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Can I Be an Engineer Without a Degree

Engineers build the physical foundations of our society. The profession is meaningful, exciting, and lucrative. That said, the field of engineering can certainly be intimidating. 

Professional engineers must be experts at applying mathematical and scientific subjects such as computer science and physics. The traditional path to learning the skills and concepts for an engineering career involved going to university and getting a degree. 

But nowadays, there is no single way to become an engineer. There are many types of engineers with varying backgrounds and years of experience. And it is certainly possible to become an engineer without a degree. 

Does being an engineer require a degree?

Most engineers tend to have traditional degrees. However, degrees are not always strict requirements to work in the field. For instance, the field of computer engineering sees many self-taught computer programmers. 

Self-taught engineers can begin with junior or entry level positions and work their way up to more advanced positions. For example:

  • Electrical technicians can gain experience wiring systems and installing hardware as part of their pathway to becoming electrical engineers.
  • CAD technicians help draft designs for buildings and machinery and have opportunities to transition into architectural or structural engineering roles.
  • Junior level computer programmers can learn the basics of a specialization such as web development or mobile development on their way to becoming full-fledged software engineers.

Some engineers get started with an associate’s degree. Others get their foot in the door by taking online courses or enrolling in intense coding bootcamp. Learning the basic skills is an important first step before trying to apply for an engineering job. Although it can be challenging, it is certainly possible to work your way up and get an engineering job without a degree.

Can anyone become an engineer?

Anyone can become an engineer, but becoming an engineer is far from effortless. The field is challenging, and it’s important to dedicate enough time, focus on the right areas of study, and stay disciplined in your learning process. 

If you enjoy solving problems and want to learn practical ways to apply math and science, engineering might be the field for you.

What qualifies someone as an engineer?

Engineers are able to apply their knowledge of math and science to solve problems. This is true across all engineering disciplines ranging from environmental engineering (which involves biology, chemistry, and physics) to software engineering (which involves knowledge of programming languages and mathematics such as linear algebra). 

Aside from their hard, problem-solving skills, engineers also need soft skills like teamwork and discipline. 

In terms of certifications, engineers come from a variety of backgrounds and hold different kinds of official qualifications such as:

  • A four-year college degree in a science, mathematics, or engineering field
  • A certification from an engineering organization such as ABET, or Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology
  • An engineering license
  • Non-traditional credentials such as professional certificates, project portfolios, and coding bootcamps.

Can I be an engineer if I hate math?

Absolutely. Thomas Edison went through school and did poorly in his math classes. He went on to patent 1,093 inventions.

The most important engineering skill is your ability to problem-solve. You do not have to like math to solve interesting problems or build cool things; what matters most is your ability to take what you know to think critically, structurally, and logically about whatever engineering challenges you are faced with.

Get started with online engineering courses

Many top schools and institutions offer free online courses through edX that cover a variety of engineering disciplines such as:

If you are looking to become an engineer, the best way to start is to begin learning.

Browse Online edX Courses

Get started today!