What is engineering?

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The engineering sector is rich in diversity, presenting lots of career options for graduates with an interest in science, technology and construction. But what is engineering? 

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Scaffolding, what is engineering?

An overview of the engineering sector

Engineering is the design, production and maintenance of the fundamental processes and materials we enjoy in today’s society. It’s a scientific discipline, manipulating different forms of energy to sustain industrial and technological advancement. 

Engineers are the drivers of modern life, researching, designing, building and maintaining the infrastructures all around us. From our roads, cars and properties to ships, planes and explosives, the engineering sector puts the laws of science and technology into practice.

Engineers can be found in a whole host of organisations, from large construction and manufacturing firms to small consultancies that advise on areas such as agriculture or software. 

As such, while engineering is a sector in its own right, it can be helpful to view it as a branch of many other sectors where an understanding of science and technology is beneficial.

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Types of roles in engineering

There are so many variations of engineering – a list that’s constantly growing - that it’s near impossible to list all of the roles in the sector. However, these are just a few of the most prominent:

  • Electrical engineer: Whereas electricians install and maintain electrics in your home, electrical engineers design the overarching systems behind them, and the electrical appliances we use on a daily basis.
  • Mechanical engineer: These engineers focus on the design and development of powered machines and engines. This could include automotive engineers, who can be found anywhere from your local garage to leading car manufacturers.
  • Civil engineer: These professionals keep our towns and cities running smoothly, engineering the systems and frameworks that power our everyday lives, including roads, bridges, water supplies and buildings.
  • Marine engineer: Life on water works a whole lot differently; marine engineers specialise in designing, building and maintaining vessels that can navigate even the trickiest of waters smoothly.
  • Software engineer: Not all engineering is on a macro scale; software engineers design, develop, test and maintain the systems that power our technology, from apps and websites through to computer software.
  • Environmental engineer: As we become increasingly concerned with the impact of modern life on the environment, there’s been a surge in engineers that specialise in eco-friendly solutions for construction, agriculture, manufacturing and other areas that deplete the planet’s resources.

See a full list of available graduate roles in engineering.

Understanding different engineering roles

Understanding the different roles in engineering can help you identify a route that best suits your interests, skills and experience. Do you love dreaming up grand plans that will shape the world as we know it? Or do you prefer making a difference to the small but important factors that influence our daily lives?

The type of role you choose will also affect your working life. A marine engineer, for example, might spend days, weeks or months at a time travelling around the world. A software engineer, on the other hand, is likely to have a desk job in a fixed location.

By narrowing down your options, you can explore opportunities and graduate jobs that you’ll love getting out of bed for in a morning. Even if you’ve taken a degree in one aspect of engineering – such as civil – you might find a niche in another – such as environmental. 

Five things you need to know about careers in engineering

  • The average starting salary for an engineer is £26,536, which is significantly higher than most other graduate jobs.
  • Most engineering graduate schemes offer a route towards becoming a chartered engineer (CEng) or an incorporated engineer (IEng).
  • Joining a professional engineering institution, such as the Engineering Council, can enhance your career prospects as a graduate.
  • Many graduates are paired with experienced engineers on their scheme, who offer advice and support
  • According to a study by Nixon Williams, the number of engineering jobs available in the UK increased by 17.7% from 2014-2015.

Where can you go to learn more?

There’s so much more to learn about engineering careers, which makes it a good idea to visit the Engineering Council and the Institute of Engineering and Technology for further guidance on professional registration and qualifications. It's also a good idea to browse the top engineering employers in the country. 

Explore graduate jobs in engineering

Whether you’re looking for graduate jobs in engineering or you’re simply fascinated by the role engineers play in our modern world, browse graduate jobs with our application list.