The engineering sector is enormous and incredibly diverse. Engineering offers a breadth of opportunity that is unparalleled by other sectors. The UK is host to some of the top global engineering firms, with all areas of the industry being represented. The engineering sector makes up nearly a fifth of the UK economy (19.6% of GDP), making it almost three times the size of the financial sector, and it employs over 4.5 million people (source: Engineering UK 2011: The State of Engineering). Today most engineering areas are thriving, particularly given the crucial link they play in supporting a new low carbon economy.
The engineering sector makes up nearly a fifth of the UK economy (19.6% of GDP), making it almost three times the size of the financial sector, and it employs over 4.5 million people (source: Engineering UK 2011: The State of Engineering). Today most engineering areas are
thriving, particularly given the crucial link they play in supporting a new low carbon economy.
Engineering roles are changing, and engineers can expect to be members of multidisciplinary teams working to integrate their work more effectively. Future trends in engineering are likely to include growth in areas dealing with energy infrastructure, building materials, IT and nanotechnology, transport and sanitation.
The engineering sector contains a wide variety of companies and organisations. In the commercial field these range from multinational corporations, such as Arup and Shell, with offices and projects all over the globe, to small engineering firms working in niche markets supplying smaller components or expertise to larger companies. In the public sector, opportunities range from the Civil Service, for example the Defence Engineering and Science Group (DESG) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) in the Ministry of Defence, through to supporting regional engineering projects in local government and working for government agencies (e.g. reducing national flood risks).
The majority of engineering employers recruit for a variety of engineers, as well as advertising jobs which are open to those without a background in engineering, such as HR, sales and marketing, IT, project management, logistics and finance roles.
Engineering is a vast sector, and the range of jobs available is huge –further details on each subsector are below.
Starting salaries for graduate trainee engineers compare favourably with salaries for other graduate jobs, and average at £24,000 for newly graduated trainees (Source: Prospects). A recent study of graduate engineers shows that salaries three years after graduating averaged at £28,000 and only medicine, dentistry and veterinary science were higher (Source: Engineering UK). The highest starting salaries are typically found in multi-national corporations, particularly in the oil industry. Ongoing earnings are comparable to those in other professions and according to the Engineering Council, engineers enjoy better remuneration than accountants and solicitors, and are well represented on company boards.
‘Engineering Graduates for Industry’ by the Royal Academy of Engineering (February 2010) states that the UK is heading for a shortage of engineers, particularly in energy, utilities and civil engineering. It is predicted that by 2017, over 580,000 new workers will be needed for the manufacturing sector alone.
CIVIL ENGINEERING AND CONSTRUCTION
A high proportion of civil engineers are employed by engineering consultancies such as Atkins and Arup, which work on global projects delivering highways, bridges, railways, buildings and other structures. Trainees usually begin their career in design, and progress to managing projects, liaising with clients and architects and supervising contractors.
Graduate opportunities also exist within construction and property development companies and civil engineering contractors, utility and transport infrastructure companies, and government agencies and departments. More information is available from sites such as http://www.ice.org.uk or http://www.insidecareers.co.uk/eciv
Relevant roles in civil engineering:
- Consulting civil engineer
- Contracting civil engineer
- Environmental engineer
- Geotechnical engineer
- Planning engineer
- Site Engineer
- Structural engineer
- Water Engineer
A biomedical engineer works with other healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, therapists and technicians. Biomedical engineers may be called upon in a wide range of capacities: to design instruments, devices and software, to bring together knowledge from many technical sources to develop new procedures, or to conduct research needed to solve clinical problems.
In this field there is continual change and creation of new areas due to rapid advancement in technology. However, some of the well-established areas within the field are: bioinstrumentation, biomaterials, biomechanics, cellular, tissue and genetic engineering, clinical engineering, medical imaging, orthopaedic surgery, rehabilitation engineering, and systems physiology. Biomedical engineers are employed in universities, industry, hospitals, and research facilities of educational and medical institutions. For advice on roles in university research please consult the Academia Career Briefing.
The Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM) is the professional body for medical engineers in the UK. Although they have been heavily involved in supporting professional training, the new ‘Modernising Scientific Careers’ initiative by the Department of Health is bringing with it some changes to career routes for clinical engineers. For more information on what has previously been the system, and is (at time of writing) still in place for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) see: http://www.ipem.ac.uk/careers/ A major provider of training for aspiring clinical engineers is now the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) and the application cycle for this programme is likely to begin around December/January this year.
- Biomedical Engineer (equivalent title to Clinical Engineer among others).
