To fully practise as an engineer, having a degree alone is often not enough. This is where the UK’s chartered engineer system comes into play. Professional licensing as an electrical engineer in the UK opens up many doors for its members. The ‘Chartered’ title is well known in the country, and an easily recognisable sign of quality, professionalism, and service.
What Does it Mean to Become a Chartered Engineer?
The idea of licensing as an electrical engineer aims to encourage public welfare, safety, and well-being. It takes the next step from a title gained through education, authorising an individual to practice engineering and provide professional services to the public. The chartered level of licensing stands engineering apart from other disciplines such as scientists or architects where there isn’t a comparable licensed title. The boundaries are well defined so it is clear what a chartered engineer can and can’t do.
In the UK, only a chartered engineer has the authority to take legal responsibility for engineering work. The stamp of approval is a necessary addition for many projects and one which only a chartered engineer can do. Whether it is a report, plan or calculations—a chartered engineer is usually needed to sign, seal, or stamp technical documentations. They are also the only ones able to carry out a supervisory role for engineering works or projects.
To become a chartered engineer, engineers must register with the Engineering Council. This is the British regulatory body for engineers. Registration is a peer-reviewed process in which engineers must prove their qualifications, experience and professional competencies.
The Engineering Council defines chartered engineers by their ability to:
- Develop appropriate solutions to engineering problems using new or existing technologies.
- Promote advanced designs and design methods.
- Introduce new and more efficient production techniques, marketing and construction concepts.
- Drive innovation, creativity, and change.
- Pioneer new engineering services and management methods.
- Engage in technical and commercial leadership.
- Communicate with peers and develop the skills of other technical staff.
What are the Benefits of Licensing as an Electrical Engineer in the UK?
The Chartered Engineer (CEng) qualification is a protected title and a benchmark that is recognised internationally. Becoming professionally registered is a necessary step for electrical engineers in the UK if they are to reach the top of their field. It brings many benefits that they wouldn’t be able to realise otherwise:
Improved Career Prospects
Becoming professionally registered shows a commitment to the industry and its professional standards. Employers will gain increased customer confidence, which can help them win more contracts.
Higher Earning Potential
A 2018 salary survey showed that registered respondents reported a mean average salary that was 15% higher than their unregistered counterparts.
A key driver for engineers to register is the peer recognition of competence and commitment. The sense of achievement and credibility boosts self-esteem and confidence.
The UK’s chartered engineer status is well respected across the world. The Engineering Council promotes the title overseas to help facilitate international mobility.
Evidence of Expertise
The title proves that engineers have spent time developing their skills, knowledge, and understanding.
Member of Professional Engineering Institutions
Registration offers opportunities for involvement in influential activities as well as access to lifelong learning.
A man signing official papers to represent a chartered engineer giving his stamp of approval for technical documents. Image courtesy of Pexels.
How to Become a Chartered Engineer
The title of 'Chartered engineer' is protected by civil law in the UK and is the highest qualification that engineering professionals can obtain. Professional registration is open to all practising engineers, as long as they can prove the required standard of expertise and commitment.
The first prerequisite to licensing as an electrical engineer is to obtain the necessary level of education. This is usually in the form of an accredited Master of Engineering degree or a postgraduate diploma in an engineering discipline. This is a four or five-year commitment, which demonstrates the necessary further learning required for the licence.
Secondly, candidates need to be able to demonstrate an appropriate level of professional competence and practice. Candidates need a minimum of four years’ worth of professional post-graduate experience. They must have the ability to demonstrate significant technical and commercial leadership and management competencies.
Licenses are awarded based on a peer review system. This includes gathering evidence from their years of professional development, completing a personal peer review interview and giving a technical presentation in front of a professional board. It generally takes between eight and ten years to gain the necessary level of education and experience to be awarded the chartered engineer status.
What Professional Licensing is Available to Electrical Engineers in Europe?
The title of Chartered Engineer is one of the most recognisable international engineering qualifications. In fact, there are more than 180,000 registrants from many countries. However, the level of competence required for registration is comparable to many continental European countries. Most require masters-level education and proven professional experience.
The most common engineering qualification across Europe is the European Engineer (Eur Ing). The title is granted following the successful application to a member of the European Federation of National Engineering Associations (FEANI). The idea is that engineers who hold an engineering degree and a professional qualification in one of the member countries can use the qualification in others.
The European Engineer title, much like the Chartered Engineer status, is awarded based on proving a highly professional standard.
Applicants need to demonstrate the following:
- Expertise in the application of scientific knowledge;
- Advanced level of professional skill, safety, and environmental consciousness;
- Ability to communicate at a supervisory level;
- A minimum of seven years of formation and practice;
- An accredited engineering degree;
- Further advanced training; and
- Extensive responsible professional experience.
A model figure standing on a map of Europe with his handheld up to represent his vote for professional licensing of European engineers. Image courtesy of Pexels.
Should the Chartered Engineer Status be Supported Throughout Europe?
The 'Chartered Engineer' status is held in very high esteem within the UK and internationally. Within the UK, the license enables engineers to improve their career prospects, increase their earning potential and prove their higher level of expertise. One of the key benefits is the enhanced status, the sense of achievement that comes with adding the chartered title proves their credibility and boosts peer recognition.
The 'European engineer' status, however, provides a lot of similar benefits. The title facilitates the mobility of engineers both within and outside Europe and acts as a recognition of their professional qualifications and experience. However, the title isn’t a legal requirement and, as such, it doesn’t hold the same weight.
While FEANI is probably one of the largest broad-based professional bodies for assessing engineering competence, it isn’t a true licensing body. If it were regulated by international law, then the title might have more significance. This would allow it to become the equivalent of the 'Chartered Engineer' status—fostering professionalism, continued education and improved employment prospects for its title-holders.