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Engineering Can one work as an engineer without an engineering degree (canada)?

  1. Apr 14, 2010 #1
    I'm currently closing in on the end of an undergraduate degree in Physics (from UBC if it matters to anyone). But it's painfully clear to me that I really want to work as an engineer.

    I'll save a lengthy story, but the bottom line is that I'm nearly thirty years old, and frankly very excited to be nearly out of school and starting a career. Obviously the best way to get work as an engineer is to first get an engineering degree, but I simply don't have the money/time/energy/desire to embark on 3 more years of undergraduate study to get the appropriate paper work.

    And I'm aware that in Canada at least there are engineering diplomas which take less time or perhaps institutions where I could accelerate my study towards an applied science degree in full. But what I'm more specifically wondering about is whether or not its possible to get work as an engineer with a BSc in Physics. And if I did get work in the field of engineering, how much would not having a full blown applied science degree hold me back?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2010 #2


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    You can do engineering - you just can't call yourself an engineer and in a lot of industries and especially the government you won't progress beyond a certain level.

    I work with a group that does radar satelite imaging, the PhD physicists that designed, operate and analyze the mission rank below a new engineer-in-training. They have to be in the union, engineers even new grads are exempt, the scientists can't be supervisors because you have to have a professional qualification.

    There are a lot of nice things about Canada but it can be a bit 19C when it comes to industry.
  4. Apr 14, 2010 #3
    well, so what are my options then if i want to call myself an engineer?

    professionally, whats the difference between getting a 2 year engineering diploma, a 4 year engineering undergraduate degree, or a graduate level engineering certification? and for that matter, could i even study engineering at a graduate level with only a BSc in Physics?
  5. Apr 15, 2010 #4


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    It also depends on the province and probably the branch of engineering, check out ing.ca
  6. Apr 15, 2010 #5


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    Legally you are an engineer after graduating from an accredited undergrad program with certain provisions that the licensing body sets forth. In Ontario for example, UofT and Ryerson have accredited programs. Students from these programs are therefore allowed to register as professional engineers and get their P.Eng license. The PEO grants this license. You can get their website to see the requirements. Generally speaking, I would say that one does not need a P.Eng license to be an engineer, but one should at minimum meet the requirements to be registered as a P.Eng.

    These provisions need to be in place to prevent a customer support engineer or hotel engineer or network engineer from calling themselves an engineer. The engineering field has been a victim of the imposter syndrome for too long a time.

    And yes, you can go to engineering grad school with a BSc in physics. I know several such people.
  7. Apr 15, 2010 #6
    I don't know how things will work out for you of course, and I live in the US. But I just got a sweet engineering internship at a fortune 500 company. I am working on my B.S. Physics and will be graduating in December. I plan on trying to get into grad school for an EE masters next year.

    Also my old man is a high ranking engineer/supervisor. He doesn't seem to think having a physics degree will hold me back. Requirements to sit for FE/PE exams differ from state to state from what I've heard. I haven't looked into it, but my dad (who has an M.S. ME and is a PE) doesn't seem to think it's super important to be a PE except for certain situations e.g. government work. He got his like 15 years after he'd been working as an engineer, and he only did it because it seemed like the right thing to do I guess.

    Edit: I forgot half way through writing that you're in Canada, so I guess some of that doesn't matter to you.
  8. Apr 15, 2010 #7
    could i satisfy the requirements for p.eng this way? i've done some digging myself on this issue but it looks to me like all possible avenues to p.eng status in canada involve graduation from an accredited engineering undergraduate program.

    and i can't help but wonder to myself if its even worth entertaining this option. presumably as a physics graduate finding engineering work is going to be harder than it would be for an applied science grad. and i imagine getting into engineering grad school will be more of a challenge without the engineering undergrad.

    so looking at one more year of physics plus two years of grad school plus a lot of potential headache is starting to feel like more of an annoyance than just cutting my losses and hopping into second year of an engineering undergrad in september.
  9. Apr 15, 2010 #8
    I'm glad you bring this up, I'm in the same boat as you and have been wondering the same thing. Can one become a p.eng with just a masters in engineering?
  10. Apr 16, 2010 #9


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    My experience with the PEO is as follows. They do not look at engineering grad school as a means to establish the educational requirement for a P.Eng. Thats exclusively for your undergraduate degree. You can use grad school as 1 year of experience, but thats about it. So for the PEO, you need four years of experience, of which one year must be in Canada. By PEO standards, an engineer-in-training with just an undergrad degree is more of an engineer than someone with a BSc in physics and masters in engineering.

    I am not sure how one can establish the link between an undergrad physics and engineering degree. You should contact the licensing body of your province for further details. Maybe there are equivalence exams you can take, but thats a stretch.
  11. Apr 16, 2010 #10
    unfortunately (for me and others in my situation), this just confirms my own findings. after digging around the websites of the appropriate governing bodies in canada and its provinces, it's clear the only way to officially be an engineer here is to do an accredited undergrad in engineering and then do your 4 years as engineer-in-training to finally qualify as a registered professional engineer.

    there's certainly other avenues leading to work in the field (such as diploma programs, BScs, graduate study, etc), but as suggested above, none of these other avenues ever lead to an officially registered designation as "engineer" in this country.

    i also feel it's worth noting (though its an entirely seperate issue) that the only apparent professional difference between someone practicing engineering with a BSc vs someone with an engineering undergrad is eligibility for PEng; and that there seems to be vastly varying opinions over how much not having PEng will affect ones career path. it certainly depends on what discipline you choose. where specifically you work. and what exactly you plan to do with your engineering career.

    i've talked to several practicing engineers and they all have different things to say about PEng. more than one swears they would have been better off doing a 2 year diploma than their 4 year undergrad becuase PEng is a worthless hastle, they dont ever plan to get it, and just wish they could have been out in the work force and not suffering in class two years earlier. several others are totally indifferent but don't have PEng yet even though they are eligible. and a few do have it and feel it has benefited their careers to some degree. i have observed that those claiming PEng designation is of great value are the vast minority, but i must admit the disclamer here that all the engineers i know personally have been practicing thier trade less than ten years, so its a bit of a biased focus group. i could very definitely see the value someone applies such a designation changing as their career matures and they climb the seniority ladder.

    the bottom line is simply that in canada, if you want to work as an engineer, having an accredited engineering undergrad will open the most doors by far. entering the field from a diploma program, non-engineering bachelors degree, or graduate work is possible (in some disciplines), but will limit ones career options.
  12. Sep 21, 2010 #11

    I just have a rather quick question..

    Can one become a or obtain recognition as a P.Eng in Ontario with a 3 year College diploma from an Ontario College.

    I know the website says that you need a degree from a University from a 4 year program, but can it be done with a 3 year Diploma.

    More exams perhaps.

    Any idea.
  13. Sep 21, 2010 #12


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    This page at the PEO seems to indicate that it is possible, with relevant experience (and assuming you pass the battery of tests that they're likely to level at you):
    http://www.peo.on.ca/registration/education.html [Broken]

    However, that's the minimum criteria, and you should probably contact them directly to get a sense of how frequently this occurs and what percentage of candidates actually pass (assuming that people have taken them up on this offer).

    If you're looking at 3 year programs (in Alberta, I've only seen Engineering Technology programs in the 2 year flavour), and want a P.Eng., why not just go for the full 4 and get a BSc?

    EDIT: ...And welcome to PhysicsForums!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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