Engineers are involved in almost every aspect of the oil and gas industry – from exploration (reservoir engineer, field engineer) through production (petroleum engineer, well engineer) to refining (process engineer, manufacturing engineer, chemical engineer), as well as research and development (R&D) roles for chemical engineers engaged in developing new technologies.
How the Energy Industry Works (available at the Careers Service, or back issues online at http://www.energy-future.com/) is a very useful overview. Decline in UK oil and gas production, and the current focus on climate change, is placing increasing importance on reducing carbon emissions and finding new energy source. Jobs for new graduates in renewables are hard to come by in traditional oil companies, but there are roles in utilities companies (e.g. E.ON and Scottish Power) and in smaller, more specialist organisations for engineers, particularly in control and systems engineering, electronics and mechanical engineering. Some of the major graduate employers in the nuclear industry include British Energy, Sellafield Ltd and Magnox Electric.
The electronics industry can be broadly divided into two types of organisations: component manufacturers, who make integrated circuits and semi-conductors (e.g. Intel) and original equipment manufacturers, who produce whole products such as televisions and mobile phones (e.g. Sony, Philips, and Sharp). There are also design consultancies and in-house divisions within major manufacturers. The telecommunications industry is booming, and also provides plenty of career options for engineers. Engineering roles include R&D, installation and maintenance.
More information is available from sites such as www.insidecareers.co.uk/eelec
- Electrical Engineer
- Electronics Engineer
- Communications Engineer
- Control and Instrumentation Engineer
Chemical engineers work in any field that involves the development of industrial processes: food and drink, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, agrochemicals, petrochemicals, energy and extraction industries. Large employers include ICI, DuPont and BASF. Roles include: process engineers, who design, install and commission manufacturing plants, environmental engineers, who work to minimise and manage the environmental problems and roles in research and development (R&D).
- Chemical Engineer
- Manufacturing Systems Engineer
- Process/Product Engineer
AEROSPACE AND DEFENCE
The UK aerospace industry is the largest in Europe. The aerospace sector consists of a small number of major global players (BAE Systems, Airbus, Rolls-Royce), some large suppliers (GKN, Cobham, Messier-Dowty) and numerous small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who typically provide a specialist product or service. The industry serves the needs of both civil and military aviation. Engineers may be involved in structures and systems, flight physics and testing, processes, manufacturing, operations and planning, or in research into novel materials and technologies. The Ministry of Defence runs the Defence Science and Engineering Group (DESG), in which engineers are employed on projects devising equipment to face new threats as they emerge. Opportunities also exist for engineers in the Armed Forces to develop and maintain equipment and to liaise with suppliers of new technology. Regiments with a particular focus on engineering are the Royal Engineers, Royal Signals and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
- Aeronautical Engineer
- Mechanical Engineer
The UK hosts more car manufacturing companies than anywhere else in the world – from global giants, such as Honda, Nissan and Toyota, to prestige and motor sports brands, such as Bentley, Williams and Lotus. Despite the recent decline in UK manufacturing, there are still opportunities for engineers to work in manufacturing and production engineering, as well as in design and development roles (typically for the more niche markets and in motor sports). If you are interested in this sector, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders’ website has the latest news and an industry directory.
- Automotive Engineer
- Mechanical Engineer
More information on Mechanical Engineering is available at www.insidecareers.co.uk/emech
Regardless of the area of engineering you are interested in, the general skills required are similar. Those skills associated with commercial knowledge and client handling may vary, depending on whether the organisation is a consultancy and/or commercially focused. The skills most commonly sought by employers include:
- Sound technical knowledge and the ability to apply it.
- Good communication skills and team-working ability.
- Keen analytical and problem-solving skills.
- Commercial awareness.
- Planning, precision and organisational skills.
- Ability to build relationships with customers and/or teams.
- Organisational skills, such as time and resource planning;
- Motivation and enthusiasm.
For some roles experience of using modelling software can be desirable.
The majority of employers will look for a 2:1 or 2:2 in your first degree, although there are some exceptions. Do not be deterred by opportunities that ask for specific engineering disciplines at degree level (for example a degree in mechanical engineering) – most will be happy to accept an application from an Oxford engineering science graduate, as long as you can showcase the relevance of your course by detailing relevant papers and/or a relevant fourth-year project.
Some engineering organisations may accept graduates from other technical disciplines, such as physics, materials science, chemistry or earth sciences, but this will depend on the relevance of your degree subject to the particular role you are applying for.
For most engineering roles a higher degree is not needed. However, if you wish to specialise in a specific area of engineering (such as biomedical) or move into a related technical area, such as environmental science, then a Master’s course is advantageous.
