How to become an engineer without a degree |A complete Guide 2021

How to become an engineer without a degree
Engineer working with circuits. A woman engineer solders circuits sitting at a table. Microchip production factory. Assembling the PCB board. Girl repairing electronic device on the circuit board.

Typically, you need an engineering degree as a prerequisite to become an engineer. But, is it possible to become an engineer without an engineering degree? If yes, then how can one become an engineer without a degree?

In this article, you will find the answers to these questions to help you make that big decision about becoming an engineer.

But just before we go into the details of this topic, let’s begin from the very top…

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What is engineering?

Engineering is the branch of science and technology that uses scientific and mathematical principles to build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and buildings.

The aim of developing all of these machines and structures is for the benefit of people.

Also, those who practice engineering do so to solve technical problems and achieve practical goals.

These people are called engineers and there are several different types of engineers.

They include, civil, mechanical, electrical, chemical, environmental, software and aerospace engineers among many others.

But becoming an engineer is not child’s play.

So, this brings us to another important question… 

What does it take to become an engineer?

Generally, the requirements to become an engineer will vary depending on engineering vertical, role and organization.

However all, all engineers must possess certain skills and traits. 

To succeed as an engineer, you must be 

  • Proficient in mathematics and science
  • Highly analytical and detail-oriented
  • Imaginative and creative
  • Have Good communication skills
  • Enjoy working in teams
  • Enjoy building or improving the way things work

If you are to go through school, then a few core courses you will see in an undergraduate engineering program will include:

  • Calculus I, II and III
  • Circuits and instrumentation
  • Differential equations
  • Physics
  • Principles of chemistry for engineers

Then, for more specific engineering disciplines, you will require extensive knowledge in that area, which you can learn both in college courses and on the job.

What soft skills do engineers require?

Becoming an engineer does not stop at going through school alone.

In addition to extensive technical mastery, engineers also need a fair share of soft skills. 

To solve the world’s problems to the best of their ability, successful engineers boast the following traits in addition to technical knowledge:

  • A need to know how products and processes work and a desire to fix them or make them better
  • The ability to apply theory to real-world projects in potentially ground-breaking ways
  • Being able to do whatever it takes—and for however long—to solve a tricky problem
  • Most engineers work on teams, so listening, communication and teamwork skills are crucial
  • The ability to not only execute tasks but guide and lead a team

If you possess some or all of these qualities, you may thrive as an engineer.

Note that these soft skills are irrespective of whether you are an engineering degree holder or not.

Is becoming an engineer worth it?

Becoming an engineer is one of the most challenging academic pursuits available. 

By completing it you will have greatly advanced your knowledge, work ethic, and ability to conquer challenges. 

One of its biggest benefits, that many other degrees don’t provide, is rigor. 

Becoming an engineer is hard!

Because of the difficulty in achieving this academic pursuit, learning other areas seems easier in comparison.

Also, engineering is one of the most rewarding and fun professions in the world. 

A degree in any engineering field can take you all over the world and help you make a nice salary. 

An engineering degree doesn’t just teach you how to be a great engineer, but rather a great manager, businessman, and entrepreneur.

So, does that mean that becoming an engineer is worth it?

Most definitely!! 

Becoming an engineer is worth it if you have a passion for building stuffs that solve human problems.

How to become an engineer without a degree

So, your desire to become an engineer is overwhelmingly high, but you can’t afford a proper education.

Or, let’s say for some reasons beyond your control, you cannot get an engineering degree. 

How, then, can you become an engineer without a degree?

Professionally, for anyone to be called an engineer, he/she must have an engineering degree or relative degrees. 

Otherwise, engineers are just people who have developed their critical thinking and problem-solving skills with a huge amount of knowledge.

So, here are a few things that you can do to become an engineer without a degree.

#1. Learn engineering on YouTube

This may sound ridiculous, but trust me when I say you can become a proficient engineer watching just YouTube videos.

Remember that engineering is all about creating stuff that solves problems.

There are several engineers on YouTube today who share how they create new solutions to existing problems.

You can follow their steps, practicalize and become an engineer, though without a degree.

If you follow YouTubers like Mark Rober and M4 Tech, you will be blown by their extreme engineering techniques.

What you just need is someone to guide you step by step as you practice.

