How Long Does It Take To Become An Engineer? Full Guide

become an engineer

To be an engineer, you have to find the course you want, study and pass assessments then get work placements that will qualify you to work in the industry. The process is slightly different for every pathway, so we will explain exactly how long it takes to become an engineer in any discipline, what challenges you will face and how easy it is to get the degree.

Generally, it takes 4 years of full-time study for students to get their bachelor’s degree in engineering. This degree qualifies the student to work and understand their industry’s challenges. However, some universities will offer the same course for 5 years. The extra year is for work placement, where students are required to get an internship at 1 or 2 companies to obtain their bachelor’s degree.

Bachelor’s degree qualifies students for a job but becoming a professional engineer takes years of practice in the industry, which is usually 5-7 years before an engineer becomes fully competent and realised as a senior engineer in their company.

If you pursue higher education after your bachelor’s. Master’s degrees generally require 2-3 years of full-time study, depending on your project. Upon completion, students will have more knowledge and understanding of their niched engineering industry, giving them the chance to get a high-paying job or pursue higher education.

Doing your doctoral or PhD generally takes 3-4 years of full-time study, depending on your research. PhD in engineering qualifies students to become academics in their engineering discipline, including being a university lecturer, academic researcher, or both.

While the above is quite general, below, you can find a full guide on how long it takes to do a bachelor’s, master’s, and PhD in every engineering discipline.

How long does it take to become an engineer in your engineering field?

There are many degrees in engineering and many universities that offer the same course. There are slight differences in how the course is offered in each university. This is usually due to the teaching style, internship required and university ranking. This has created a slight difference in course length. This is why we have researched how long it takes to finish every engineering course across the top 10 universities in the world.

At the time of writing, these are the top universities in the world (Not in order):

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  2. University of Cambridge
  3. Stanford University
  4. University of Oxford
  5. Harvard University
  6. California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
  7. Imperial College London
  8. University College London (UCL)
  9. ETH Zurich
  10. University of Chicago

The following should give you a general idea of how long it can take to do every engineering degree. These are average results based on the top universities in the world.

Bachelors DegreeMasters DegreePhDTotal years of study
Civil and Environmental Engineering4 Years2 Years3-4 Years9-10 Years
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science4 Years1-2 Years3-4 Years8-10 Years
Mechanical Engineering 4 Years2-3 Years3-5 Years9-12 Years
Chemical Engineering4 Years1-2 Years4-5 Years9-11 Years
Software Engineering 4 Years2 Years5-7 Years11-13 Years
Aerospace Engineering 4 Years1-3 Years4-6 Years9-13 Years
Biomedical Engineering3-4 Years2-3 Years4-6 Years9-13 Years
Mechatronics Engineering4 Years 2-3 Years5-6 Years11-13 Years
Nuclear Engineering4 Years2 Years3-5 Years9-11 Years
Material Science Engineering3 Years2 Years3-4 Years8-9 Years
Industrial Engineering4 Years2 Years3-4 Years9-10 Years
Petroleum Engineering4-5 Years2 Years3-4 Years9-11 Years
Based on full-time study

Does it matter what university you go to for engineering?

The better the reputation and ranking of an engineering university, the more opportunities the student has to land a job after graduation. However, the teaching between universities overlaps, so attending a lower-ranked university does not mean you learn less.

A bachelor’s degree from the top 100 universities in the world is usually a good place to do your degree. Students graduating from those universities have more choices and work opportunities. In the eye of the employer, an MIT graduate is more likely to get at least a job interview than a graduate from Yale University.

The university you go to is not a measure of your IQ. Getting into a high-ranked university will give you more advantages when competing for graduate positions. However, experience in the industry is what matter.

After 5 years of working in the industry, the projects and the team you work with are what dictate your ability to get a promotion or get a high-paying job. So do not worry much if you have not got to the top universities in the world.

Universities are ranked based on industry outcome, academic research, teaching and passing requirements. The higher the university’s ranking, the more difficult the entry requirements are. Yet what you learn at university is usually quite general, and you will only use a small part of it in your work. In the end, the university you go it does not matter much.

Learn how irrelevant a university degree is in the grand scheme of things: How Much Of What You Learn At Engineering School Will Use At Work?

Should you pursue higher education (Masters and PhD)?

It might be very soon to discuss this topic, especially if you have not started your course. But it is good to consider higher education as an option early in your academic journey. Doing higher education requires more in-depth study and understanding of your engineering course. Students planning to do their master’s degree should aim to do their best in their bachelor’s degree.

