Among the sciences, engineering comes the closest to being a vocational degree. From the very beginning, it teaches you specific skills that apply directly to future careers – something biologists and physicists can only dream of. Like all degrees, it also teaches you the soft skills employers appreciate, such as teamwork, problem solving and communication.
If you want to stay in engineering, your job opportunities are very much linked to your degree type, and you probably know what many of them are already. For example:
- Civil engineering graduates plan and maintain roads, railways, dams and foundations.
- Chemical engineering graduates often work in development in the manufacturing industry – anything from pharmaceuticals to aeroplanes – designing materials and creating the processes for producing them.
- Mechanical engineering graduates are some of the generalists of the engineering world, and can be found in a huge range of industries.
Your engineering degree by no means limits you to these roles. There are plenty of options for you outside engineering.
Consultants are external experts called in to solve a problem for a company. The attraction of consultancy is the variety of the work. You’ll go into other organisations, see how they work, deliver your solution, and then move on to the next challenge. So how do you become a consultant straight out of university, when you’re not yet an expert?
As an engineering graduate, you have two options in the field of consultancy – specialist engineering consultancy, or a non-specific role that doesn’t require a particular degree.
- A lot of the big management consultancy firms offer the latter. They have well-respected, established graduate schemes that will develop your skills and turn you from an engineer to a business expert. Consulting engineers go through the same process.
- You can go into an engineering consultancy role straight out of university, taking on basic roles while you gain the expertise you’ll need in order to be a lead consultant on a project.
Scientists and engineers aren’t known for their clear communication – the stereotype is someone spouting incomprehensible technobabble. And while that’s mostly a vast exaggeration, there is a great need for people who can organise technical information into something that’s easy for a particular audience to understand.
If you’re an engineering graduate with a knack for writing, you could fill that gap. Technical writers work on instruction manuals, textbooks, journal articles, product catalogues, and anything else where technical information has to be communicated. A good technical writer should be able to write for any audience, from the general public to a group of specialist engineers.
A real attraction of technical writing is its flexibility. While many will work a typical 9-to-5 role in an office, there’s also the option to work from home, as a freelancer, or part-time.
You might think that to become a CEO, you need a business degree – but you’d be wrong. While a lot of top US CEOs do have an MBA, almost as many have a degree in Engineering.
As an engineering graduate you’re likely to have developed strong project-planning skills from your practical work, as well as learning to communicate well and work in a team. You’ll be well-suited for roles that might lead you to a senior management role – for example, a simple role in underwriting at an insurance company can lead to a team management role, then an operations management role, and then to head of operations.
Further qualifications can help you on your way – for example, adding an MBA qualification to your engineering degree will help you tackle the larger and less structured problems you’ll be faced with when you’re at the top of the pile.
Are you attracted by the money and prestige of investment banking? It’s a definite option for engineering graduates. You’re undoubtedly comfortable with numbers, you’re a problem-solver, and you pay attention to the little details. Plus, you bring a fresh perspective to a table filled with economists and mathematicians. You’re likely to interest employers, if you’re really the type of person who’s right for the role.
An absolute requirement for being an investment banker is passion for finance. Otherwise, how are you going to work an eighteen hour day and then get up while it’s still dark to check how the markets have performed overnight? To land that vital summer internship, you need to explain why you wouldn’t be satisfied with an easier, well-paid job as an engineer.
If you’re talking to law firms at a careers fair, you’ll find that they don’t have a specific preference for law graduates. In fact, some major law firms claim that half their lawyers have come via a different route. The logical mind and practical attitude of an engineering graduate are very helpful traits for a trainee solicitor.
To move into law with an engineering degree, you’ll need to complete a one-year conversion course called the graduate diploma in law (GDL) before starting your training. If you get a training contract, this may well be paid for by your employer. If not, you’ll need to take a risk and fund it yourself. You also have the option to move directly into work as a legal secretary. The experience you gain will be very valuable if you decide to take the GDL later on.
Your one disadvantage as an engineering student is that you potentially lack the skills to research and structure an argument developed by essay subjects like history and sociology. If you’re interested in law, keep in mind what you have done to demonstrate these skills, and what you could do to cultivate them further.
Manufacturing and production
Manufacturing is the process of turning raw materials into finished products on an industrial scale. Roles in the sector involve anything that keeps a factory operational, running smoothly, and producing the right products to a high quality.
Manufacturing companies are hungry for engineering graduates, and there are excellent schemes on offer to help you move into the sector. For example, manufacturing giant P&G offers summer internships suitable for students in electrical, mechanical, manufacturing, industrial, chemical, material or process engineering. You’ll find similar internships and graduate schemes in most major companies, from pharmaceutical manufacturers to the automotive industry.
There are also plenty of roles where your engineering degree is an advantage but not a necessity, such as factory floor management, quality control and safety.
Logistics and supply chain
After manufacturing, the next step is to get products to where they need to be – usually on the shelf in front of consumers. This is part of the supply chain process, which also includes getting raw materials to the factory, and warehouse storage at any point in the chain.
This whole system needs plenty of people to keep it running – from those who manage individual warehouses to those who create computer models that calculate the most efficient way to get something from A to B. Though it might be a sector you rarely think about, it’s actually one of the largest in the UK, employing around 2 million people.
As an engineer, you’ll be an attractive candidate for graduate programmes at a vast number of companies. Retail companies like Ocado, manufacturers like L’Oréal, oil and gas companies like BP – almost every industry has the need for graduates with an interest in logistics. A graduate scheme salary is usually around £20,000 to £25,000. Later on, your salary will very much depend on the role you gravitate to.
Bright Network is always here to support your career. As a member, we can offer tailored advice to help you discover what to do with your engineering degree. Don’t hesitate to give our membership team a call – 0203 011 1612.