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Defence technology: industry sector overview

Defence technology: industry sector overview

Graduates opting for careers in the defence industry can work with emerging technology alongside engineers of many different disciplines.

The defence industry provides support for national security and protection for sovereign governments, their citizens and their armed forces. Engineering capability underpins the success of the defence sector and spans a full range of products and services to support land, air and naval forces. Equally important are advanced electronics and systems engineering, which provide technological innovations to support all areas of defence capability.

Defence engineering brings opportunities to work on some of the most technologically advanced projects in the world. Opportunities exist in both the public sector, in particular within the armed forces, and the private sector, which includes a range of defence organisations. In many countries there is a shortage of graduates with suitable technology and engineering skills.

Trends and developments in defence technology

There is an increasing emphasis on partnering with customers to manage through-life capability and advanced design in this sector. Excellence of product performance and cost engineering are key priorities to develop innovative, affordable solutions and bring enhanced operational capability to the market in the shortest possible time. Project timescales used to be very long but new capabilities now need to be run through a concept phase, assessed, demonstrated, manufactured and put into service within a much shorter period. For example, some urgent operational requirements can have a lifecycle of only one year.

Unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs) are attracting significant media attention. Soldiers can command a UAV from a central location and use it to access potentially dangerous locations and gather vital information, minimising the risk involved in reconnaissance operations.

What it’s like working in the defence industry

The defence industry provides the potential for a very dynamic career. Graduates can get involved in solving complex problems using emerging technology. Most defence requirements need global solutions so some positions do require mobility, but you can have a very interesting career based on one site. Sites tend to be large and encompass a vast array of disciplines, with people working on a range of projects. A variety of skills are required to solve problems, so every engineer is an intrinsic part of the team.

Getting a graduate job in defence technology

You need a solid engineering background that you can build upon in a specific area or across a range of related areas. Being openminded, adaptive and creative in solving problems is beneficial. Joining a graduate programme is a good way to understand the breadth and depth the industry can offer. You can then find an area that interests you and build on your skills and understanding.

The highlights of a career in defence technology

  • Working at the cutting edge of UK engineering.
  • Solving complex problems.
  • The breadth of understanding you gain.

The defence industry seeks graduates in...

  • Aerospace/aeronautical
  • Automotive
  • Chemical
  • Civil/structural
  • Electrical
  • Electronics
  • Environmental
  • Instruments
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials
  • Mathematics
  • Mechanical
  • Physics
  • Software

Thanks to Paul Jones, CEng MIET MEng DIS, for his help with this article. Paul is an enterprise integration manager at BAE Systems. He has an MEng in systems engineering from Loughborough University.