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Professional qualifications for graduate engineers

The next step from your engineering degree is chartered engineer status.

Graduate engineers from all core disciplines should aim to achieve accredited chartered engineer status. Chartered engineers are seen as professionals who possess a recognised and guaranteed level of skills, competences and standards.

Chartered engineer status (CEng) ensures quality, employability and professional recognition. The first step in career development for graduates is to get a position with an employer that runs a graduate programme accredited with Engineers Ireland or The Institution of Engineering and Technology. Working within a graded graduate programme enables you to achieve chartered engineer status within a few years of qualifying.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD) has also become a key element for engineering professionals at all levels, and involves ongoing development and training in both technical and non-technical areas.

Republic of Ireland

The three basic requirements for chartered status in the Republic of Ireland are to have an accredited level 8 or level 9 degree; to have a working/training period (Initial Professional Development) that lasts four years, and to submit written work in the form of a practice report and essays; and to attend for professional interview. You are also likely to be required to participate in several recommended training courses, particularly for employer-run graduate programmes. In addition to working within the criteria set out for employer-run graduate programmes, you must participate in several recommended training courses. All of the following topics must be covered: project management, financial awareness, managerial leadership, personal development/communication skills, legislation, quality and IT skills.

Students graduating in 2013 onwards will require a level 9 masters degree or equivalent to be eligible for the title 'Chartered'.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland the criteria are almost identical. Ideally, you will gain employment with an accredited employer, ie one who has an Initial Professional Development Scheme that enables you to develop required skills and competences as set out by the Institution of Engineering and Technology.

You will need to complete a minimum of two years of work. You must produce a development action plan in consultation with your line manager. Records of learning and competences must be kept. When you feel ready, and in consultation with mentor, sponsor and management, you can apply for registration as a chartered engineer. You must prepare a qualifying report on professional development (QRPD), and must then attend an hour-long professional review interview. You should consult The Institution of Engineering and Technology website for full details with regard to accreditation.

Postgraduate study

Approximately ten per cent of Irish engineering graduates pursue further study. In most cases, the demand for their skills allows it to be a purely interest-led choice rather than a necessity. However, even in the positive job market, a postgraduate degree can be an effective way of raising your profile above those of your peers. Postgraduate courses in engineering can enable you to change career direction by converting to a similar but different engineering field, or they can allow you to specialise in a particular aspect of your degree, improving your chances of getting a job in that area.

Disciplines where there are many new advances, such as electronics, microelectronics, robotics and mechatronics, can require specialist postgraduate study more than others. Technology in these areas is constantly evolving, so the need for in-depth knowledge and/or a research background is more relevant – and often a requirement, depending on your field of interest. Billions of euros are now invested in supporting research and development in science and technology in Ireland, and many industries will require researchers in these areas. In fact the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs predicts that Ireland will have a skills deficit of up to 3,500 research scientists in the next few years. For an up-to-date list of postgraduate engineering courses, check the course database at postgradireland.com.