What is an engineering school?
The engineering program awards a degree equivalent to a master’s degree, typically lasting five years (BAC+5). Traditionally, the curriculum in engineering schools spans three years divided into six semesters of studies, including courses, projects, and professional internships. The engineering degree is awarded upon the completion of 180 ECTS credits earned during the three years of study.
Engineering is a vast field with a wide range of possible specializations. These specializations evolve with technological advancements and the needs of society. It is impossible to provide an exhaustive list, but here are some well-known areas of expertise:
- Urban planning
- Biological engineering
- Civil engineering
- Process engineering
- Medical engineering
- Computer science
- Earth sciences
- Information systems
- Telecommunications and networks
There are numerous engineering schools in France, both public and private. They may be part of school networks or universities, or they can operate independently. The quality of engineering schools is certified by the Commission des Titres d’Ingénieur (CTI), an organization responsible for evaluating engineering programs. This accreditation ensures the quality and excellence of the programs and allows for curriculum modifications to meet future challenges.
Sources: Réseau Polytech, CTI, Réseau UTC, Arts et Métiers, INSA
Engineering School: What are the possible study formats?
It is possible to enter engineering education through initial or continuing education. This means you can access the program through a traditional academic path (at the BAC +2, BAC +3, or BAC +4 level) or if you plan to return to education later in your professional life. It is also possible to become an engineer through apprenticeship or work-study programs, where you split your time between school and the workplace. With the advent of e-learning, it is now possible to pursue engineering education remotely. However, it is important to ensure that you choose a quality and recognized program before embarking on this adventure.
Engineering School: Where are the institutions located in France?
As mentioned earlier, there is a significant number of engineering schools in France. The institutions are located throughout the country and even abroad (China, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Morocco, Belgium, Vietnam, Cameroon, Burkina Faso). In 2018, the list of accredited schools authorized to award a graduate engineering degree exceeded 200 schools, most of which offer multiple specializations. France boasts many prestigious institutions, including:
- Les Ecoles Centrale
- Les Ecoles des Mines
- Le Réseau des INSA
- Le Réseau des INP
- Le Réseau des Polytech
- Le Réseau UTT,UTC,UTBM
- Les « Agro » (AgroParisTech, Montpellier SupAgro, Agrocampus Ouest)
- Les Arts et Métiers
- Les Télécom
- Les ENSC
Source: Legifrance, student rankings
Engineering School: How does the education process work?
Engineering School: Enrollment and Admission
There are various pathways to enter engineering schools. You can access these schools through:
- Directly after high school: Some institutions offer admission through the ParcoursSup platform, where you can apply for integrated preparatory programs. Examples include INSA, Polytech schools, INP, etc. This pathway consists of a two-year integrated preparatory program followed by a three-year engineering cycle. Admission to integrated preparatory programs can be based on academic records, written exams, and/or interviews. While most students come from the scientific stream (BAC S), it is also possible to enter with backgrounds in STI2D, STL, STAV, and even ES or L. It is important to check the specific admission requirements of the institution you are interested in.
- After completing one year of higher education (BAC+1): It is possible to enter engineering schools if your previous studies align with the program offered by the school. This includes students from disciplines such as health sciences (PACES), preparatory classes for other higher education institutions, DUT, BTS, etc. In this case, you may either start from the first year or directly enter the second year of the engineering program. Some schools also offer pathways that allow you to join the program midway, and you can complete the first year in one semester. However, it is important to plan your change of program in advance.
- After completing a preparatory class for engineering schools (CPGE): This is considered the most common pathway to enter engineering schools, including the most prestigious ones. Admission is based on a competitive exam that considers the results of written and oral exams. Students from preparatory classes typically enter the engineering program directly after completing two or three years of preparatory studies.
- After completing a two-year or higher program (BAC+2 or more): Engineering schools are increasingly accepting students who have completed BAC+2 or higher programs, such as DUT, BTS, second or third year of a bachelor’s degree, and sometimes even the first year of a master’s degree (in this case, admission is often for the second year of the engineering program). The admission requirements vary between schools, so it is important to carefully review the specific conditions of the school you wish to join. Don’t worry, all admission paths are valued, and there are as many different engineers as there are possible paths! In school, your background may give you advantages or challenges in certain subjects, but with the support of your classmates, you will succeed.
Regarding enrollment, it is crucial to observe the application and exam submission deadlines, which are typically in December (sometimes even earlier!). These dates may vary among networks and even among schools within the same network. Make a calendar and note down all the important dates to ensure you don’t miss anything.
Engineering School: What programs are offered?
Engineering programs differ based on the specialization and the school. Some common questions to consider are:
- How many internships will there be?
- Can you take a gap year?
- Can you pursue a double degree?
- Can you change institutions for a specific specialization?
Despite these variables, the Commission des Titres d’Ingénieur (CTI) defines certain core requirements. Students are expected to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge in scientific and multidisciplinary subjects, technological training, as well as economic, human, and social sciences (management, finance, marketing, communication, etc.). While it may seem complex, I encourage you to consult the program of a school that interests you to better understand its organization.
