Graduate engineering careers can be found in a wide range of industries from aerospace, chemicals and defence to power generation, telecoms and utilities. The projects employers undertake range in scale from the development of nanotechnologies and electronic devices to the construction of gargantuan production plants, refineries and wind farms.
Engineering also plays a huge role in society. Engineers invent, design, manufacture and influence practically everything we use and technology will hold the answers to many of the issues our future on Earth presents.
How can I get a job in an engineering company?
Engineering employers look for talented graduate engineers who can combine a sound technical base with commercial awareness. The larger graduate recruiters run engineering and technology graduate training programmes to which you can apply directly. Getting on a graduate scheme can be competitive, especially in the current economic climate, so industrial placement experience or related work experience will help you to stand out from the crowd. Smaller engineering organisations will have entry-level roles that are suitable for engineering graduates.
What qualifications and skills do I need to work in engineering?
Engineering jobs need a relevant engineering degree. You need to have the right technical skills and knowledge. Some employers recruit graduates from both BEng and MEng degrees. However, some industry employers will hire graduates from MEng degrees only. To train to become a chartered engineer or an incorporated engineer your degree will need to be accredited by the Engineering Council.
Not all technical jobs in engineering companies are filled by engineers. Many employers have vacancies for physicists and materials science graduates. Business-focused jobs in accounting and marketing may be suitable for graduates from any degree.
In addition to technical skills, all recruiters want graduate engineers to have the following skills:
- Communication skills – written and verbal
- Problem-solving ability
- Analytical skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Commercial awareness
- The ability to learn quickly
- Flexibility and adaptability
- Enthusiasm and motivation.
What is a typical salary for a graduate engineer?
Salaries for engineering graduate schemes advertised with TARGETjobs Engineering tend to range between around £20,000 to £33,000. Meanwhile chartered engineers earn a median of £63,000 and incorporated engineers £45,500, according to the Engineering Council’s Survey of Registered Engineers 2013.
What training and development do engineering employers offer?
Training and development is a high priority in engineering. It’s a vital part of becoming professionally qualified as an incorporated engineer (IEng) or a chartered engineer (CEng). Many employers’ graduate schemes and training are accredited by relevant professional engineering institutions, and professional development continues throughout the life of an engineer.
What are working life and working hours like for engineers?
Engineering jobs are incredibly varied so it is difficult to describe a typical day or a typical work environment. You might find yourself doing calculations and preparing specifications, overseeing work in a manufacturing facility or on construction site, holding meetings with clients, producing designs and checking that they’re adhered to, and much more.
Engineers generally lead pretty balanced lives, but this depends on the role and the nature of the business. As with any organisation or career area, there will be times when you are working to meet a deadline and have to put in extra hours.
According to the Engineering Council’s Survey of Registered Engineers 2010, the mean working week for the chartered engineers it surveyed was 44 hours (the median was 42). It found that 4% worked fewer than 30 hours per week and 12% worked more than 50 hours per week. Among incorporated engineers, the mean was 43 (and the median 42), with 3% working fewer than 30 hours per week and 9% working more than 50 hours per week.
Mobility is also increasingly important and you may need to travel overseas on business trips, spend extended placements abroad, or simply travel within the UK.
What are the different areas of work?
There is a wide range of engineering industries to choose from and within each there are different kinds of roles on offer for engineering graduates. TARGETjobs Engineering features industry sector overviews of over 20 engineering sectors, including aerospace, automotive, chemicals, electronic, rail and telecoms engineering.
What other jobs can engineering graduates do?
If you have an engineering degree, the career world is at your feet. With your background you’ll have a bank of transferable skills such as problem solving, logical thinking and high-level numeracy skills that are desirable to wider range of employers. This opens up many more career options for graduate engineers.
Engineering graduates are often targeted in the recruitment drives of finance, IT and consultancy organisations. Another popular profession for engineers and scientists is patent work. However, you don’t have to leave industry to have a commercial career in engineering.
Graduate engineers are recruited into a range of other roles within engineering organisations, such as procurement, technical sales, operations management, supply chain management and logistics. It makes sense, because no one is better qualified to understand the commercial challenges faced by an engineering company than an engineer.
Even if you start in a purely technical role there are often opportunities to move into another area of an employer’s business as you progress. A significant proportion of CEOs and heads of businesses in the FTSE 100 come from an engineering background so it’s clearly a good place to start.
What are the highs and the lows?
Graduate engineers work alongside experienced engineers in multidisciplinary teams and are involved from the outset with fascinating technology and work on intellectually and practically challenging problems that need to be solved. The personal satisfaction of finding solutions that may have a tangible affect on society is a great reward for many.
You may have to travel with your work, which is some times glamorous and sometimes not. Some industry sectors have lots of regulations to keep pace with which results in huge amounts of paperwork and documentation. It can also be frustrating to work on a project from which the funding gets pulled, for commercial reasons. Nonetheless most engineers are happy in their work.
What does the application process for engineering jobs involve?
The majority of larger engineering employers expect graduates to apply for jobs using an online application. For smaller employers, submitting a CV and covering letter via e-mail is more typical. The selection process then typically involves tests (eg numerical, personality and verbal reasoning), interviews (general and technical), and/or an assessment centre. It's worth having a go at some psychometric tests in preparation – you can practise online with Asssessment Day.
When should I apply for graduate engineering roles?
Many engineering employers have ‘open’ recruitment cycles with no fixed application deadline. They accept applications and run interviews and assessment centres recruiting until they have filled their vacancies. However, you should start looking into graduate engineering opportunities early (autumn term) to make sure you don’t miss out. A number of recruiters still have annual deadlines, some as early as November, so you need to check each graduate employer's recruitment schedule.
What is competition for graduate programmes like?
Recent years have seen shortages of qualified engineers and there are shortages in some disciplines (manufacturing and electronics are often cited) but despite this getting into engineering can still be competitive. Most of the well-known graduate employers attract a large number of applications and they are seeking graduates with both excellent technical and general skills.