The engineering industry plays a vital role in the UK’s economic and societal wellbeing, providing employment opportunities on a large scale. In the face of technological advancement and a changing political and economic landscape, a key challenge remains for the engineering industry when it comes to addressing the ever-changing skills requirements within the sector.
Due to an ongoing skills shortage, there are many opportunities for both graduates and apprentices within the engineering industry, spanning a range of diverse and exciting areas, from defence to technology. There has never been a better time to kick-start a career in engineering.
In this guide, we will provide top tips for kick-starting your engineering career, whether you are browsing university courses or looking for a change of direction.
What types of engineering jobs are there?
With principles in science, technology and maths, there are a huge number of jobs that engineering professionals can carry out. The starting salary for an engineer is also higher than for most graduate opportunities (around £26,536), which makes it an attractive option for potential employees.
The sector itself is hugely diverse, and there are countless different disciplines and sectors, which means there is a wide range of roles that can suit anyone with an interest in science, construction, technology and manufacturing.
Candidates have the option of working for large, international companies such as Unilever or Siemens, as well as smaller businesses, so there really is something for everyone. While there are many different types of engineer, we have outlined the basics below.
A mechanical engineer plans and develops engines and their components. This can include things like electric generators, steam and gas turbines and air conditioning systems. Demand for talented mechanical engineers is consistently high, and, very often, you will not need a degree in engineering to pursue this career path.
Many larger employers provide graduate work schemes, allowing budding mechanical engineers to transition into the sector while gaining experience.
An electrical engineer is responsible for designing and developing new electrical systems. They’re involved with a wide range of projects, from computers and mobile devices to lighting and wiring of buildings.
Becoming an electrical engineer is a great option for those without a degree in engineering, many employers take on electrical engineering technicians who can then build up relevant experience.
Environmental engineers specialise in finding solutions to environmental problems, focusing on areas such as recycling, water pollution and waste disposal. It is not a requirement to have studied for an engineering degree, however, it does help if you have studied a relevant degree in science or an environmental discipline.
It could also be beneficial if you have moved on to study environmental engineering via a postgraduate qualification.
Chemical engineers help to develop new industrial processes that aid the transformation of raw materials into useful items. This is an extremely broad area and can include anything from improving the taste of food items to designing new fabrics to be used in clothing. Usually, employers in this area will be looking for a bachelor degree in chemical engineering or related fields, as well as relevant experience gained through internships.
A software engineer is responsible for designing, developing, testing and maintaining software such as apps, websites, operating systems and mobile devices. There is no requirement for a degree in engineering to secure this type of role, however, some employers do look for candidates with a computer science, maths, computer engineering or business management degree.
What qualifications do I need for a career in engineering?
Gaining a bachelor’s degree in engineering (BEng) is the easiest and quickest way to start your career in this sector, however, it is not the only way you can enter the industry. For many, a BSc qualification in a relevant subject - such as maths, environmental sciences or computer science - can also help. A master’s degree in engineering is another way to enter into engineering.
Requirements can also vary depending on the sector, so it can help to carry out your own research in order to ensure you understand what is expected when looking for a job in engineering.
How do I gain experience in engineering?
A great way to gain experience in engineering is by taking part in placement or internship opportunities, which provide valuable on-the-job training during undergraduate or postgraduate courses.
By carrying out a placement or internship, you give yourself a good chance of getting your foot in the door and demonstrate to potential future employers that you have the skills required for a job in the sector. The great thing about internships and placements is that you will also learn transferable skills that are useful in any workplace - including communication, teamwork and time management.
We provide more details on internships and placements below.
A placement, which can often be carried out over six months or a year, is a fantastic way for graduates to take their first step towards an engineering career. You will usually be paid a salary and considered a part of the team within which you are operating. Very often, you will be able to connect with placement opportunities through your university.
Usually unpaid opportunities, internships are a good path if you are considering which role or industry is the best match for you. They predominantly take place over a period of around a month or two.
Researching engineering jobs
Your next step should be carrying out research into your first engineering job. You can either speak directly to employers by looking for opportunities on their websites, or connect with a specialist engineering recruitment consultant who can scour available opportunities on your behalf to match you with your ideal employer.
Some other tips for researching opportunities include:
● Look for engineering news and trends on social media and connect with relevant businesses and industry figureheads who you can learn from
● Follow company social media websites so you can easily keep an eye out for job opportunities
● Try different variations on keywords for jobs - ie. “engineering jobs”, “engineering opportunities”, “engineering roles”
If you’re looking for a job in engineering, there are a wide variety of opportunities available, no matter which training route you have chosen. This exciting, diverse and ever-changing industry is a great career path, and with some research and forward-thinking, it could be the starting point for a long-term career.