The automotive industry of the last 100 years is fast transitioning into the mobility industry of tomorrow. This evolution has a direct impact on the needs of the industry, especially in terms of what type of engineer is required to develop mobility solutions for the future. When it comes to automotive engineering there are a range of study options available to you through university, an apprenticeship or work experience placements. Make sure you take the time to research all of your options and find the one that suits you best.

The world of automotive engineering is not just about making and building cars. There is the design process, the electronics side and more recently computer science, software and data disciplines. The automotive industry of today is truly international so in addition to the technical and logistical skills you’ll also need to have good people skills, effective communication and a determination to continually learn and progress. 

In today’s technological environment, organisations demand a broad mix of requirements compared with the traditional automotive industry of old. There will always be opportunity for mechanical engineers, of course. No matter how they are propelled, driven (or not driven), stopped and parked – mechanics still form the basic principles of mobility. However, as more technology is required to meet with our growing expectations, more opportunities open up for electrical engineers, along with such areas as IT, data, telematics and even robotics specialists.

Automotive Engineering

The great thing about automotive engineering is that it combines aspects of mechanical, electrical, electronic, software and safety engineering. You will be able to look at how engineering shapes the design, manufacture and operation of all forms of automated transport, from supercars to buses to future forms of sustainable transport. You can be doing anything from analysing applied design and testing to focusing on current issues like green technologies and how automotive engineering is finding the answers to tomorrow’s problems. A Bachelor of Science degree is a great place to start and could lead you onto a Masters or even a PhD.

Mechanical Engineering

Mechanical engineering courses enable you to combine maths, science, technology, business and management. It’s an excellent way of studying engineering and also picking up transferable skills to give you an all-round experience. It’s not unusual to find industrial placements as part of mechanical engineering courses which can give you a broad range of options once you have completed your studies. In the USA, mechanical engineering bachelor’s degrees have limited opportunities to specialise in automotive and so it’s common for students to go on to study a Masters in automotive engineering.

Electrical/Electronics Engineering

A course in electrical engineering involves focusing on economy, safety, reliability, quality and sustainability. Studying physics, chemistry and mathematics at school is a good start if you’re interested in studying electrical engineering. As more and more systems become computerised in the automotive industry, an appreciation of electrical engineering, such as using computer-assisted design and modelling, will be vital to your future success.  This useful article highlights the history and future of the electric vehicle.

Then what?

Well, there are an almost infinite number of options open to you! You could study a Masters, a PhD, or you could take the next big step and become certified.

First things first, if you want to study any kind of engineering degree at university, maths, physics and / or chemistry A levels, AS levels and/or Vocational A levels are essential.

These subjects, often referred to as STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) will give you the building blocks around which much of the automotive industry is based on.

Work Experience

Work experience and hands-on placements are extremely important for all students looking to get ahead in the industry. In general terms, competition for advertised roles is fierce and you will need to spend time honing your applications, to be able to demonstrate ‘work-readiness’ - a key way of standing out from the crowd. Gaining good qualifications from recognised universities is important, but these are more impactful when delivered with a focus on being ready for the workplace, as this is an ever-increasing capability required from the employer’s perspective.

Do whatever you can while studying in order to demonstrate that you are ready in terms of the technical expectation of a potential employer and the all important work ethic that will be required throughout your career.

Focus on what interests you and what you would like to learn more about; don’t be afraid to ask questions and take any opportunity offered – you will discover an area of automotive engineering that you enjoy and excel at that you didn’t know about before looking into the possibilities. Find out more by attending events, sign up to newsletters and follow companies on social media.