Energy: its production, distribution and use, sits at the heart of some of the world's biggest challenges, and a career in the energy sector will almost certainly link to issues that relate to climate and climate change.

The 2015 Paris Agreement (COP21) set a framework to limit global warming. Progress is being made: for example, in the UK low carbon electricity generation now contributes more than half of the total, and the 2020 Energy White Paper set out ambitious targets for offshore wind, investment in nuclear, and for greener buildings less reliant on fossil fuels. However, while the number of countries pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 grows, so do global greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent imposition of sanctions has disrupted the global energy supply, driven up prices, and brought the political issue of energy security into sharper focus alongside the need for a sustainable net-zero carbon future.

Energy is a sector where new technologies and innovations are needed to drive change and increase efficiency and sustainability. It offers many and varied challenging careers in organisations of all kinds, from global energy companies and international policy bodies through to national and regional players in renewables, distribution and energy use and the start-ups and innovators bringing forward some of the newest ideas and approaches.

Expand All

Organisations in the energy industry range from huge multinational corporations to small organisations developing specialist technology. Many large organisations operate graduate training schemes, most commonly in utilities - the power generation and distributions - and the large oil and gas companies and the nuclear energy sector: most of these firms also have opportunities within their renewable energy businesses. Other segments of the industry are populated by mainly small to medium enterprises (SMEs), for example in renewables technology companies, smart-metering technologies and low-carbon specialists.

Roles for engineers, scientists, data scientists and IT specialists are most abundant, but opportunities also exist in many commercial roles, and in areas such as business management, marketing, HR, policy, regulation and digital services.

Sub-sectors of the energy industry include:

Global and regional energy companies

Many have an international presence and traditionally focus on discovering and extracting oil and gas (upstream business), refining it into commercial products (chemicals) and distributing it to customers (downstream business). Oilfield service companies, such as Schlumberger and Halliburton, provide specialist services to oil companies to aid the exploration and extraction of oil but do not directly extract oil and gas themselves. In the UK much of the oil/gas industry is based around Aberdeen and Great Yarmouth. Many energy companies are now also investing heavily in renewables and may well become leaders in some key technologies, for example, the long-term storage of CO2 in depleted gas reservoirs.

Power generators, distributors and suppliers

Many of the big players in the energy sector use a range of fuel sources (oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewables) to generate electricity for distribution to homes and industry. These companies have evolved from the energy utilities companies of the past. Most now operate nationally and even internationally. Each part of these critical infrastructures must work in harmony to match power supply to demand, and presents its own unique challenges if we are to move to a zero-carbon system. For example, electricity distribution alone will require a fundamental upgrade of the UK electricity grid at a pace and scale never seen before.

Energy policy and regulation

Opportunities to work on policy and regulation relating to energy exist in national government, local government, think tanks and with regulatory bodies such as Ofgem in the UK.

Energy consultancies and market analysts

Consultancies may focus on the energy sector as one aspect of a broader management consultancy business, or as a boutique firm specialising entirely in energy. Their scope could include advising on investment support for mergers and acquisitions or optimising portfolios, developing and advising on hedging strategies in energy markets, advising government on the costs and benefits of different energy policies, providing market intelligence, modelling/optimising energy demand forecasting, pricing analysis and more. See the Careers Service guide to management consultancy for more information.

Energy services, including sustainability consultancies

Organisations responsible for developing and implementing clean energy initiatives and improving energy efficiencies. Such services could be delivered from an in-house team within a company looking at sustainability across a business or other organisation such as a university, or within local councils advising on fuel poverty, energy efficiency, community energy initiatives or local policy. Our information on sustainability and the environment careers covers many of these and related career areas. 

Investment firms specialising in energy

Specialist financial companies dealing with investment, private equity, business and development, buying and selling assets such as wind or solar farms, management of commercial contracts etc specific to the energy industry. See the Careers Service guide to banking and investment for more information

Energy Trading

The commodities markets include power, coal, and oil, and trading in carbon and carbon credits. Trading takes place within stand-alone specialist firms and divisions of major energy companies. Activities include managing investment portfolios, market analysis and (financial) product development. See the Careers Service guide to banking and investment for more information on careers in trading.


Large energy companies will often employ teams of legal experts in-house to advise on contracts and compliance with energy and emissions regulations. Law firms may also develop specialisms in energy. See the Career Service information on becoming a solicitor for more information.

There are roles in the energy sector for graduates of any degree discipline.

Subject requirements are more stringent for technical roles. Earth science, engineering, physics and chemistry are particularly relevant for a career in the energy sector. For some technical roles a postgraduate qualification can enhance your chances. The oil and gas sectors in particular recruit graduates into exploration roles from Masters courses such as Exploration Geophysics, Petroleum Engineering or Petroleum Geoscience. Entry to technical roles with a DPhil/PhD is also common, particularly in Geoscience, Geophysics, Petrophysics and other research and development roles.

Skills needed

The variety of roles for graduates in the energy sector makes it difficult to generalise about the skills required. Review job descriptions to understand the essential and desirable qualities needed for the roles that interest you most. Most employers in the sector emphasise the need for the following:

  • Analytical skills and ability to solve problems.
  • Interpersonal and communication skills.
  • The ability to work in a diverse team, with those from different disciplines and cultures.
  • Determination and drive.
  • Proven academic ability – most graduate schemes require a 2:1 or above (some accept a 2:2), but not necessarily in a technically relevant subject.
  • Ability to think commercially.

Getting experience

Look for internship positions advertised through CareerConnect, and graduate careers websites like GradcrackerTargetJobs, and Prospects, and companies' own graduate career pages. 


