Careers advice and planning

How do I get an engineering graduate job?

9 Apr 2024, 13:40

Start here to find out everything you need to know about beginning your career as a graduate engineer. Learn about the jobs you can apply to, the industries you can work in and how to make a successful application.

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Engineering is the process of applying science and maths to the design and creation of all sorts of machines, structures and processes from 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. Discover how you can secure an engineering graduate job:

  1. How can I get a job in an engineering company?
  2. How do I apply for engineering graduate jobs?
  3. When should I apply for graduate engineering roles?
  4. What is the salary for a graduate engineer?
  5. What engineering jobs can I do?
  6. What are the different engineering industries?
  7. How hard is it to get a job in engineering?
  8. What training and development do engineering employers offer?
  9. What are the highs and the lows?
  10. What other jobs can engineering graduates do?

Search for: engineering graduate jobs and schemes | engineering internships and placements.

How can I get a job in an engineering company?

Graduates can apply for two types of engineering vacancy: an individual entry-level job (sometimes called a graduate job) or a graduate programme (sometimes called a graduate scheme).

Smaller employers are more likely to advertise individual entry-level jobs on an as needed basis, while larger engineering employers are likely to advertise graduate programmes, through which a number of engineering graduates are hired in one go.

If you undertake an engineering placement year or summer internship with a larger company, it is possible that they will fast-track you through the recruitment process for their graduate programme and perhaps even sponsor you through your final year of university.

How do you apply for engineering graduate jobs?

The majority of larger engineering employers expect graduates to apply for jobs through an online application form. This may involve answering application questions or submitting a CV, depending on the employer.

The next stage typically involves some online ability or psychometric tests (for example, numerical, personality and verbal reasoning). It's worth having a go at some psychometric tests in preparation – you can practise online with Assessment Day .

If you pass these, you will be invited to a first interview. This could be a ‘live’ face to face, video or phone interview. However, it could also be a pre-recorded video interview (in which you record yourself answering questions that appear on screen) or involve a job simulation (in which you are given various scenarios on screen and have to say how you would respond).

You are then likely to be invited to an assessment centre, in which a number of candidates come together to undertake a number of group activities together and then have a separate, individual final interview. Your engineering knowledge and abilities will also be assessed, either through being given a technical case study, being asked to present on a specific topic or being asked technical interview questions.

When should I apply for graduate engineering roles?

Some larger engineering companies 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, others set fixed deadlines – some as early as November for a start date of the following October.

You should start looking into graduate engineering opportunities early (autumn term) to make sure you don’t miss out.

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
  • Teamworking
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Accuracy
  • The ability to learn quickly
  • Flexibility and adaptability
  • Enthusiasm and motivation.

What is the salary for a graduate engineer?

A typical starting salary in engineering is between the £25,000 and £32,000 mark. Smaller and medium-sized or regional employers may offer slightly lower pay, often between £20,000 and £25,000, while larger employers typically pay their graduate engineers £30,000 and above.

What engineering jobs can I do?

There are a huge variety of roles available; the exact nature of them will vary according to the industry but generally they will be aligned to one or two parts of the overall engineering process: research and development; design; production, building, creating or otherwise implementing; or ongoing maintenance.

Your job title could be the same as your degree discipline, for example mechanical engineer or environmental engineer. Alternatively, it could be based around a particular stage of the engineering process, for example design engineer or quality assurance engineer. Take a look at our range of engineering job descriptions to view the key engineering roles available to you – and search for current engineering vacancies on targetjobs.

What are the different engineering industries?

The main engineering sectors are:

  • Aerospace
  • Automotive
  • Built environment (construction)
  • Chemicals
  • Defence
  • Electronics
  • Energy and power
  • Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG)
  • Marine
  • Materials and metals
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Rail
  • Telecoms
  • Utilities

Find out more about these sectors and which engineering degree disciplines they typically recruit from in our A–Z of engineering industries .

How hard is it to get an engineering job?

This is a difficult question to answer. Engineering professional bodies have been pointing to a skills shortage for some time, due to factors such as an ageing workforce and the attractiveness of the other careers open to engineers (such as finance and law).

Some skills shortages are particularly acute: for example, mechanical and electrical engineers are particularly sought after in a number of industries, particularly in construction and defence.

Recent reports from the Institute of Student Employers (ISE, whose membership typically comprises the largest employers with a track record of hiring graduates) suggest that the number of vacancies within the ‘energy, engineering and industry’ sector have rebounded since the pandemic.

That said, the ISE also report that recently there are 70+ applications per vacancy in the energy, engineering and industry sector. To stand a good chance of getting the engineering job you want, you will need to put in an excellent, tailored application and demonstrate the required skills and strengths during the interview process.

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.

Larger employers will provide a mix of classroom-based and on-the-job training on technical and non-technical skills, along with access to mentors and buddies.

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 effect on society is a great reward for many.

You may have to travel with your work, which is sometimes 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 other jobs can engineering graduates do?

Engineering graduates are highly sought after for a range of careers, including finance, IT and management consulting. Another traditional area for engineers is in law, including but not limited to patent work and intellectual property.

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.

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