Engineering jobs are quite competitive. Higher education means you have a better advantage over other students in getting a job after graduation and are more likely to work in your industry and beat the competition.

However, students should only consider higher education if they plan to work in academia. Otherwise, a bachelor’s degree is usually sufficient for 90% of students to get a job after graduation.

Should you do engineering part-time?

In general, doing a part-time engineering degree is not recommended, especially if it takes twice the time to finish the degree full-time. You do not want a 4-year degree to be done in 8 because you will most likely be burned out from studying and quickly forget what you have learned in year 1.

There is a reason why university degrees have a timeline and a program that students are encouraged to follow. The more you stretch your degree, the less likely you will finish the degree. However, people study part-time because they want to focus on their job or family.

It is okay to reduce the intensity of your course because you want to focus on other things, for example doing 3 units a semester instead of 4. In fact, it can be okay to extend a 4-year degree to 5 or even 6 years if you have to. However, anything beyond that adds more risk of losing interest in the course because of other commitments.

Do you need a high GPA to get a job in engineering

GPA or grade point average is the marking criteria used globally by universities to track student performance. The higher the grading, the better results student have. Most universities follow the 7 GPA grading system. A GPA of 4 is an average level student, a GPA of 5 indicates an above-average level, while a GPA of 6 indicates outstanding student performance.

Naturally, the higher the GPA, the more eye-catching your resume is for an employer. For some students, GPA becomes more important than learning which is not okay. We have noted some bad side effects when caring too much about your academic results; read: When Marks In Engineering Degree Matter And When It Doesn’t

As a side note, this is how you can calculate your GPA:

For example, these are the results for a student:

SubjectResultsCredit Point (CP)*
Subject 1HD6
Subject 2C6
Subject 3P3
Subject 4D6
Subject 5D3
*Each subject in university is allocated a certain amount of credit points based on importance. In this example, Subjects 1,2 & 4 are more important than Subjects 3 & 5.

Using the table below, we can find out the percentage and GP of those results:

GradePercentageDefinitionGrade Point (GP)
HD85%-100%High Distinction7

GPA = [(Sub1 GP x CP) + (Sub2 GP x CP) + . . (SubN GP x CP)] /(Total CP enrolled)

GPA = [(7 x 6 ) + (5 x 6) +(4 x 3) + (6 x 6) + (6 x 3)] / (6 + 6 + 3 +6 + 3) = 138/24 = 5.75 (Above average to advance level)

Is getting a PE License worth it?

Becoming a professional engineer (PE) is the highest level of competence an engineer can have, and it shows that the engineer is capable of doing his job to the highest level of quality. Most engineers might refer to this stage as the final step to becoming a true engineer, where the engineer becomes licensed by a state board of registration to practice engineering.

A PE license is achieved by having an engineering degree from an accredited university and working in the relevant engineering field for at least 5 to 7 years before applying for the PE exam.

However, most engineers can work as engineers without having a PE license. In fact, most engineers never do their PE. Although having a PE might give you a bump in your salary, this is not always the case as most engineering companies measure the engineer’s ability by the years working in the industry. Overall, getting your PE is good to have but not essential.

Engineering salary expectations compared to education level

We can not discuss how long it takes to become an engineer without discussing what salary you can expect after finishing a critical stage of your education. The following is a range of salaries (average salary) you can expect in the different stages of your education.

UndergraduateBachelors DegreeMasters DegreePhD
Civil and Environmental Engineering$38,000$65,000$95,000$130,000
Electrical Engineering and Computer Science$42,000$75,000$99,000$148,000
Mechanical Engineering $39,000$71,000$100,000$130,000
Chemical Engineering$34,000$67,000$97,000$135,000
Software Engineering $55,000$82,000$105,000$155,000
Aerospace Engineering $52,000$75,000$88,000$140,000
Biomedical Engineering$37,000$83,000$88,000$110,000
Mechatronics Engineering$45,000$72,000$82,000$129,000
Nuclear Engineering$57,000$80,000$120,000$148,000
Material Science Engineering$33,000$63,000$80,000$149,000
Industrial Engineering$36,000$72,000$120,000$140,000
Petroleum Engineering$52,000$78,000$95,000$137,000

Disclaimer: Salary is based on averaged US Salary income collected from Indeed, ZipRecruiter, PayScale, other income report websites and private sources. The actual salary might differ slightly based on location, company, position and other factors.

Does the university you go to affect salary earning

The university you go to does not affect how much salary you can make. Although a high-ranked university can give you more advantages in competing for graduate positions, it does not affect the salary.

