If you’re wondering what it’s like to study a Bachelor of Engineering, you’ve come to the right place. Engineering and Built Environment is generally comprised of six departments that cover all Engineering and Built Environment disciplines.
- Architecture, Planning and Geometrics
- Civil Engineering
- Construction Economics and Management
- Chemical Engineering
- Electrical Engineering
- Mechanical Engineering
4-years, Honours-level Bachelor of Engineering degree
On average, 4 to 6 subjects a semester
A mixture of whole and half-year courses
Engineering is generally split into certain sub-sections of specialisation. Gone are the days of a broadened engineer, as the topics and knowledge required from each type of engineer is too great to fit into one degree. The different degrees consist of electrical, mechanical, civil, chemical and computing engineering. This leads to a career that is more specific. There are also other engineering degrees that are a combination of parts of the above, e.g.: electro-mechanical engineering.
A Bachelor of Engineering course is generally quite a demanding degree, where the average day starts at 8 and ends at 4:30 not including possible homework or studies. The courses one does are chosen by the university to suit the discipline one is in. Although electives in other departments are encouraged, and even required for at least one year of your degree, it can become difficult to find un-allotted time for which one can partake in a extra choice subject. In this way a certain dedication is demanded and this degree is certainly designed for hard workers.
Matthew Fourie, Second Year
“Architecture is one amazing degree. The work itself is fulfilling and creatively orientated, which I really dig. Every project you’re battling with is something new to get your head around and solve. However – the workload is crazy. You cannot possibly understand it unless you experience it. Simply put – say goodbye to your good friend sleep. Seriously. Couldn’t imagine myself doing another degree though.”
Mark Staples, Second Year
“First-year engineering is very broad and focuses more on physics and chemistry, in second-year, however, the degree specializes more and students are able to do a lot more actual engineering subjects which is great.”
Charlie Turnley, Second Year
In my opinion engineering can be considered one of the most thorough and satisfying degrees. Surrounded by the brightest brains in the country, it is unlikely to be bored in an engineering degree. Although the hours are long and the work tough, the subjects are very doable and incredibly satisfying when one learns to master a new topic (of which there are many one is exposed to everyday).
The life of a Bachelor of Engineering student is never a stagnant one. Constantly on the move and at work one learns to become a master of time management, which is enforced by a sink or swim mentality. Despite this, it is not uncommon that engineers partake in the many extra murals UCT has to offer, and many are also avid sportsman or culturists. So one need not be blocked by the perception that engineering will dominate one’s life, as there is always an opportunity to follow ones other passions.
The engineering community is a strong one, and a close one. Because Bachelor of Engineering degrees are set degrees, you will see many of the same people day in and day out throughout your courses. To have a regular friend who is with you for all your courses is not uncommon. Although this may not suit some people, others will revel in the fact that there is always a close support group of people with you in your degree and one is never really ‘forever alone’.
I love that I chose the degree I did, which was more by luck than anything. I know that when I leave university I will have a certain set of skills, thinking ability, ability to work in a team an a close group of friends in the industry. Even if one does not decide to go into engineering after your tertiary education, the degree is such that the skills you will be equipped with will help you in all walks of life.
Chelsea Tucker, Third Year (Chemical Engineering)
-Interviewed by Krysia Gaweda
What do you study specifically?
I study Chemical Engineering – which is part of the EBE (Engineering and Built Environment) Faculty
Why did you choose to study your specific degree?
I knew I wanted to be an engineer since I was very young. It was a combination of maths, science and a whole bunch of problem solving. Basically being an engineer is a combination of people management and puzzle solving – which appealed to me as a teenager. My father is an electrical engineer, so he also glamorized the idea of engineering significantly.
I chose to be a Chemical Engineer specifically because it has a lot less to do with nuts and bolts (I can not imagine myself fixing a toaster let alone making a high powered machine to crush cars or turn motors) and a lot more to do with project management. Plus there are WAY more girls in ‘Chem Eng’.
What are the highlights/lowlights of your degree?
A highlight has to be that you walk out with a very decent salary (even the starting salaries for junior engineers are far better than other degrees). However I would say the major benefit is that the work is fascinating (If you aren’t too tired to actually listen). The other benefit would be that a Chemical Engineering degree is one of the most versatile degrees you can get (especially in engineering). I could become an investment banker if I want! If you like puzzles, and maths isn’t a problem for you, Chemical Engineering is a definite option. Plus you get to meet a whole bunch of future Stephen Hawkings, and Larry Pages’ (the PhD students in this field really are the brightest minds of the future).
Lowlights – You are often too tired and too overworked to realize the highlights. Chemical Engineering gets real!
What kind of students should study your degree and why?
Anyone with a slight pleasure for pain (joking). No but really just about anyone! We have all sorts. What really defines who is in Chemical Engineering rides on how well they did in matric. At UCT, Chemical Engineering requires the second highest amount of points to get in. So you definitely won’t be in a course with anyone who doesn’t have a pretty high IQ – you can count on a lot of prodigal geniuses. However you can also count on a whole bunch of people who are very normal, very fun, and above all stick together through the hard times. This is one degree where you make friends quickly and become a family (because really, there is no other way to get by).
How does your timetable look?
What timetable? You are on campus all day every day. Learn to love it!
Daniel Rimbault, (Mechanical Engineering)
Overall, my experience is a great one. I had a fantastic time at university. Studying engineering is incredibly challenging in terms of work difficulty and time. I spent a good proportion of my four years very stressed and overworked. But after exams and deadlines, university life was always great. The parties, societies and social life of wits was a lot of fun to be involved in. Very interesting and refreshing spending so much time with like minded individuals with similar goals and achievements.
For ideas on where to study, check out the different institutions!