Once you are employed, the next step for most will be to work towards a professional qualification as a chartered engineer (CEng) or an incorporated engineer (IEng) – a flowchart showing the later career development paths is available from the Engineering Council and a similar one aimed at those who haven’t yet entered the profession is available from the Tomorrow’s Engineers website (below).
For jobs in engineering prior work experience is useful. Not only will it help in skills development, but will also heighten your commercial/industrial awareness. Industrial employers are keen to employ people who understand the business.
The engineering science course at Oxford is unusual among other engineering degree courses in not having a built-in period of six or twelve months in industry, and so you may find that, although many engineering firms offer work experience, they may not be willing to take you on for the holiday only. Having said that, many of the larger firms do offer internships that will fit into a summer holiday, and our Science and Engineering Fair (this year on 2nd November 2011 – handbooks produced for the fairs with details of each employer are available on our website year round) is a good place to enquire further, or by using the sector vacancy websites below and CareerConnect. Opportunities are usually advertised from January onwards, but may be earlier. Refer to publications such as Targetjobs Engineering for advertisements from large companies, and contact alumni on the Oxford Careers Network on CareerConnect to talk further about what their experience has been like – you might even like to enquire as to whether you could shadow them for a day or two to learn more. If you are looking for work experience in a niche area of engineering or within a specific geographical location, it will often be necessary to make speculative applications and network (again, using the Oxford Careers Network or LinkedIn) to find relevant contacts to approach. Many professional bodies have membership directories, which can be a useful way of identifying firms.
The engineering industry does not restrict its recruitment activity to Michaelmas Term, and many organisations recruit throughout the year and are flexible about starting dates, including a number of smaller firms, often based in and around Oxford.
Graduate vacancies are advertised regularly on CareerConnect where you will be able to search all jobs, both current and archived (for speculative applications), and set up alerts.
Also use the sector vacancies below, and set up email alerts for these too. To get a sense of the kind of roles that might come up, use the ‘archive’ search on the vacancies board on CareerConnect to see what kind of engineering roles came up in the past two years.
EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS AND EQUALITY
For information about your employment rights, including the National Minimum Wage, please visit: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Employment/Employees/index.htm and http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/Yourrightsandresponsibilities/DG_10014458
There are frequent changes to the rules affecting international students and recent graduates wishing to work in the UK. Until April 2012 the Tier 1 Post-Study Work category of the Points-Based System to work in the UK will be in operation. Under this scheme, international students can apply for leave to live and work in the UK for a maximum period of two years, provided they meet the eligibility criteria. In April 2012 this will be replaced with a new route in Tier 2 which will require a job offer, a minimum salary and students will need to apply within the UK. It is recommended that, for the most up-to-date information, you check the UKCISA: UK Council for International Student Affairs website which offers independent information and advice about immigration, finance and working in the UK, and also the UK Border Agency website. Please refer to our Diversity files at the Careers Service for more information, or consult the University’s Student Information and Advisory Service.
The Science and Engineering Fair for academic year 2011/12 is on 2 November 2011 in Oxford Town Hall, St Aldates – this fair is held annually – the handbook for this and previous fairs is available on our website year round, with details of employers and what they can offer.
In addition, many employers give presentations to help showcase to prospective employees what their organisation has to offer – check the What’s On section of our website and log in to CareerConnect to see our calendar of events coming up and book places (where necessary).
As well as many sessions delivered by Careers Advisers, we are grateful to many employers including many engineering firms, who support our work by running sessions on assessment centres, giving mock interviews, talking in panel discussions and more.
OXFORD CAREERS NETWORK (OCN)
The OCN is a database of Oxford alumni who are willing to be contacted about their career. Read their case studies for behind-the-scenes insights into an organisation or occupation, and contact volunteers for more advice and information via CareerConnect.
ONLINE INTERVIEW FEEDBACK
The careers website includes access to online interview feedback forms completed by Oxford students; please see the link below to access.
The Careers Service also has an extensive resource centre at 56 Banbury Road, Oxford, where you can drop in to browse during opening hours.
- Occupational Files:
- U1/2 Engineering R&D and Design
- U3 Installation and Commissioning Engineering
- U4 Process Engineering, Control and Maintenance
- U5 Commercial Engineering and Customer Services
- T1 Plant and Production Management
- T2 Production Planning and Control
- T3 Production Engineering
- T4 Quality Assurance and Testing
- V1 Scientific R&D
- V3 Scientific Analysis and Investigation
- Employer Files: Details of particular employers’ schemes and company-related information.