Employers base their salary figures based on market expectations. Usually, a high number of graduate engineers means lower average salaries and vice versa. However, we see an increasing trend in graduate engineers every year, which means the average salary for graduate engineers will likely go down or stay the same.

This makes graduate engineers more of a commodity which means jobs are offered more to students that go to better universities and have high academic performance with average market salary.

As for engineers who worked in the industry for a while, the experience, competence and type of projects they worked on dictate how much they can make.

For higher education, such as master’s and PhD graduates, the university they went to can affect the salary indirectly depending on the programs they offer, while the academic work and research they did directly affect the salary.

How long does it take to do a diploma in engineering? And is it worth it?

Getting a diploma in engineering might not apply to everyone. A diploma in engineering is usually a pathway to getting your bachelor’s degree in engineering or getting an entry-level job in engineering.

Usually, a diploma in engineering takes between 8-12 months for full-time students and around 16 for part-time students. Students doing a diploma in engineering for a specific pathway to do a bachelor’s in usually learn the entry-level subjects of the engineering course with some math and physics.

On the other hand, a diploma in engineering does not have much effect on getting a job in the industry compared to a bachelor’s degree. Most engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree, especially in fields such as Civil engineering and chemical engineering. However, a computer and software engineering diploma can help a student get an entry-level job. So overall, getting a job with a diploma depends on the type of diploma.

The Diploma course is usually brief and only serve as a way to let student complete a bachelor’s degree. Especially for students who could not enter an engineering course due to not meeting the entry requirements. The courses give students an introduction to engineering subjects with extra help to prepare them for university.

Common Q&A about engineering degrees length

Why do some engineering degrees take 5 years?

While most engineering degrees take 4 years, some take 5 years to complete. The extra year is for work placement. Many universities require students to intern at 1 or 2 companies to gain more insights, understanding and experience in the industry. Doing an internship during studying help students establish connections with professional people in their industry, which help secure a full-time job upon graduation.

Can you become an engineer in 2 years?

No, a typical engineering degree is 3-4 years. A two-year engineering degree is usually a pathway course to prepare students for a bachelor’s degree. Upon completion, students receive a diploma in engineering.

Can you become an engineer in 1 year?

No, a typical engineering degree is 3-4 years. A one-year engineering degree is usually a pathway course to prepare students for a bachelor’s degree. Upon completion, students receive a diploma in engineering.

Become an Engineer without a degree?

While many online courses teach some real-life engineering skills, while also learn some skills from professional engineers if you work closely with them. Still, you can not call yourself an engineer without a proper engineering degree earned from a credited university.

Engineers take huge responsibility when solving problems with many considered high risks that put human lives at stake. This makes it very difficult to practice engineering without a degree, and many countries have rules and regulations to ensure only licensed engineers work on specific problems.

In addition, it is difficult to practice engineering without the technical knowledge needed. Think of engineers as doctors. Doctors can only perform surgeries if they have a medical degree; engineers can not design buildings without a civil engineering degree.

However, doing some online courses can qualify people to get entry-level engineering jobs. For example, many companies can hire employees who know how to code without a software engineering degree. People usually learn to code using the internet by signing up for courses such as Overall, practising engineering without a university degree depends on what discipline you are after—the less risk to human life, the easier it is to get a job in that field.

Is 30 too late to start an engineering degree?

It is never too late to become an engineer. In fact, the late you do engineering, the more it can benefit you. The older the person, the more experience they have in solving real-life problems. Students who attend university right after high school have not built up real-life skills that help them solve problems-generally obtained from working in the industry.

Because everything requires engineers, a 30-year-old person might have a first-hand encounter with solving real-life problems. This helps the person be more engaged with their studies and more likely to become excellent engineers.

Can you do engineering at 25 or 27?

Doing engineering in your late 20s is not a bad idea; it is the best time to do an engineering degree. It is okay to waste a few years before deciding to do a course in engineering. At least you are 100% confident that you want to do it.

Is it hard to become an engineer?

Engineering is a skill that you need to practice. The more you do it, the better you become at it. This is why engineers must work for at least 5 years before reaching a seniority level in their company. Engineering becomes easier the more the person is involved at the core of the problem. What dictates success in engineering is your ability to learn relentlessly. For more reading: Top 7 Personality Traits Of Engineers For Immediate Success

Joseph Maloyan

Hi, this is Joseph, and I love writing about engineering and technology. Here I share my knowledge and experience on what it means to be an engineer. My goal is to make engineering relatable, understandable and fun!

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