Estimated graduate starting salary: £16,000 - £21,000 Typical salary after training: £25,000 - £50,000+ Engineering Graduate Jobs
Engineers are responsible for creating and maintaining the bulit environment around us. The training and specialisation involved in engineering may lead graduates in various fields such as electronics, defence, construction, science, research and IT. From the pipes and tunnels beneath us; to the buildings in which we live and work; and the aircraft and satellites that encircle the globe - all this and much more is the work of engineers and technologists.
Today's graduate engineers have to perform a variety of different tasks in their jobs, including drawing up complex designs, making presentations to a board of directors and operating on the shop floor. There are over 800,000 professional engineers in the UK, a third of which are registered with the Engineering Council, working in the main areas such as mechanical, civil, electrical, electronic, chemical and manufacturing. The sector in general employs over 1.5 million people. The area of engineering graduates have studied will largely dictate the roles that graduates will perform as they all have specific skills required for the roles. Thus specific engineering skills are generally not transferable from one discipline to another.
Engineering covers an enormous variety of roles and services, with organisations being responsible for most of the products and amenities people use everyday, both at home and work. Consequently, engineers are in great demand and enjoy one of the lowest rates of unemployment of any of the major career sectors. Recent employment statistics in the UK show that very high proportions, 92% of engineering graduates, were employed six months after graduating. Furthermore, they earn more than other graduates. The long-held belief that salaries are low in engineering is simply not true today. It is fairly likely that if you are a graduate with skills that are scarce then you can command are higher salary because your talent comes at a premium. The average income for experienced engineers within the Institution of Civil Engineers is £37,700 for technicians, £52,700 for members and £81,400 for fellows (ICE salary survey 06-07).
More than three in four engineering graduates find employment in their preferred career, whereas fewer than half of other graduates make it into chosen field within six months of graduation. Engineers are also more likely to be satisfied with their careers, with strategic planning and thinking being a key part of their job.
Civil engineering contractors and consultants are doing well; graduate civil engineers are in short supply. There is a big house-building programme and the government's focus on hospitals and schools also provides additional work. The government recently unveiled its strategy for new airport runways around the country; the expansion of air travel is good news for the sector, especially civil engineering. Many firms and engineering consultants are engaged in international projects, not just those in the UK.
Telecommunications has made a difficult start to the millennium with recruitment at a low ebb. Now that third generation mobile phones are firmly on the market there is talk of expansion, especially into China, which is expected to become a major market for novel telecommunication systems. New electronic and mechanical engineering recruits will certainly be working on the development of the next generation of mobile phones, plus all the ancillary equipment that is required, and new competitive services. Recruitment, especially of electronic engineers, is expected to increase.
Jobs can also be found in other areas of electronics, including the manufacture of computers and their peripherals, consumer equipment such as DVD players and Hi Fi and complex control systems for industrial plant. Electronic, software and mechanical engineers are those in most demand in these areas. Designs of integrated circuits are often completed here in the UK, but their manufacture is now almost entirely done abroad.
A big growth area is the security market. This includes novel equipment for the detection of dangerous or illegal substances, the video surveillance of crime spots and new equipment to increase the security of credit cards. Identification using biometrics is rapidly increasing with America finger-printing foreign visitors and the UK on the brink of introducing identity cards. All of these developments are providing work for engineers. Now that war is about terrorism instead of intercontinental ballistic missiles, some of these areas may well be labeled as ‘defence’.
The sort of work and industry a graduate will be involved in will depend on the discipline required by the employer. This can range from designing jet engines through to ensuring manufacturing processes are working properly. For many, their job offers the opportunity to explore their creativity. So many engineers are in demand because employers recognise their technical skills and inspiration are good for business, the national economy and global trade.
Two of the popular areas of engineering at graduate level are the aerospace and automotive sector.
The aerospace sector is of the greatest importance to the UK economy. It is the largest in Europe and the second largest in the world, employing 147,000 people directly in the UK and 350,000 people indirectly. In 2001, UK-based turnover exceeded £18.4 billion and accounted for seven per cent of the nation's total exports. It is a knowledge-intensive industry with around 11 per cent of the total workforce involved in research and development (R&D) and it accounts for nearly ten per cent of UK manufacturing's entire R&D spend.
The aerospace industry works internationally. Airbus makes different parts for its aeroplanes in different countries and then assembles them. BAeSystems is a key player in the UK defence equipment market. The products in this sector include civil and military aircraft, satellites, rockets and missiles, navigation and electronic guidance systems. Hundreds of small firms act as suppliers to the industry and there is work for a broad range of engineers from disciplines including aeronautical, structural, electronic and mechanical engineering.
Graduates enter this sector either by joining a company postgraduate scheme or by direct application to companies during their degree course in aeronautical engineering or mechanical engineering, or possibly manufacturing engineering if a role is sought in production. New graduates are frequently given responsibility very early, often with frequent opportunities to travel in support of exports and joint ventures.
Most graduate engineers entering the sector find the life rewarding, particularly seeing ideas progress from a design on paper to a product in service. However success in the industry requires determination, particularly when projects exceed budget because of technical problems.
