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Nope, an MEng (or Master of Engineering to give it its full title) isn’t a character from a dodgy sci-fi movie; it’s a bona fide engineering qualification. You might think of it as an undergraduate course trussed up in master’s degree clothing, but it’s more like an advanced bachelor’s degree—with the emphasis on ‘advanced’.
Instead of the customary three years for an undergraduate degree, an MEng takes four years, or five years if you’re studying it in bonnie Scotland. Long story short: it’s taken by those wishing to become Chartered Engineers. It’s the minimum educational requirement and one of the shortest ways of gaining Chartered Engineer status.
What’s the difference between a BEng & an MEng?
The primary difference between the two is that one fulfils the minimum educational requirement to become a Chartered Engineer, and the other doesn’t. Students with a BEng (Bachelor of Engineering) can go on to gain incorporated engineer status or they can study an MSc in engineering to qualify as a Chartered Engineer. However, if you do an MEng, you’ll be immediately ready to undertake the Initial Professional Development (i.e. on-the-job training) to become a Chartered Engineer.
Secondly, the course structure differs: a BEng tends to last three years, an MEng four years. For the first three years of the course, an MEng follows a similar structure to a BEng; the real difference is in that final, fourth year. Unlike a BEng, the last year of the course is at an advanced level and is usually dominated by a substantial project which often has a research element to it. This extra year is intended to give engineers an opportunity to undertake in-depth work, broaden their skills and knowledge, and, ultimately, increase their employability.
Another difference is that MEng courses tend to have higher entry requirements than BEng courses. Currently, the minimum entry requirement for an MEng course as set by the ECUK is BBB at A-level. For a BEng, it’s CCC. Obviously, many universities set higher entry standards for their engineering courses than ECUK’s minimum.
Your choice between MEng or BEng might be dictated by the university you opt for. Universities such as Imperial, Cambridge or Oxford only offer MEng courses, while other universities might give students the chance to transfer between the two courses. That means students starting on the BEng in some institutions can transfer to the MEng course if they meet certain educational requirements.
International students might only need a BEng to qualify as a Chartered Engineer in their own country and so opt for the shorter BEng course. Students who want to study engineering at university but who don’t necessarily want to pursue an engineering career afterwards might choose a BEng over an MEng.
MEng or BEng & MSc?
An MEng isn’t the only route to qualification as a Chartered Engineer. Students have the option of taking the BEng and then doing an MSc. So what’s the difference?
With an MEng, you have it all in one easy package. You do four years at the same university which means you don’t have to apply separately for a master’s degree, and you get your minimum educational requirements for CEng out of the way in one solid chunk. Students are then free to complete their Initial Professional Development with an employer.
Seems like a no-brainer then? Not really. Plenty of students take another route to gaining the minimum educational requirements for Chartered Engineer status. They do this through taking a BEng followed by an approved and accredited MSc in Engineering. It’s still four years of study, but the MSc isn’t part of the BEng course.
Students have plenty of reasons for opting for the BEng and MSc route. Some find the three year commitment of a BEng fits in more with their career plans or personal development. For example, they might want do the BEng, work for a couple of years and then take a specialised accredited MSc. This has the added bonus that some employers will pay for the student to take an approved MSc.
Another point worth considering is that, at the moment, the MEng is considered an undergraduate qualification by the rest of Europe. It isn’t regarded as a professional engineering qualification, whereas having a BEng and an approved MSc is.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you. Research both options thoroughly, ask around and find the course which is right for you.