Engineering Doctorates (EngD): find out more about what they entail and what the experience is like from research engineer Maria Felice.
An Engineering Doctorate (EngD) is a degree of the same academic standing as a PhD, but with a very strong industrial focus. The term research engineer (RE) is used to refer to an EngD student, and each RE works on their own research project, is linked to a university and sponsoring company and has one or two supervisors at each. Most of their time as an RE is spent working at the sponsoring company.
Another characteristic of an EngD is the taught element, which typically consists of about 20 weeks of lectures, spread over the four years of the degree. Some are technical courses related to the EngD research project and some are professional development courses covering topics such as entrepreneurship and presentation skills. These courses help to form an all-rounded professional who will quickly move up the career ladder.
The EngD is a British postgraduate education programme that started in 1992 and is promoted by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Companies consider it a great way of recruiting leading technical people who will be happy in their work place, because an EngD is a two-way, four-year long interview. Universities also benefit because the EngD is an efficient technology transfer route and it boosts universities’ reputation within industry.
An EngD is an attractive option for young engineers who are keen to do something exciting and challenging. It is a particularly suitable option for those who are torn between an academic or industrial route, which I think is a common feeling among engineering undergraduates.
An EngD is a fantastic way of applying engineering to a very real problem of industrial significance, while still performing rigorous scientific work, plus it gives you a thorough yet gentle introduction to industry and you make contacts throughout the company you are based in and also in other companies within the industry via collaborative work.
You also get to network with academics at your university and further afield, at conferences for example. Making contacts is not only useful for future job-hunting, but it is also a good way of finding out what other engineers do on a day-to-day basis so that you can make more informed career choices.
As an RE, your EngD research project is very much your responsibility, which means you must manage your time and budget and organise project meetings for your academic and industrial supervisors, who might be geographically far apart. This autonomy is all fantastic training for future years and also allows you to be creative and do things your own way, whilst being funded and supervised.
It is my 16th month as an RE now and I am very pleased with my choice. I enjoy the variety of work, which ranges from very theoretical and rigorous academic work to hands-on work in an industrial setting. This unique mix means that I have opportunities to present at international conferences but also can sit in company meetings and hear about strategy and budgets. I definitely feel that, on completion of my EngD, whether I choose to go into academia or industry, I will possess the necessary hard and soft skills.
Some people feel that a PhD is more scientifically rigorous than an EngD, but an EngD requires the novel contribution to knowledge just like a PhD. The final assessment is a viva voce during which you must defend your scientific work and also discuss the industrial applications of your findings. For this reason, there are academic and industrial experts present. The immediate and direct usefulness of your research work is particularly attractive in today’s economic climate.
If you are still at university and like the sound of this, start reading about different EngD opportunities and making enquiries as soon as possible so that you can apply at the beginning of your final year, or whenever applications open. If you would rather pause your education for a while, or have already done so, fear not because many employed engineers embark on an EngD and are successful. Some carry out their research with their current employer and therefore often have a big say in the choice of project topic.
For more information about EngDs programmes, funding and applications visit the EPSRC website [new window] and also the Association of Engineering Doctorates [new window].