Vocational routes into mechanical engineering

The mechanical engineering profession has always relied on a strong vocational intake every year.

As an apprentice or a technical student, you’ll have a world of career opportunities, with the same professional development options as graduates.

What are vocational qualifications?

Vocational qualifications are official courses that teach you valuable workplace skills. They’re particularly good if you’re a practical, hands-on learner.

You can use them either as qualifications to sit alongside more academic ones, or as a route directly into an engineering job.

BTECs, Diplomas, City & Guilds and NVQs are all types of vocational qualification, and there are lots of different courses relevant to mechanical engineering careers.

You can study them at school, sixth form college or in University Technical College. These are specialist colleges that have links with local employers and a university. If you want to go into a technical mechanical engineering career, a UTC may be for you. 

What are apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly popular. They’re a great way to earn money while you learn and work. They’re a bit like on-the-job training, but you get a nationally-recognised qualification, and often a permanent job offer, at the end of it.

They last for between two and six years, depending on the level, and there are lots of different mechanical engineering roles to choose from.

The industry values apprentices for the important contribution they make, and their commitment to their career. You’ll probably earn more than the minimum wage, with big salary boosts if you become professionally registered at the end of your course. As an apprentice, you’ll have exactly the same career development opportunities open to you as everyone else in mechanical engineering.

What are the different apprenticeship types? 

There are three main types of apprenticeship:

  • Intermediate: Level 2 – equivalent to GCSEs
  • Advanced: Level 3 – equivalent to A-levels
  • Higher: Level 4+ – equivalent to HNDs or a degree

Apprenticeships are slightly different in Scotland. They’re called Modern Apprenticeships, and combine on-the-job experience with studying for SVQs.

What are my career options once I’ve completed an apprenticeship?

You could choose to take a permanent engineering technician job with your employer, or begin work on a higher level apprenticeship.

Even better, you could work towards achieving professional registration as an Engineering Technician (EngTech).

EngTech is recognised all over the world as a symbol of technical engineering expertise, and gives a big boost to your pay packet. On average, EngTech-registered mechanical engineers earn £40,000 per year.

It also opens doors for your career. You can apply for more senior roles, or even begin working towards further professional registration such as Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) Engineer status. 

Apprentice Affiliate membership

As a registered apprentice, you may be eligible for free Apprentice Affiliate membership of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Useful links

Scholarships and grants

If you go on to undertake an apprenticeship, you may be eligible for an Institution of Mechanical Engineers scholarship or award. These are designed to support your development and learning.

Get in touch

Find out more about gearing up for a career in mechanical engineering.