Engineering is a particularly good career choice for graduates who want to spread their wings. You can experience life in other countries with permanent positions abroad, overseas projects or short work trips. Or you can become better acquainted with the UK with rotational graduate schemes or trips to sites or facilities. Whether you yearn to see as much of the world as possible or remain with family and friends, it’s all a question of choosing the right employer.
Working abroad in your graduate engineering job
With some engineering employers your working life will consist of a series of long-term placements, often lasting for several years, anywhere in the world. You’ll fully experience life in different cultures, perhaps becoming fluent in new languages. However, you might need to give thought to your personal life, for example if you want to settle down with a partner who can’t or won’t move with you, or who won't be legally entitled to work in your new country. Investigate opportunities with international organisations such as Shell, BP and Lloyd’s Register.
Many other engineering employers will offer medium-term opportunities to work abroad, for example on a project or as a placement on a graduate scheme. These organisations may offer longer-term overseas options later in your career. Again, look into international employers or those who do significant amounts of work for overseas clients, such as Bechtel, Siemens and Rolls-Royce. Shorter stints overseas may be more manageable for your personal life, but you’ll still need to be sure you can leave any UK commitments for several months or more at a time.
Business trips overseas
Don’t actually want to live abroad? Joining an engineering company with international connections may well throw up short work trips abroad from time to time. If you enjoy travel, keep in mind that you’ll mainly see airports, meeting rooms and hotels rather than getting out to meet the locals. You may need to take a couple of days’ annual leave to stay on afterwards if you want to explore.
With any employer, overseas work or travel will be based on business need. The timing and location of your travel will be based mainly on project requirements rather than your preferences. Remember also that there’s unlikely to be a guarantee of getting to work abroad.
Graduate schemes where you'll rotate round the UK
Considerable numbers of engineering companies have bases across the UK. Many of these rotate graduate-scheme engineers through multiple locations in order to expose them to as many aspects of the business as possible. Such schemes will give you good experience of different processes, increase your confidence in getting to know new colleagues and clients, and give you the chance to explore the UK. Your employer may even help with accommodation costs, for example assisting you to keep a permanent base in one part of the country while moving round to others. However, do be sure if you sign up that you’re happy to spend 18 months or more moving from town to town.
Frequent UK travel from a permanent base
In sectors such as construction, utilities and energy, you may keep the same permanent office base but be required to travel out to relevant sites on a very regular basis. This may be easier if you want to live in one place, and will certainly get you out and about, but could mean that you spend a sizeable chunk of your working week commuting.
Graduate engineering jobs that don't require travel
If you want to minimise travel for work purposes, look out for companies based in just one geographical location, or roles that are more desk- or lab-bound – for example design work, software development or R&D. Do still expect to do some travel, though, and try to be flexible as to where in the country you’re based. Being prepared to move to where the work is will dramatically increase your opportunities.