The automotive engineering sector covers the design, manufacture, distribution, marketing and sales of motor vehicles. Despite current market pressures it's an important engineering sector for the UK, contributing strongly to the gross national product. The sector comprises a variety of different types of company from large blue-chip multinationals to independent component manufacturing companies. The UK also has a thriving group of smaller companies with specialist expertise in areas such as motorsports engineering.
Most larger companies have accredited graduate schemes where for the first year at least you'll most likely work in different areas of the business - both engineering and non-engineering. As well as design and manufacturing positions, it's important to realise that your engineering degree is a good basis for many other career opportunities in the industry, including commercial and business roles.
There is a lot of pressure linked to production roles: you have to make rapid decisions and solve problems quickly to keep things in motion, but there's lots of variety and great job satisfaction. If you work for a multinational there may also be opportunities to travel and work abroad.
The automobile industry in the UK has also been at a low ebb for the last year or so. Some firms have been operating a recruitment ban. Although this is bad news for those seeking to make a career in this sector recently it is unlikely to last long. Job vacancies with car manufacturers and their suppliers can only increase during the next few years.
In any engineering sector the most sought after and valuable positions are generally accredited to chartered status, although the type of qualification depends on the engineering positions, i.e. Electrical - IEE, Mechanical - IMechE, Civil - ICE. These qualifications give a recognisable and transferable skill within each discipline. Engineering graduates face at least four years of further training to achieve professional qualification as a chartered engineer (CEng) depending on the degree studied. There are also routes to becoming an incorporated engineer (IEng). Both qualifications require structured training (Initial Professional Development) which leads to professional review before qualification. The benefits to you as a graduate include a professional recognition and a higher salary.
UK engineering standards are high and recognised throughout the world. They show that engineers have achieved a benchmark level of competence and deserve respect for their judgements and ability.
Engineers of all disciplines have always been drawn to working overseas, whilst the UK has long attracted talent from around the world. UK Students studying engineering are likely to find themselves studying alongside people from overseas because one in five of all students coming to the UK are on science and engineering courses. This is a great opportunity to develop international contacts in a world that is opening up. The is particular relevant in Europe as European countries are growing closer. The European Union (EU) is the largest trading bloc in the world and is expanding. More than half of UK exports go to the other member states and it is the core premise of the EU to create a free exchange of professionals services, including the practice of engineering.
As an engineer your long term employment prospects are excellent. Unemployment among professional engineers is less than 1%, and research suggests that demand is set to rise because of advances in technology, and changes to industry and consumer demands.
You may be aware that the days engineers only went into manufacturing have long gone. More than half of today's graduate engineers will go into other fields, such as finance, commerce and the media. In fact, engineers appear in almost every area of the modern world, whether it is in the Formula One motor racing industry, or in medical world working for a pharmaceutical company.
Qualifications and skills needed
One major advantage of forging a career in the engineering sector is that there are jobs to suit all personalities and at many different levels of expertise. Some are highly technical, others managerial, yet more require persuasive skills and writing ability. The jobs range much wider than simply those for engineering professionals and the opportunities for career development are numerous.
Engineering employers all look for similar competences and they want evidence that you have used them. That's why the first step in your application process should be getting to know yourself. Make a list of key personal/managerial competences sought by most employers and then brainstorm some times when you've demonstrated them. Don't be frightened to take a brief list of 'hot tips' into the interview with you. One glance and you'll be reminded of your prime examples. More importantly, they'll have the evidence they need to take your application further.
Effective communication is crucial for engineering businesses to operate productively. With an increase in the documentation and work instructions used by engineers in the workplace, clear and systematic communication is a prerequisite. It can be shown through a concise and well-written application. Recruiters also look for an open, easy manner with clear, precise vocabulary at the interview.
Interpersonal skills are essential if you are to work successfully with customers to identify their needs, provide solutions and to work effectively with colleagues. You'll need the ability to work in a team, support others and share knowledge. Ensure you know yourself - personality, ability, motivation and skills - and identify experiences that demonstrate you can work with others.
Enthusiasm, drive and motivation can't be taught, but they are vital for success. Graduates in first roles experience steep learning curves - assimilating a lot of information, coping with responsibilities and working with new people.
As with many organisations satisfying customers is one of the key objectives. Developing products and services of the future and maintaining technology has a large part to play in this. Consequently, graduates need to demonstrate throughout the assessment process that they understand the value of profitable customers, can listen and understand customer needs and deliver outstanding customer service.
Because of the technical nature of the work involved nearly all engineering positions always require the relevant degree. However the discipline will also depend on the requirements of the employer. Certain engineering positions have lower graduate numbers, e.g. civil engineering, and as a result employers may accept lower academic qualifications. However where the number of graduate applicants are high, e.g. automotive engineering, recruiters can afford to be selective and may look for those who have done a sandwich year spent on industrial placement on site at a sponsoring company. Most employers will also expect candidates to have strong GCSE and A-level passes (or equivalent) in maths, sciences or technology. Applicants must be creative and innovative, communicate well and operate effectively within multi-functional teams and must ready to take decisions when appropriate. Business skills and a foreign language can be an advantage.