There are a variety of roles available within engineering and multiple routes to become one. A career in engineering could see you working with vehicles, constructing and maintaining buildings or roads, through to working with chemicals to manufacture products.
If you are a practical person who likes to take what you’ve learned in education and apply it to real-world scenarios, a job in engineering is something to consider.
- Why work in engineering?
- What careers are available in engineering?
- What skills are needed to work in engineering?
- What degrees help with a career in engineering?
Why work in engineering?
Engineering careers provide the opportunity to use the theory you learned during your studies in a practical setting. Being an engineer involves putting your knowledge into practice, and using your hands to fix, build or manufacture something new.
Career stability and earning potential
Whether it’s creating and maintaining cars, roads, buildings, or computer software, engineers are specialists in what they do and they provide an essential service. The value engineers bring to the world means it is a stable job to go into with the potential to earn a high wage.
Use your creativity
Although you may not think it, a career in engineering can often involve creative thinking. Engineers are often tasked with coming up with solutions to problems and fixing issues, and the very nature of this requires thinking outside of the box to find new and innovative ways of doing things.
What careers are available in engineering?
There are numerous careers available in engineering, but the different areas in engineering can generally be split into:
- Chemical engineering – this is about using chemicals to produce and manufacture products such as metals, pharmaceuticals, and food and drink, among many others. You will need to have an interest in and understanding of chemistry, physics and maths to pursue a career in chemical engineering.
- Civil engineering – this type of engineering is about the design, construction and maintenance of things like roads, buildings, railways and airports. Civil engineers can specialise in one area, such as transport, environmental (e.g., wind turbines or flood defences), maritime (e.g., ports), geotechnical (e.g., mining) and structural (e.g., pipelines or dams).
- Electrical engineering – this is to do with the building and maintenance of devices and systems that use electricity. An electrical engineer could work for an energy company, the government, the Civil Service, as well as many other workplaces.
- Mechanical engineering – this involves researching, designing, testing and repairing mechanical systems. A mechanical engineer could work in several areas, including construction, motor vehicles, aerospace, plus many more.
What skills are needed to work in engineering?
If you are looking to go into engineering, there are a few skills you will need:
- Technical skills – generally speaking, engineers need to have an understanding of maths, physics and chemistry. Engineering roles are highly specialised, so you will also need the technical skills relevant for the area of engineering you would like to go into
- Analytical mindset
- Creative thinking and innovation
- Attention to detail
If you are interested in a specific field or job role within engineering, it’s a good idea to find adverts for those roles and look at the job description and person specification. Here you can identify the skills and experience you already have and where you need to improve in order to meet the essential criteria for the role.
Take a look at the graduate skills that employers are looking for.
What degrees help with a career in engineering?
The qualifications needed for a career in engineering differ depending on the area of engineering you would like to go into.
A university degree can help you secure a role in most areas of engineering. If you’re not sure which type of engineering you are most interested in, we would recommend doing some research into the different engineering degrees available, what they entail and the jobs they can lead to, to see if anything grabs your attention.
If university isn’t the right path for you, you can complete a HNC (Higher National Certificate – equivalent to one year at university. You can start Year 2 of a university degree after completing a HNC and go on to receive a bachelor’s degree) or a HND (Higher National Diploma – equivalent to two years at university. You can start Year 3 of a university degree after completing a HND and go on to receive a bachelor’s degree) in an engineering subject.
HNCs and HNDs are more vocational than traditional university courses and in some cases may improve your job prospects, as employers may value the practical experience gained in these courses.
There is also a variety of engineering apprenticeships available. As with a university course, it’s worth having a look to see what apprenticeships are available in your area and deciding if this is something you would be interested in doing.
If you would prefer to start working as soon as possible to earn some money and pick up skills on the job, some companies allow you to start as a technician and undertake training at the same time to work your way up to becoming an engineer.
Last updated on 19 January 2023Share this article