Career as an Electrical engineer

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David Smith works as an electrical engineer with Shell UK. He works in the office onshore and offshore on oil platforms.

What is your job?

I work in the Engineering and Maintenance Department. In the Aberdeen offices we look after the electrical systems of all our platforms in the North Sea and several gas plants. I work both in the office and offshore. When in the office I am normally involved in any of the ongoing projects assisting the senior electrical engineers.

Offshore work is different. At the moment I am assigned to one of our platforms, Nelson. This is excellent experience and is helping me to achieve essential hands-on experience.

As an Electrical engineer do you have a typical day?

Each day is different. On the platform I am working with the electrical team carrying out the maintenance tasks on the equipment. This can vary a lot from day to day. One day I am working with transformer testing and the following day I am carrying out a survey to the air system. The wide variety of tasks makes me aware of the overall and ongoing processes on the platform.

What hours do you work?

I normally work from 8.00am to 5.00pm, but it is quite flexible.

What was your route into your career as an Electrical engineer?

After graduating in Spain in electrical engineering, I wanted to start my career abroad. The process was simple. I applied online to Shell and got a response very quickly to be interviewed. After this I was invited to attend the recruitment day, where you perform a series of exercises in front of a panel of assessors. The next day I had an offer to join Shell in Aberdeen working in electrical engineering.

Why did you choose to become an Electrical engineer?

Working for such a big company has the benefit of allowing employees to work worldwide. Oil is a very thriving and challenging industry. In the North Sea, for example, we are involved in projects requiring the use of the latest technology.

What training have you received?

My training is very wide. The scheme involves working on real projects taking responsibilities from day one, attending numerous training courses (both technical and non-technical) and practical experience on sites, such as I am doing now in Nelson.

What do you like best about your career as an Electrical engineer?

The best part is when I am offshore. I really enjoy working with colleagues on the platform, testing and fixing equipment. It is here where you gain knowledge of the industry you are working in and experience the problems first hand.

Are there any disadvantages to your job?

Not in the job itself, but being far from home means that I do not see family and friends as often as I would like.

What skills and qualities do you need to be an Electrical engineer?

The academic record plays a part in the recruitment process, but not the only one. It is important to be creative, able to tackle unfamiliar problems, get things done and be a good team member.

David's route to his career as an Electrical engineer

  • GCSEs.
  • A levels.
  • Degree in Electrical Engineering (Power Systems).
  • Working towards MSc in Petroleum Technology and Institution of Electrical Engineers chartered status.

David's Electrical engineer tips

  • Be enthusiastic about engineering.
  • Show respect for people regardless of culture or status.
  • Have an open-minded attitude towards travelling and mobility.

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Salary of an Electrical engineer

  • Graduate engineers usually start on around £20,000 a year.
  • Experienced electrical engineers usually earn around £35,000.
  • The average income for qualified chartered electrical engineers is £45,000.

Career as an Electrical engineer

  • Entry for an electrical engineer is normally with a degree in a relevant subject. Entry for a degree course is usually with at least two A levels/three H grades, normally including maths and physics, and five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications. At many universities, students without the necessary background in science and maths can qualify for engineering degree courses by taking a one year foundation course. Candidates should check entry requirements with individual institutions.
  • Graduate Apprenticeships may be available in England and Wales. It is possible to begin training for craft or technician-level jobs straight from school. Applicants often need four GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths, English and science or technology, or the equivalent.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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