- Consultant Engineers and Technologists 500
- New Scientist, weekly – www.newscientist.com
- New Civil Engineer – http://www.nce.co.uk
- E&T Magazine (from the IET) – http://eandt.theiet.org/explore/students/index.cfm
- Electronics Letters (from the IET) – http://www.theiet.org/eletters
- The Engineer – http://www.theengineer.co.uk
- Engineering on Campus – http://www.engineeringoncampus.co.uk/
- Professional Engineering – http://www.profeng.com
- Electronics Weekly – http://www.electronicsweekly.com
- TARGETjobs Construction, QS & Civil Engineering 2012/13 (Zmag)
- TARGETjobs Engineering 2012/13 (Zmag)
TO TAKE AWAY
- Targetjobs: Construction, QS & Civil Engineering 2012/13
- Targetjobs: Engineering 2012/13
- How the Energy Industry Works – An Insider’s Guide
- Entrypark 2012 International Career Book: Engineering & Science
- Gradcracker: A pocket careers guide for Engineering students
- Inside Careers Engineering and Technology
- The Graduate Technology
- Graduate Guide Construction Careers
- Realworld Your Guide to Engineering and Technology
The Careers Service has recorded a series of podcasts. Subscribe in iTunes or find a full list here: http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/#career-unit
GENERAL VACANCIES AND OCCUPATION INFORMATION
- www.gradcracker.com Graduate engineering jobs and internships site
- http://www.euroengineerjobs.com/ European jobs board
- http://engineering-jobs.theiet.org/ UK based jobs board
- http://jobs.theengineer.co.uk/ The Engineer magazine’ job board
- http://www.constructor.co.uk/ Construction industry jobs
- http://www.icerecruit.com/ Civil engineering jobs
- http://www.ncejobs.co.uk/ New Civil Engineer magazine’s job board
- www.newscientistjobs.com Select ‘Engineering’
- http://www.topengineeringjobs.com/ Graduate and more senior roles
- http://faststream.civilservice.gov.uk/ The-Fast-Streams/Graduate-Fast-Streams/Science-and-Engineering/Civil Service Fast Stream Science and Engineering.
- http://www.intute.ac.uk/engineering/ Lists of engineering websites (accurate as of July 2011). Click through for your specialist sector and filter for ‘companies’ to get a handy list
- http://www.rec.uk.com/regions-sectors/sectors/engineering_technical/member-directory – Search for specialist engineering recruitment agencies
ORGANISATIONS AND ASSOCIATIONS
- www.engc.org.uk Engineering Council UK holds a list of 36 licensed professional institutions. A full list is available from their website – those listed below are some of the largest.
- http://www.cibse.org The Chartered Institute of Building Services Engineers
- http://theiet.org The Institution of Engineering and Technology
- http://www.icheme.org The Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE)
- http://www.ice.org.uk Institution of Civil Engineers
- http://www.ciht.org.uk/ The Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation
- http://www.imarest.org The Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology
- http://www.iom3.org The Institute of Materials Minerals and Mining
- www.ipem.ac.uk/ Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine
- http://www.imeche.org The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE)
- http://www.istructe.org The Institution of Structural Engineers
- www.wes.org.uk Women’s Engineering Society
- http://www.mentorset.org.uk/ UK Mentoring Scheme for Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
Twitter is a quick way to develop your knowledge about the sector and find opportunities. You can read and search it without an account. We’ve made 20 handy lists, so that you can see at a glance information tailored to your interests.
If you’d like to join Twitter, remember to ‘follow’ us (www.twitter.com/OxfordCareers) as well as your chosen lists to keep receiving useful information to help your career.
- See our Engineering-Construction list at: http://twitter.com/OxfordCareers/engineering-construction
- Search ‘Groups’ on LinkedIn.com for ‘Engineering Jobs Worldwide’ and the UK subgroup, the Women’s Engineering Society and many more.
13th Mar 2013
If you're thinking about working in the oil and gas industry, then BP's Insider Insights programme of webcast could provide you with a great opportunity to find out more about the sector from those working in the industry. The three-part series begins on March 20 with "An introduction to a revitalised BP Upstream and our… Continue reading →
14th Jan 2013
HighFliers has published its research from the Top 100 graduate employers about last year's and next year's recruitment. Makes interesting reading, especially when compared to Oxford's figures. The UK’s leading employers recruited fewer graduates than expected in 2012 – entry-level vacancies decreased by 0.8% compared with recruitment in 2011. [Oxford full time and part-time vacancies… Continue reading →
Source: The Engineer