Engineering 101: How to choose a degree programme for 2023



Published Jul 25, 2022


Engineering has long been a popular field of study for school-leavers because of the high demand for qualified and experienced professionals in this field, the diversity of options within the field, and the interesting and varied nature of life as an engineer.

However, contrary to the road to career success for prospective engineers of the past, study options have increased dramatically from the historically limited public university offering.

Education expert Neil Manson advises that those who are interested in this field should ensure they consider all their options so as to align their chosen branch of engineering with their personal goals, as well as their ability to make an immediate and positive contribution in the workplace, beyond mere academic and theoretical knowledge.

Manson is the Head of School: Engineering, Science and Health at The Independent Institute of Education, one of South Africa’s largest and most accredited private higher education provider.

“The specifics of admission requirements for various institutions vary, but it’s safe to say that if you are great at maths, physics and chemistry and have a good command of English or the language of instruction of the institution, engineering is an excellent and sustainable choice of study,” said Manson.

Manson noted that perceptions of a career in engineering can be quite limited, but that it is worth noting that the day-to-day life of an engineer – whether in public or private sector – incorporates many different facets depending on specialisation, which can include:

· Designing materials, components, systems or processes.

· Planning the capacity and location of infrastructure.

· Investigating, advising and reporting on engineering problems.

· Improvement of materials, components, systems or processes.

· Managing or operating plants and processes.

· Managing implementation or construction projects.

· Implementing designs or solutions.

· Research, development and commercialisation of products.

· Education, training and development of engineering personnel.

· Postgraduate studies, research and teaching

“Furthermore, students who graduate with an engineering degree have valuable and sought-after knowledge, skills and attributes that enable them to work and excel in multi-disciplinary projects and easily expand into other industries, such as banking, insurance, ICT and many others,” Manson said.

Manson said the non-negotiable boxes that need to be checked when investigating which engineering degree to pursue and where are to ensure that accreditation with the Engineering Council of South Africa (ECSA) is in place and that the institution is accredited with the Council for Higher Education (CHE).

“It is also then important, after those matters have been dealt with, to find an institution that has a close link with industry and that the curriculum is contemporary and updated.

“While engineers are in high demand, companies are also careful to scrutinise the quality of qualifications, an institution’s reputation for producing work-ready graduates, and the likely ability of a graduate to consistently perform at the highest level.

“Engineering is a complex field and engineers carry a lot of responsibility – sometimes life and death responsibilities – on their shoulders. So it is important not only for satisfying employer demands, but also for developing and empowering yourself to be able to fulfil your duties with confidence, that you find an institution and qualification where the classes are small and you can receive individual attention that goes beyond just covering the theory,” he said.

Manson suggested that those interested in the field ask prospective higher education institutions for a tour of their campus facilities, and look out for up-to-date facilities and laboratories, inspiring campus grounds, and modern programme design.

He said prospective students should also enquire about a faculty’s focus on sustainability, its level of industry engagement, its focus on real-life communities in its curriculum, its focus on entrepreneurial development and the extent to which it provides its students with collaborative research opportunities and industry interaction.

“Engineering is a tremendously rewarding career and opportunities will continue to grow locally and globally even during tough economic times. Matriculants with the academic ability to be successful, and a keen interest in the field, would do well to investigate their opportunities and find the perfect fit within the field for them, as well as the right institution to develop them holistically and help them get ready to contribute upon graduation,” Manson added.