The UK needs to double the amount of engineering graduates by 2020 to meet demand. here’s why it’s a good career to get into!
The UK government has designated 2018 as the Year of Engineering, indicating how seriously it is taking the need for fresh talent in this sector. Ministers recognise that a lack of graduates entering engineering – one of the most productive sectors in the economy – is holding back growth.
It’s now seen as crucial to the nation’s success that more people join the profession. With major investment promised in infrastructure projects and technologies to make life more efficient, engineers are in high demand.
Working in engineering means problem-solving to improve the design and performance of anything from the kettle that makes your tea to the jet engine that takes you on holiday. It allows you to play a part in shaping the products and processes of the future.
Engineers are tackling serious issues around the world, from protecting water supplies to finding sustainable ways to travel. They work in almost every sector of the economy, from manufacturing to sport to food, so it’s not surprising that the number of roles is growing. And with the existing workforce ageing, it is estimated that by 2024 there will be 2.65 million job openings in UK engineering companies.
Software engineers design, develop, test and maintain the applications that make laptops, mobile phones, robots and other electronic devices more than just expensive lumps of metal. In an ever more digitalised world, software engineers increasingly hold the key to making communications, transport and energy systems tick. They often work in teams – sometimes virtually, from offices in different countries.
What qualifications do I need? STEM subjects are always a good starting point for engineering careers – so studying science, technology, engineering or maths at school is useful grounding. There are specific university courses in computer science, software engineering, software development and even games development.
You can also join a company on a graduate training course after studying other subjects, and there are a number of apprenticeships on offer. The Institution of Engineering & Technology has a scholarships and bursary programme that supports and nurtures young talent and those who need additional support.
How much can I earn? An average starting salary as a graduate software engineer is about £26,000, while apprentices often get paid above the statutory rate of £3.50 an hour for under-19s and those in their first year. Pay can rise to £60,000 with experience, and chartered engineers doing specialist roles can earn much more.
Manufacturing has been a backbone of the British economy since the industrial revolution, and nowadays it covers factory creation of everything from food to chemicals, and accounts for 10% of the country’s output.
Manufacturing engineers are often required at the beginning of a product’s life cycle, working with a range of colleagues and external contacts to ensure a product can be made efficiently. You could be working on production of a Formula One car or a critical health treatment.
What qualifications do I need? Maths and physics are important subjects for getting a grounding in some of the skills needed by manufacturing engineers. Degrees are available in manufacturing systems engineering, electrical or electronic engineering, production engineering and other relevant areas. You can also enter at trainee level with an engineering HND, or take a degree-level apprenticeship.
How much can I earn? A graduate engineer can expect to earn £26,000 a year in an entry-level position. With experience and more responsibility, salaries can rise, with aerospace manufacturing engineers paid an average base salary of £40,000.
Civil and Structural Engineering
Civil engineers help plan and manage construction projects. Often they work on public infrastructure schemes to improve road, rail, water and energy networks. But they can also have a crucial role to play on private house- and office-building jobs.
Structural engineers also work in the construction industry, ensuring the built environment is safe and sturdy. Both roles involve drawing up and understanding physical and virtual blueprints, and communicating problems and solutions to others involved in a project.
What qualifications do I need? To become a chartered structural or civil engineer, you would normally need an accredited engineering degree followed by a significant period of industry experience and professional training. However, you don’t have to become chartered and there are solid routes into these roles through apprenticeships and local training courses.
How much can I earn? Starting salaries begin at around £20,000 but that can double with training and experience, and double again with chartered status and senior roles. Opportunities exist to work overseas, which can be even more lucrative.
As an electrical engineer you would help design, develop and maintain electrical systems in buildings and vehicles as well as in rail and power networks. You’d be likely to work in a multi-disciplinary project team, and you may carry out feasibility studies, draw up plans, budgets and programmes, and test components. You could well work with engineers from other specialities on a common project.
What qualifications do I need? You often need a foundation degree, higher national certificate or diploma, bachelor’s or master’s in electrical or electronic engineering to break into this specialist field. However, some related university courses cover electronics to a suitable level of detail. You can also go down the vocational route, starting as an electrical technician apprentice and continuing your training from there.
How much can I earn? Newly trained electrical engineers can earn around £25,000 a year and expect this to rise to £40,000. Senior electrical engineers can earn closer to £60,000 per year and of course pay will vary according to what is expected from a role and the success of a company.
If you like planes, trains and automobiles, mechanical engineering could be for you. These engineers are prominent in the design of car and aerospace engines, railway locomotives, wind turbines, nuclear power plants, artificial limbs and pretty much any manufactured item that moves.
Day-to-day tasks can include research, testing, presenting and analysing data. You might be in the office running through a spreadsheet of test results one day, then out looking at a problem in a factory or other real-world environment the next.
What qualifications do I need? A degree in an engineering subject is a good start, and maths and physics are strong subjects to get you on to university courses. There are always other ways though, including advanced apprenticeships and foundation degrees, both of which involve on-the-job learning.
How much can I earn? Mechanical engineers earn about £45,000 on average, but of course salaries vary depending on experience and other factors. When you look at forecast skills shortages in the profession, it is likely that all engineering salaries will go up.