Energy

Even as the number of countries that have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 continues to grow, so do global greenhouse gas emissions.

Progress has been made. In the UK low carbon electricity generation now contributes more than half of the total, and the Energy White Paper published in December 2020 sets out ambitious targets for offshore wind, investment in nuclear, and for greener buildings less reliant on fossil fuels. The UN Climate Summit (COP26) builds on the foundations of the 2015 Paris Agreement and highlights the need for global momentum behind the transition to clean energy.

The pace of change and the challenges faced by the energy industry make this an exciting time to join the sector and help to secure our future global energy supply.

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Organisations in the energy industry range from huge multinational corporations to small organisations consisting of a handful of people developing specialist technology. Many large organisations operate graduate training schemes, most commonly in the oil and gas industry and the power generation sector. Other parts of the industry are dominated by 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 policy, regulation and law.

Energy industry sectors 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 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.

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. Smaller companies may focus on one locality or on one source of energy such as a network of solar farms.

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.

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, CO2 certificates and oil. 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.

Energy services, including sustainability consultancies

Organisations responsible for developing and implementing clean energy initiative 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. 

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.

Legal

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. However, most employers in the sector emphasise the need for the following:

  • Analytical skills and ability to solve problems.
  • Interpersonal skills and 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).
  • Ability to think commercially.
  • Data handling and modelling techniques

Getting experience

Internships

  • Many large energy companies offer summer internships for students in the penultimate year of their university course. Students on postgraduate courses are also often eligible to apply for these. 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, Shell, ExxonMobil, Schlumberger, Centrica and EDF Energy.
  • 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.
  • Several organisations advertise summer work experience on CareerConnect.

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) a direct approach or using specialist recruitment agencies may be productive.

Events

Working towards a Sustainable Future

Join our programme of virtual panel talks and workshops in 4th week of Michaelmas term, from 1-5 November 2021. Sessions include: Working Towards Net Zero: Sustainability Careers Outlook; Sustainability Careers Beyond Business; How to make it in Corporate Sustainability; First steps to a career in sustainability: networking, gaining experience, further study and beyond; and more.

To find out more about this and other relevant events please refer to our term planner.

Take-away material

Collect the following material from our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • How the Energy Industry Works
  • TargetJobs: Engineering
  • Times Top 100 graduate employers
  • Guardian UK300

General sites

Sector vacancies

Oil and gas

Nuclear

Utilities

Renewables

Recruiters are keen to employ a diverse workforce and many have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting students and graduates from diverse backgrounds. An increasing number of recruiters offer traineeships, internships and insight events that are aimed at specific groups.

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

  • Read their equality, diversity and inclusion policy
  • Search their website to see if they have any specific staff networks
  • look for external accreditation, for example are they a Disability Confident employer, a Stonewall Diversity Champion, or part of the Mindful Employer charter?
  • Check to see if they are partnering with organisations such as Rare Recruitment, SEO London, MyPlus Students Club (disability), EmployAbility (disability and neurodifference)
  • Explore what they do to celebrate diversity on their Facebook and Twitter pages

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 on the Equality Act 2010 and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

 

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