  • Most large energy companies that run a graduate scheme will also offer summer internships for students in the penultimate year of study. Internships typically last eight to thirteen weeks and are most common in the oil and gas sector and with power generation companies. Applications open early in the autumn and closing dates are usually between December and March. Examples of companies that offer summer internships include BP, Centrica and EDF Energy, ExxonMobil, Schlumberger, Shell and Siemens.
  • The Summer Internship Programme, run by the Careers Service, offers internships in all sectors, worldwide, including a significant number in the energy industry. This is open to students of all years.
  • The Micro-Internship Programme offers short-term work experience placements, which take place in 9th or 10th week. Each internship gives you the opportunity to observe and assist with a notable project.

Organising your own work experience

If you are not in your penultimate year, or you want to gain some experience of parts of the energy sector where formal internships are rare then there are still options open to you. Many students each year are successful in arranging their own work experience by directly approaching organisations. In sectors dominated by SMEs this may be your only option. 

  • Research companies of interest using key-word searches on LinkedIn to find companies in your region and sector, relevant trade and professional bodies (listed under external resources below).
  • Work shadowing can also be a useful way of finding out more about a particular area, as well as providing a source of contacts. Be prepared to be proactive in your search and make speculative applications. Generate a list of organisations to approach by using the industry websites and directories listed at the end of this document.
  • Local business directories, often found on council websites.

Talk to those employed in your particular areas of interest, as this will help you to get a real feel for the type of work.

There is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer as well as on the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship, visit the Government’s webpages on the National Minimum Wage.

Several large employers, as well as some smaller firms, give presentations in Oxford in Michaelmas Term. Many also attend the Science, Engineering and Technology Fair. Closing dates for graduate programmes range from November to March, though some organisations recruit throughout the year, often for specific roles, and can be flexible about starting dates.

Many energy sector employers advertise their vacancies through CareerConnect. You will also find them well-represented in graduate career publications and websites such as GradcrackerTargetJobsTimes Top 100 and Prospects.

In sectors dominated by SMEs (such as renewables and other specialist technology firms), using a direct approach, more sector specific website (like those in The GreenJobs Network), or specialist recruitment agencies may be productive, particularly for people with existing relevant experience.

Access employers' green credentials

Make informed decisions about the organisations advertising vacancies and events in CareerConnect. Find out how to explore employers' green credentials.

Insight into Sustainability Careers

Many of the talks and events hosted by the Careers Service include alumni, academics and industry professionals working across sustainability and environmental organisations. These form our 'Insight into Sustainability' programme and take place across the academic year. Each term reflects the recruitment pattern for a given industry as much as possible, so you would expect to see more commercial sustainability events in Michaelmas to fit with graduate deadlines and further study deadlines and more environmental charity and conservation talks held in Hilary term, for example. The aim of 'Insight into Sustainability' is to inspire and guide you through lots of different examples of careers in this area from environmental law to sustainable investment to ecology consulting and more! Use CareerConnect to search by sector to see what is coming up each term in this area.

Tips from past Careers Service events

In previous years the Careers Service had held all sustainability events in one designated week. Advice and recordings are detailed below. Moving forwards these events will continue as 'Insight into Sustainability' across each term. These events are listed on CareerConnect and searchable by sector.

Next steps and advice from Sustainability Careers Week 2023

ARTICLE: Read our article containing takeaways from most of the events we hosted at the Sustainability Careers Week 2023, including specific resources and more general advice too.

VIDEOS: We also recorded the Exploring Conservation Careers: Panel Discussion and the Careers in Environmental and Sustainability Consultancy: Panel Discussion

Top tips and takeaways from the 2021 Sustainability Careers Week

As the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) the Oxford Careers Service held a week dedicated to career paths in sustainability: Working Towards a Sustainable Future: Building an Impactful CareerRead highlights from the 2021 events.

Podcast of past event: Careers in Environment & Renewables

Interested in finding out more about careers in the Environment? Listen to Nick King, an environment professional with over 30 years experience in sustainable development, climate change mitigation and adaptation, talk about his extensive career working in both the UK and abroad and providing advice on developing your career in this sector.

General sites

Sector vacancies

Oil and gas




Recruiters are keen to have a diverse workforce, and many will have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting students and graduates from diverse backgrounds. An increasing number of recruiters are offering traineeships, internships and insight events that are aimed at specific groups and many are being recognised for their approach to being inclusive employers.

Try the following to discover more about the policies and attitudes of the recruiters that you are interested in:

Specifically for the energy sector:

  • Energy UK Equality & Diversity Forum hosts a discussion mailing list, and a one-day conference on equality and diversity in the energy sector.
  • Pride in Energy is a network with an LGTB+ focus for people working in the energy industry.
  • WISE promotes female talent in science, engineering and technology. Their extensive website showcases case studies of female role models in technical roles, has a forum (GetSET) for women in science, engineering and technology and links to opportunities for mentoring.
  • ScienceCareers Career Trends: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion report: A collection of articles from and about scientists who are balancing lives in science while addressing other aspects of their identities, some of which have disadvantaged their progress
  • The Royal Society overview of diversity in science provides a useful summary with links to awards and fellowships, mentoring programmes and case studies
  • In Oxford, OxWEST is a student-run organisation that promotes gender equality in STEM subjects.

The UK Equality Act 2010 has a number of protected characteristics to prevent discrimination due to your age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or beliefs, sex or sexual orientation. For further information visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s webpage on the Equality Act  and the Government’s webpages on discrimination.


CareerConnect VACANCIES
CareerConnect EVENTS

Looking for more?

Check the CareerConnect platform for all our upcoming events and opportunities, book appointments, find jobs and internships, and more.

Login to CareerConnect