What can you do with a general engineering degree?

An essential guide to what you will learn on a general engineering course, what you should study to get your place on a degree, and what jobs you can get once you graduate
March 21 2017

What is general engineering?

General engineering is the branch of science and technology dealing with the design, building, maintenance and use of engines, machines and structures. It includes subcategories such as electrical, chemical, mechanical, civil, architectural engineering and computer engineering.

Engineers are essential to finding solutions to both developing and developed economies’ problems.

Engineering is directly linked to environmental, economic, legal, social and political contexts, so a broader degree in general engineering, or even a double degree of engineering with another discipline might help you exercise your skills better.

General engineering is also a good option for those who are undecided on the kind of engineering they’d like to specialise in. Some universities will give you the option to do a general engineering degree in your first year and then choose the area of the discipline you’d like to pursue in your second year.

The best universities to study engineering

What might you find on a general engineering degree?

A general three or four year engineering degree usually includes covers an overview in the first year with the option to possibly specialise into a branch of engineering in the second year or third year.

Typical first year courses are mathematics with computation, mathematics for engineers and scientists, experimentation, engineering design, mechanical engineering, electromagnetism, thermodynamics and fluid mechanics, electronic measurement, applied mechanics and electric and electronic engineering.

Second year may include modules in further engineering mathematics, further experimentation, further electrical engineering, computer-Based modelling, business simulation and classical control. In addition, you may choose to study such courses as communications, electrical engineering, electromagnetism and electronics, embedded systems, properties and processing of materials, mechanics of structures, thermodynamics and fluid dynamics.

Some universities offer the option of doing a project or study abroad in the third year of university.

In the last year of your degree, you may expect to study management, further communications, advanced electrical engineering, electrical power, programmable electronics, advanced control and signal processing, advanced computer systems and digital electronics, advanced applied mechanics, advanced electrical engineering and advanced course on materials among others. 

In addition, you will carry your own engineering project.

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What should I study to do a general engineering degree?

 In order to do general engineering at university, you should ideally study mathematics and physics. Another science is often accepted instead of physics. A lot of universities will require fairly high grades in these subjects. If you don’t get these grades, you can consider a Foundation Year or take additional assessment tests.

Other subjects such as design and technology or art will help you develop your design skills, which are useful in engineering. Studying an arts or humanities subject will also help you develop written and oral communication and presentation skills which are necessary for team work - a central feature of engineering projects. These subjects will also contribute to your understanding of the world and of the socio-economic and cultural factors with which engineering directly interacts.

You may also want to undertake an extra-curricular engineering project, read engineering books, listen to engineering courses online or attend engineering conferences to prove your interest in the field.

What do people go on to do?

General engineering degrees give graduates analysis and problem solving skills, team-working and leadership skills. This allows them to go into engineering jobs in control engineering, sensors and data processing, telecommunications, computing, energy, transport and utilities companies, architectural and design companies, mobile technologies, biomedical engineering, engineering consultancies or academia.

As an engineer, you may work in laboratories, on building sites or offices. In order to advance in your career in engineering, you may have to take management responsibilities and travel nationally or internationally. You may have to take extra-hours especially when the deadlines are approaching.

Alternatively an engineers’ skill-set is highly prized in non-engineering industries such as finance, business, intellectual property agencies, academia, government bodies, think tanks, Civil Service, non-governmental organisations or regulatory bodies.

Famous people who studied general engineering

Famous people who studied engineering include director Alfred Hitchcock, who graduated from the London County Council School of Engineering and Navigation. The engineering background helped the psychological thriller and suspense director to foresee technical difficulties and come up with new solutions to them. For instance, in Vertigo, Hitchcock made the spectator feel dizzy and have double vision by inventing a technique of zooming in with a camera while moving the camera backward. He had been told this effect would be too costly so his engineering knowledge came in handy.

US President Jimmy Carter also studied engineering at Georgia Southwestern College, Georgia Tech Atlanta and Naval Academy during the Second World War. While President, Carter set up a Department of Energy, which created a national energy policy involving technological innovation, price control and conservation.


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