Engineering is an exciting and fast-paced sector and engineers are widely regarded as creative problem solvers with top-notch communication skills. As innovative solutions continue to be required for everything from transport to water supply, engineers are in higher demand than ever before. We’re delving into the different types of engineering roles in the sector and what they entail.
Working as an electrical engineer offers you the opportunity to use skills in mathematics, science and technology. Electrical engineers are often in high demand - from designing systems for appliances we use every day, to working on major projects like power solutions for towns, cities and power plants.
There are numerous ways to get into electrical engineering; you can take the university route by studying for a degree in electronic and electrical engineering, offered by universities such as the University of Brighton, Cardiff Metropolitan, and Birmingham City University. UCAS has a great list of universities offering a degree in electrical engineering and similar.
Or, you can break into the industry through an apprenticeship or a course at college (often requiring specific GCSEs or two-three A-Levels or equivalent). This includes courses like Level 2 Certificate in Electrical Installation Studies or Level 2 Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering Technology which can help you find a trainee position within a company. To become an electrical engineer you must have great problem solving, communication, and teamwork skills as they need to identify faults, find solutions, and fix problems.
Read our article about the skills and attributes you need to get into engineering to see if your skills match.
Mechanical Engineering is one of the most diverse and versatile engineering roles in the industry. Simply put, mechanical engineers design, develop, build and test - crafting power-producing machines such as electric generators, steam or gas turbines, or power-using machines like air-conditioning systems and refrigerators.
Mechanical engineers deal with the maintenance of anything that has moving parts. You’re likely to find a mechanical engineer at your local car garage, research and development setting where they work through a product’s lifecycle, or even in an office setting.
Getting into mechanical engineering through a degree is often necessary for entry-level jobs - Coventry, De Montfort University, and many other universities offer full-time BEng degrees in mechanical engineering. Or, you can apply for an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering which is offered by several well-known companies, such as Land Rover and Nestle. Read our article on how to get into engineering without a BEng for more information.
As well as academic qualifications, mechanical engineers must have good knowledge of maths and science, an understanding of how to find or fix faults, and have great time management skills.
Civil Engineers plan, design and oversee the construction and maintenance of things we use almost everyday. These include bridges, roads, water and sewage systems, airports, and railways. The role of a civil engineer is paramount in keeping the places we know and love running smoothly. A civil engineer can work in a variety of locations, depending on their specific role and sector. However, most civil engineers work in offices alongside construction employees, architects, and site managers. In terms of skills, Civil engineers must possess high-quality decision making, oral communication and mathematical skills.
You can start your career in civil engineering with a Higher National Certificate (HNC) or a Higher National Diploma (HND). For example, Level 4 HNC in Civil Engineering or Level 5 HND in Construction and the Built Environment, which requires 1-2 A-Levels (or equivalent) and can be obtained by attending college or an apprenticeship. Or, take on a BEng or foundation degree in civil engineering (or equivalent) with a choice of multiple universities, including the University of East Anglia and the University of Plymouth. Many also offer sandwich courses that give you the chance to take a year out of studying and replace it with a hands-on placement at a company of your choice.
Marine engineers work on the design, building, and maintenance of ships, submarines, aircraft carriers and even colossal tankers. Demand for Marine Engineers is set to increase in coming years, due to the expansion of renewable energy sources such as wind and tidal.
Some Marine Engineers work in an office, using high-tech computer software and tools for data analysis. Others work at sea, carrying out maintenance on the ships they have built or designed. Marine Engineers must have the ability to repair and maintain machines and tools, have laser-focused attention to detail and a good knowledge of physics in particular.
Entry requirements for a job as a marine engineer often require one of the following degrees (available at numerous universities, in particular, University of Strathclyde):
- Marine Engineering
- Naval Architecture
- Offshore engineering
- Marine Technology
But, there is the option of an apprenticeship as a marine engineer, offered by City College Southampton (Adv Level 3) or The Royal Navy (Level 3) - these will take further on the job training to qualify. Apprenticeships like this would require 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) including science, maths, and English.
Unlike the other engineering roles discussed so far, software engineers often work on a microscale, using in-depth knowledge of programming language and engineering principles to design, develop, test and maintain the systems that power technology we use daily. This can vary from websites, apps and computer software to network control systems and robots - depending on whether you’re employed by software publishers, computer system design firms, or product manufacturing businesses. As a software engineer, you must have analytical thinking skills, mathematics or programming knowledge as well as complex problem-solving skills. In terms of every day, the working life as a software engineer can be very flexible, with access to an internet connection available almost anywhere.
To become a software engineer you can take part in an apprenticeship, college course, or a degree. Software engineering is a broad topic, but universities including Bradford College offer a 3-year software engineering course. If a degree isn’t your thing, UCAS has compiled a list of software engineering apprenticeships that require 5 GCSEs (grade C/4 and above) and an A-Level in a science or technology subject, or an Extended BTEC National Diploma in engineering or computer science.
Environmental engineers design technologies and eco-conscious systems to prevent and control environmental risks that could have a major environmental impact. As concern about the impact of advanced modern life on our planet increases, environmental engineers play an important role in maintaining the sustainability of life on Earth.
To get into environmental engineering, a degree is highly regarded, specifically in disciplines like chemistry, environmental science, and geoscience. University of Brighton and Coventry University offer civil engineering with environmental engineering (sandwich, 4-year), along with Brunel University who offers a BEng in civil engineering with sustainability. Similarly, there are options of environmental degree apprenticeships at the University of Hatfield who offer rotational placements and a competitive salary - this is likely to be a 4-year course, working towards a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering (or equivalent).
Environmental engineers use the principles of engineering, biology and chemistry to produce effective solutions for manufacturing, agriculture and construction and work to improve public health, water disposal systems, recycling and air pollution. For this, you must have the ability to analyse scientific data, meet project deadlines, and interpret reports written by others.
Read our article on an overview of engineering salaries if you wish to find out how much you could potentially earn from working in this sector.
Now you know about the different types of engineering, kick-start your career by browsing graduate jobs at Bright Network’s list of engineering opportunities today.