In general, students attend lectures, tutorials, and practical sessions, and work on group projects that often involve oral presentations. To assess your progress, you will have continuous assessments as well as end-of-semester exams.
In addition to regular coursework, there are periods of professional and/or international immersion, which can include semesters or years of study abroad, internships, apprenticeships, work-study programs, or a gap year.
Many schools offer opportunities for double degrees, either within France or internationally. This allows you to study at another institution and receive a degree in architecture, management, or another field from a different university, for example.
In my case, during my final year of engineering school, I had the opportunity to study in three different institutions: my engineering program in Biological Engineering with a specialization in plant biotechnology and sustainable development, and a university diploma in data analysis and biostatistics.
Engineering School: Is it suitable for me?
Profiles among engineering students are incredibly diverse. As we have seen, when you join an engineering school, you will be surrounded by students from preparatory classes, integrated preparatory programs, bachelor’s and master’s degrees, DUT, BTS, PACES, and even international students!
Engineering students are generally approachable and great company. After my five years at the Polytech network, I can only recommend joining such a wonderful community. You make friends within your specialization, your school, and the extended network throughout France! Through associations, sports, and outings to discover your host city, the years will fly by, and before you know it, you will have your diploma!
Profiles are diverse, whether it’s the athlete always ready for a trail run, the gaming enthusiast, the beauty vlogger creating tutorials, the adventurer who wants to make the most of their studies by going abroad, the food lovers who enjoy sharing great meals and local delicacies, music, theater, or film enthusiasts who invite you to their concerts or to watch their performances/films, the well-read individual who devours books and newspapers to stay informed, football or rugby fans who never miss a match, and more. Or maybe you embody a combination of these characteristics!
Engineering School: What to do next?
Engineering School: What is the average salary after graduation?
The average salaries for young graduates (with caution!) will vary depending on the sector of activity:
- Commercial or business engineers earn an average gross salary of €50,000 per year.
- Engineering consultants or developers in the field of computer science earn an average gross salary of €39,000 per year.
- Aerospace engineers earn an average gross salary of €34,000 per year.
- Chemical engineers earn an average gross salary of €36,400 per year.
- Environmental/energy engineers earn an average gross salary of €32,400 per year.
- Biological engineers earn an average gross salary of €25,200 per year.
- Agricultural engineers earn an average gross salary of €29,000 per year.
- Civil engineers earn an average gross salary of €34,200 per year.
- Mechanical engineers earn an average gross salary of €35,000 per year.
As for salaries abroad, they will vary depending on the country and your specialization. I recommend conducting your own research on the country of your dreams to find out the average salaries offered to young graduates in your field. To facilitate your research, it is important to know how engineers working in your area of interest are referred to and if there are multiple job titles used (sometimes they may not carry the title “engineer” in the job description).
Engineering School: What are the career prospects and job opportunities after graduation?
In addition to the specific field of specialization (biology, agronomy, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, chemistry, environmental engineering, water, etc.), engineering graduates can pursue careers in various domains:
- Research and development: Working in laboratories to develop new concepts.
- Production: Responsible for large-scale or small-scale production of the concepts developed by their company or partners.
- Marketing: Managing the image and promotion of the product to make it attractive to the general public.
- Logistics: Managing various information, financial data, and people to ensure smooth operations.
- Quality control: Working with standards and paying attention to detail to ensure the quality and conformity of manufactured products to French, European, and international standards.
- Business management: Managing teams and ensuring projects are carried out effectively, with a focus on maximizing sales margins.
And this is just a sample of the myriad of possibilities! As I mentioned before, the engineering profession is constantly evolving, and the tasks performed by engineers today may be different from those of 20 years ago. Furthermore, not all the domains mentioned above are accessible in every type of organization, depending on its size (start-ups, SMEs, large international corporations, research institutions, public sector, associations, NGOs, etc.).
Career prospects for engineering graduates also extend to international opportunities. With adaptable skills and a forward-looking profession, it is entirely possible to consider a career (or part of it) abroad! While the codes and practices may differ, the approach to job searching will remain similar to that in France.
Engineering School: What further education options are available after graduation?
As mentioned earlier, there are many possibilities for double degrees, but that’s not all!
After obtaining an engineering degree, you have the option to pursue further studies. With the equivalent of a master’s degree, you can pursue a Ph.D. in France or abroad. The duration of a Ph.D. program varies depending on the country but generally ranges from 3 to 5 years. Ph.D. studies are paid positions that allow you to engage in fundamental or applied research on a subject of your interest. A Ph.D. is not mandatory, but some choose to embark on this experience to gain more credibility in the research world.
You can also consider joining business schools, management programs, or university programs that offer specializations related to your career goals. For example, logistics, risk prevention, architecture, intellectual property, marketing, management, etc. Some graduates even decide to start a master’s program to complement their engineering education and specialize further in their chosen field.
The possibilities are vast, and the most important thing is to find fulfillment in what you do!