Although, this may take much time as there are not specific curriculum to follow.

However, if you discipline yourself to learn, you can become an engineer in a shorter time.

#2. Get vocational training from an expert

Even though an engineering degree is very important, it is the practice that matters.

Therefore, learning the practice is a good way to become an engineer.

There are experts in different fields of engineering who are already taking interns with no experience at all.

The only requirement is a passion to learn the craft.

There are some vocational training centres that may issue you a certificate at the end of your training.

If you are lucky to find such, then that will be a plus.

This brings us to the third way to become an engineer without an engineering degree.

#3. Pursue an engineering job that doesn’t require an engineering degree

While most engineering jobs require a bachelor’s degree or higher in engineering, certain fields are easier to break into than others without an engineering degree.

According to Interesting Engineering, electrical engineering is the easiest field to enter without a formal degree.

That’s because you can gain proficiency in the field through self-study, experimentation and hard work.

In 2018, electrical engineering technician jobs paid an average of $64,330.

Guess what?

This technician job typically does not require a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

However, they do require some formal training – either an associate’s degree or vocational training.

What are the branches of engineering I can practice without having a college degree?

We’ve talked about the electrical engineering technician above.

However, there are many other engineering disciplines that do not require a degree.

Other engineering disciplines that you can practice without a degree include:

  • Chemical engineering – ideal for those with a background in chemistry, biology or other life sciences
  • Mechanical engineering – ideal for those with a bachelor’s degree in a technical field
  • Civil engineering – one of the more difficult fields to break into without an engineering degree, though it is possible to work up the ranks at a company (i.e. construction worker to foreman to drafter to engineer)

With the right connections and work ethic, you can plausibly find an engineering job without an engineering degree.

#4. Go back to school to earn your bachelor’s or master’s in an engineering discipline

Okay, this article is supposed to be about ways to become an engineer without an engineering degree.

However, there are situations where the only thing that can save you is a recognized engineering degree.

For instance, if you wish to join  a professional body or get your engineering license, you may need to show your degree certificate.

Also, some employers may not be willing to hire you as an engineer without an engineering degree.

So, whatever the reason you don’t have an engineering degree, you can always sort it out.

For instance, if you have a problem with funding your degree program, you can apply for a scholarship. 

There are tons of fully-paid scholarships programs available for different engineering disciplines.

Also, if you have a day job that you cannot forfeit for school, then you can choose an only program instead.

There are many online engineering degree programs as well that you can apply for and gain a recognized engineering degree certificate. 

So, do well to identify what your challenges are because there may be a solution for you out there.

Can I call myself an engineer without having a degree certificate?

This question is a question of legality, more than anything else.

In many jurisdictions, the term “engineer” denotes a “professional.” 

This is the same thing as someone who has been certified to practice, as a lawyer or doctor would be. 

Although there are some occasional legal ramifications for people who describe themselves as engineers without possessing such certification.

So, if we are to rephrase the question to be “can a person be called an engineer?”

Then, I’d guess there’s nowhere where there would be any legal consequence for someone else calling you an engineer, so long as you didn’t lead anyone to rely upon that assertion.

Also, certification of engineers typically applies only in fields where human safety is at stake.

So certification and licensing of structural, airframe, and civil engineers is taken very seriously.

Whereas, software engineers, for instance, would be a non-issue.

Can I get an engineering license without a degree?

The requirements for getting a license as a Professional Engineer (PE) varies from one location to another.

While one location may require a certain number of years of experience plus a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, another may have something different altogether. 

So, the bottom line is that getting a license as an engineer without an engineering degree will depend on your location.

And for places where licensing is a must, they do so to ensure that only professionals undertake the risk involved in being an engineer.

For instance, most civil engineers need to be licensed as Professional Engineers (PEs) in order to be allowed to stamp official plans. 

This is because civil engineering jobs are usually bogus and may cost the lives of users if the plan fails.

Although a bachelor’s in engineering is required to get an engineering license, it is still plausible that you could become a subset of an engineering body without a degree.

Conclusion

So yes, you can become an engineer without a degree, but it is far easier to go and get a degree than to wait for and gain years of experience for a position. Engineers often need to be licensed to work in the field, and so it is technically not possible to be an engineer without a degree due to high-risk job responsibilities.

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