Top 4 types of postgraduate engineering course

Dominic Claeys-Jackson, Editor
June, 2016

There are four main engineering routes - if you're struggling to decide which one best suits your career ambitions, here's a little more information about each option

Aerospace engineering

This subject, as its title suggests, focuses on the development of aircraft and spacecraft. It can be divided into two key branches: aeronautical engineering and astronautical engineering.

Both strands fuse concepts from maths, physics and computer science, setting them within the context of aerospace vehicle operations. 'Aerospace engineering is a very rewarding discipline,' says Dr Euan McGookin, senior lecturer in aerospace sciences and convener of postgraduate taught programmes at the University of Glasgow.

The University of Glasgow's highly reputable School of Engineering - which has been the home of aerospace engineering in the UK for more than 60 years - provides two taught degree programmes in the field: MSc Aeronautical Engineering and MSc Aerospace Engineering.

The former offers modules in areas including control, space systems, navigation systems, aircraft flight dynamics, and aerodynamics and fluid dynamics, while the latter boasts modules in subjects such as control, simulation, navigation systems, autonomous guidance, aircraft flight dynamics, and radar and electro-optic systems.

Many aerospace engineering graduates pursue further study - indeed, the University of Glasgow also offers a PhD in the subject. However, those entering employment usually work for aerospace and defence companies such as Thales, Atkins, Qinetiq, Leonardo and BAE Systems.

Despite this, the transferable skills gained by studying aerospace engineering are desired by recruiters in other areas of science and engineering, such as the oil industry, the automotive industry, the armed forces and those involved with renewable energy generation.

Find your ideal programme; search for postgraduate courses in aerospace engineering.

Electronic and electrical engineering

A fairly substantial skills shortage - thanks largely to the increasingly important role that electronic products play in our everyday lives - means that electronic and electrical engineering graduates are in high demand and often command impressive salaries. However, many of the most desirable roles require applicants to have Masters-level specialism.

'A degree in electronic and electrical engineering is a passport to the world,' explains Professor Peter Wilson, professor of electronic and systems engineering at the University of Bath. Without doubt, technology underpins healthcare, computing, transportation, handheld devices, energy supply, consumer products and mobile communications.

'Almost every system requires some form of electronics, and this makes it an incredibly exciting time to be an electronic and electrical engineer.'

Most graduates work in a high-technology industry, for example power, aerospace, robotics, automotive, electronics, communication and manufacturing, working in specific areas including electric vehicles, medical electronics, systems integration, autonomous systems, modern aircraft design and integrated circuit design.

Many also pursue PhDs, while other secondary areas of work include IT, management and the armed forces. There's clearly plenty that you can do with this subject.

Professor Marcian Cirstea is head of the Department of Computing and Technology at Anglia Ruskin University. Their MSc in Electronic and Electrical Engineering tackles topics like signal processing, hardware description languages, power conversion systems, and sustainable technologies and renewable energy.

'Students have the opportunity to investigate more in-depth specific topics related to electronic and electrical engineering,' he says.

'They are challenged and trained to design, simulate or develop hardware and software, to determine and adopt suitable engineering solutions, and to process data and critically interpret the results.'

Discover the programme that best suits your needs by searching for postgraduate courses in electronic and electrical engineering.

Mechanical engineering

One of the oldest of the engineering disciplines - seriously emerging during the 18th century industrial revolution - mechanical engineering applies the principles of engineering, physics and materials science for the design, analysis, manufacturing and maintenance of mechanical systems. It offers at least some overlap with the three other engineering branches discussed within this article.

Graduates commonly enter the oil and gas and automotive industries, and there's much happening within the mechanical engineering field - such as legislative challenges designed to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Chris Brace and Jamie Turner are professors in the University of Bath's Department of Mechanical Engineering, which hosts an MSc in Automotive Engineering. 'A career in mechanical engineering has never been more varied or rewarding, or provided such scope for improving the living standards of people around the globe,' they claim.

Chris and Jamie point out that the economic, societal and personal benefits brought by the motor car are ever-fundamental, particularly in regions currently enjoying industrial growth. However, this is balanced by the need to decarbonise and clean up the industry during a period of rapid societal change - something that they term 'the biggest threat to affordable mobility'.

'It also presents great challenges in terms of technology development and scientific research supporting the human need to travel, within an arena which helps to provide hundreds of thousands of jobs worldwide,' they add.

If this strand of engineering is right for you, search for postgraduate courses.

Transport engineering

If contributing to the effective development and management of the nation's transport infrastructure attracts you, then consider this route.

Transport engineering graduates plan, design, construct, maintain and operate transport infrastructures, helping to boost their safety, economy, sustainability and environmental friendliness. They can specialise in areas such as ports, highways, railways or cycleways, working for contractors, local authorities or consulting engineers' offices.

Dr Amer Ali, director of MSc Transportation Engineering and Planning at London South Bank University, which also offers the similar MSc Civil Engineering and MSc Structural Engineering, says that participants leave university with the qualifications to satisfy their personal ambitions - and, more importantly, access to excellent job opportunities.

'This specialised course is designed to enhance the knowledge and skills of transportation professionals,' he explains.

The programme, which is fully accredited as meeting the Engineering Council requirements for further learning for Chartered Engineer (CEng) status, involves a research project, plus modules including: finite elements analysis; development and regeneration; highway engineering and operations; railway engineering and asset management; analysis and design of transport systems; transport, society and planning; and safety, survey techniques and quantitative methods.

Search for more postgraduate courses in transport engineering.