Engineers use our knowledge about the behaviour of the physical world to harness its natural forces and so contribute to the fulfilment of the material needs of humankind. While many of the techniques used by engineers are shared with physicists and mathematicians, engineering is distinct from science in that its essential activity is the design and production of useful devices. As a graduate engineer you will be a member of a profession, in just the same way as a doctor or a lawyer, but your work is likely to involve you in devising and planning mechanical, electrical and civil structures and machines, and in managing their production, construction and operation.
In most other universities you would be required at a very early stage to choose a specific branch of the engineering profession. The procedure at Cambridge is rather different: the first two years (Parts IA and IB) are a common unified course. During this period the aim is to give you a sound knowledge of the principles underlying all the main branches of the profession, irrespective of your ultimate field.
The third and fourth years (Parts IIA and IIB) of the Engineering Tripos require you to specialise on a particular engineering area. During the third year engineering students choose ten modules from a list of more than thirty. The fourth year courses are also organised on a modular basis, allowing strong specialisation, and students also do a major year-long design or research project. An alternative to Part II of the Engineering Tripos is Parts I and II of the Manufacturing Engineering Tripos. It is also possible to combine Part I Engineering with the one-year Tripos in Management Studies, or to transfer to the Chemical Engineering Tripos after Part IA.
We are sympathetic to those applicants who wish to delay the start of their university career by spending the year after they have completed their GCE A levels working either in the UK or abroad. Several large companies operate excellent training schemes whereby they take on students as school leavers and provide them with up to 12 months training before the start of formal university teaching. We can also recommend the schemes operated by 'The Year in Industry' and the Smallpeice Trust. A real benefit of this type of experience arises from the insight it can provide of how industry is organised, and research, design and production carried out in practice. Company sponsorship can be financially attractive as some firms offer scholarships and bursaries, which can supplement your student loan. Sponsorships are highly competitive (more so than general university entry) and so application early in the last year in school is advisable. In order to obtain your professional qualification and be recognised as a Chartered Engineer by one of the major Engineering Institutions you will need, in addition to your degree, about two years of appropriate industrial experience. Any suitable experience gained before coming up to University as well as that from Long Vacation employment with a sponsoring company can count towards this total.
Details of companies offering training and sponsorships can be found in Education Opportunities for Students and Graduates available from the Education Service of each of the following:
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers
1 Birdcage Walk
Web site - www.imeche.org
The Institution of Engineering and Technology
London, WC2 0BL
Web site - www.theiet.org.uk
The Institution of Civil Engineers
1 Great George Street
London, SW1P 3AA
Web site - www.ice.org.uk
Information on industrial placements between school and university can be obtained from:
National Director; The Year in Industry
Web site - www.yini.org.uk
The Hobson's Engineering Guide contains information on careers in Engineering, and their website contains details of current vacancies and work experience placements:
Hobson's Publishing Ltd
Cambridge, CB2 1LZ
Web site - www.hobsons.co.uk
Details about the Engineering Education Scheme, which provides career information for sixth-formers, can be obtained from:
Welwyn Garden City
Hertfordshire, AL7 2AA
Web site - www.etrust.org.uk/engineering-education-scheme
Also highly recommended is the Smallpeice Trust Scheme which provides an excellent training programme with work experience overseas as part of the package. Details from:
The Smallpeice Trust
74 Upper Holly Walk
Warwickshire, CV32 4JL
Web site - www.smallpeicetrust.org.uk
Updated June 2013