers to join include the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and the Institution of Structural Engineers and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation (CIHT).
Graduate engineers aim for either incorporated or chartered engineer status, depending on their academic qualifications. Chartership is the highest qualification, equipping engineers to solve problems in new technologies and develop new analytical techniques and to take more responsibility on projects and in leading teams. Engineers who gain the IEng status can then work towards the CEng status.
How to become a chartered engineer or an incorporated engineer with the ICE or Institution of Structural Engineers
There are three stages to becoming professionally qualified.
1. The academic stage
This depends on your academic qualifications:
- Graduates with an accredited BEng are eligible to start the process to become an IEng.
- Graduates with an accredited MEng or a BEng-plus-a-masters are eligible to start the process of becoming chartered.
There are alternative routes if you have lower qualifications or a great deal of experience.
2. The initial professional development training
Once in the workplace, engineers start their in-work training and learning, known as the initial professional development (IPD). How long this takes depends on the qualification, the employer and the engineer’s individual circumstances (as sometimes life gets in the way). When TARGETjobs asks graduate civil engineers about their professional qualification, we find that the IPD can take around five years for chartership. An engineer needs to demonstrate professional competencies in personal skills, engineering skills, and management and commercial skills, and document their progress and write reports.
3. The professional review
What this involves depends on the Institution. You will be interviewed by experienced engineers on behalf of the professional body. You may need to either submit a report and/or sit an exam.
How knowing about the path to becoming a professionally qualified engineer can get you a graduate job
- It will help you decide which employers to apply to, based on the support they give towards professional qualification. The vast majority of large engineering employers will pay your professional body fees and give you training and mentors to help you achieve chartered or incorporated status, but there are a few that don’t and smaller employers may not be able to give you the same level of support as their larger counterparts.
- It’s a good topic of conversation at careers fairs or events: you could discuss the qualification process or the support offered with recruiters and graduates.
- Adding your student membership of the ICE or Institution of Structural Engineers to your CV will prove your interest in the career.
- It can be included in your answers 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 or how long it typically takes for their engineers to get qualified.
Finding an employer who'll support you towards CEng or IEng
All civil and structural engineering employers will claim to provide on-the-job training and most will support you during your professional qualifications, but you need to find out the details. Do thorough research to find employers that run training 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.
Join a professional body as a student and use it to boost your CV
Student membership of the ICE or Institution of Structural Engineers and similar bodies looks good on your CV and it’s free for both the ICE and the Institution of Structural Engineers. Both provide student members with access to:
- Networking opportunities and connections
- Grants, bursaries and student competitions
- Access to publications, literature and technical updates.
You can add to your CV any time that you have got involved with your professional body – for example, by entering competitions and attending conferences – to help prove your interest in the profession. Not sure where to add it on your CV? You can put it under a section called ‘Involvement with professional bodies’ or ‘Attendance at industry events and conferences’ or similar.