So you want to work in engineering?

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Around 600,000 people work in 18,000 engineering companies across the UK. Engineering is the practical application of science to commerce or industry. Engineers design, construct and operate structures and machines. Around £2 billion a year is spent on training prospective engineers.

Modern living depends on the things that engineers design, make or improve. Lighting, heating, trains, aircraft, TV, radio, buildings and more recent developments such as mobile phones, computer games and iPods, are all produced by engineers.

Engineering is leading the way into the new 21st century; job prospects are excellent and there is a wide variety of roles for entrants. More and more engineers are women who now account for 18 per cent of engineering undergraduates and 11 per cent of engineering students in colleges of further education.

Which area can I work in?

There are many different types of engineering – each offering a variety of jobs:

  • Chemical engineering – includes the industries of fuel refining, food processing, brewing, nuclear power and propulsion or the production of materials (anything from plastics and paint to pharmaceuticals). Whether in laboratories or out on the factory floor, chemical engineers solve problems linked to chemistry.
  • Manufacturing engineering – mostly working in industries that produce things. Engineers design, build and maintain all the systems in factories, including automated and computer-controlled machines.
  • Marine engineering – working with one of our most important resources – the sea. Engineers work below the sea, exploring and producing oil, gas and minerals, or on the sea where they work on the design and operation of craft such as cruise liners, naval vessels and container ships. They also work in shore-based industries, building and maintaining machinery for seagoing vessels, offshore platforms and pipelines.
  • Mechanical engineeringm – designing and making the parts of machines that move. These range from children's bikes to rockets that transport astronauts to the moon, and everything in between! Aerospace – the UK aerospace industry is at the forefront of scientific and technological developments. There are over 32 UK universities offering aeronautical engineering-based courses. Engineers are very versatile and also work across a range of other disciplines, including agriculture, energy, civil, electrical engineering and electronic engineering.

Where can I work?

Larger companies in manufacturing and mechanical engineering tend to be located in the major industrial areas of the Midlands, the North and Scotland. Many manufacturing companies also operate in the south of England, whilst specialist smaller or 'niche' engineering companies are to be found in almost every area of the UK.

What qualifications do I need?

It is possible to enter engineering at different levels and via different routes.

The main routes are:

  • Modern Apprenticeships for school leavers who want to earn while they learn, rather than doing A levels or H grades. You'll need good GCSEs/S grades (or the equivalent) for this option, and it could lead to a full-time job and eventually a degree-level qualification. From a craftsperson at NVQ/SVQ Level 3 in any branch of engineering, you could progress to the role of technician and an NVQ/SVQ Level 4. Technicians are involved in many areas of engineering from senior supervisory jobs in manufacturing to management positions. Another route to technician status is by studying at college to do a full-time BTEC course.
  • Graduate entry – many companies offer training schemes specifically for engineering graduates. You'll typically enter the company at a higher level if you have a relevant degree.

Whichever route you take can lead to the top jobs in engineering. They can be in design, development, research or production. Ultimately, engineers can become senior managers.

What type of people work in engineering?

Engineering is a profession for practical people. The people featured in this booklet have a variety of jobs at different levels in the engineering industry. The profiles offer advice and first-hand personal experience. They illustrate the advantages of industrial placement whilst studying, the benefits of joining student branches of engineering bodies and the importance of the Apprenticeship programme in craft training.

There are opportunities for good salaries and for working abroad, as engineering is a global profession. Engineers might also have the chance to invent machinery, gadgets and equipment that can make a real difference to the way we live. People working in energy engineering may work with different types of fuel, such as oil, gas and electricity, to increase energy efficiency. They could also work with nuclear energy or renewable energy sources, such as wind power, wave and tidal resources.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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