A Guide to Engineering Qualifications

“What enthuses me is the diversity and what your get to do in engineering…all the different things you get to learn and the problems you get to solve that make things better and easier for others.”

The following outlines the different types of engineering diplomas and degrees available in New Zealand and broadly defines the kind of work you would expect a person with that qualification to do. There are some things though, that are common to all engineers:

  • Engineers are creative people who like solving practical problems.
  • Engineers specialise in particular areas. This specialisation begins when they are studying for their qualifications and typically continues throughout their careers. The main disciplines of engineering are civil, mechanical and electrical - though there are many others (e.g. computer, chemical) and there are many specialist fields within each discipline.
  • Engineering is a practical field, so regardless of their qualification, all engineers develop their skills significantly on the job. This means that there is a lot of overlap in the tasks that people with different qualifications do – e.g. a New Zealand Diploma of Engineering Practice (NZDEP) engineer with 10 years’ experience is likely to have more specialist knowledge and skill in some areas than a newly qualified Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) graduate.
  • All engineering qualifications are aligned with professional organisation competence standards for engineering, so engineers can (and do) gain recognition for their increasing expertise in their area of practice. A number of engineering organisations are able to grant recognition for competence.
  • All New Zealand engineering qualifications are recognised and well regarded internationally and many New Zealand trained engineers work overseas.

Diploma qualifications

New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE)

New Zealand Diploma of Engineering (NZDE) graduates are hands-on engineers who work in a wide variety of jobs at a technical level applying engineering practices and designs.  They are the engineers you will usually find building things (or managing the building process) and using current technology to solve the practical problems that arise when implementing a design.  They  often use their practical knowledge to suggest design improvements.  Other roles that are often filled by NZDE engineers include computer aided design (CAD) drafting and management of construction sites. Very experienced NZDE graduates can also be found in more specialised and senior roles such as designing improvements to machinery used in manufacturing or developing high tech electronics equipment.

The NZDE is a level 6 diploma qualification that is internationally recognised and takes two years full-time study through an Institute of Technology or Polytechnic (ITP), though it can also be studied part-time while working.

New Zealand Diploma in Engineering Practice (NZDEP)

New Zealand Diploma of Engineering Practice (NZDEP) qualified engineers are senior technical practitioners.  It takes a minimum of four years of study and work experience to become an NZDEP (starting with an NZ Diploma of Engineering) but most have advanced technical skills built up over many more years of working, study and work-based assessment. NZDEP graduates use their practical knowledge to implement designs. They are also very skilled at identifying and solving practical problems that arise in the implementation process and making design improvements. 

Experienced NZDEP engineers often specialise and may design machinery, structures or processes using current technology. Practice areas are varied and include maintenance and management of buildings or machinery, engineering design and manufacturing, installation of machinery, technical sales and customer service, draughting services, and a wide range of construction jobs.

The NZDEP is equivalent to the old New Zealand Certificate in Engineering and is a level 6 diploma qualification.

Degree qualifications

BEngTech

Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BEngTech) graduates are often considered the ‘all-rounders’ of the engineering world because the degree combines strong practical skills with specialist engineering knowledge. The qualification’s emphasis on bridging the practical and the theoretical means BEngTech graduates are found in the widest range of engineering jobs of any type of engineer – everything from draughting and project management to specialised design of equipment, buildings and processes. They also work in a wide range in industries from construction to high tech electronics and telecommunications.  

Some very experienced BEngTech engineers run their own consultancies, but most can be found working in teams that include New Zealand Diploma of Engineering (NZDE) and Bachelor of Engineering (BE [Hons]) graduates.

The BEngTech is an internationally recognised Level 7 degree so you will find graduates employed around the world. It requires three years full-time study through an Institute of Technology and Polytechnic (ITP) or technical university, though it can also be studied part-time.

Bachelor of Engineering (BE Hons)

BE (Hons) graduates are specialist engineers who do the complex calculations, design and problem solving in their area of expertise. The main categories of specialisation include:

  • Civil Engineering, including Roading & Transportation, Structural, Water & Waste strands;
  • Mechanical Engineering, including Product Design, Manufacturing & Production, and Mechatronics strands;
  • Electrical and/or Electronic Engineering; and
  • Network & Communications or Computer & Mobile Systems Engineering.
  • Chemical and Process Engineering, including food manufacture and the oil and gas industry.

Specialisation begins at university and generally continues throughout a BE (Hons) graduate’s career – building experience and expertise in a very specific area of practice. They are able to work from first principles and may use new or emerging technology.

Because they are technical experts, BE (Hons) graduates often have ‘sign-off’ on a project, taking overall responsibility for the quality of engineering design and implementation.  Some become sole practitioners or consultants, but many BE (Hons) graduates work in teams with other engineers whose qualifications have a more of an implementation focus – such as NZDE, NZDEP or BEngTech engineers.

 It is a level 8 degree and takes four years’ full-time study at university to become a BE (Hons).

 The qualification is recognised internationally, so you will find New Zealand BE (Hons) engineering graduates employed around the world.

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