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Engineering & manufacturing Career Pathways & Advice

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Overview

Few things are as vital to our society as engineering and manufacturing. They have a part to play in most things we use in our everyday lives, from transport and running water through to smart phones and the internet.

And it is big business too, with engineering alone turning over £1.06 trillion a year. It is also a great industry to look at working in because there are plenty of jobs.

Before 2010, it was predicted that in the decade up to 2020 engineering companies would have 2.74 million jobs, with 1.86 million being for people who need direct engineering skills. The industry currently hires 5.4 million people across 542,440 engineering companies.

Engineering uses maths and science (in particular physics) and can be creative, practical or problem solving in nature. In engineering you could be part of a team that develops the next big thing in technology, or simply improve something we already have.

Whilst there is a large amount of crossover between engineering and manufacturing, there is a distinct difference: engineering uses planning, theory and design to create a solution, whereas manufacturing utilises raw materials and machines to create the physical item – for example food, drink, clothing, plastics, vehicles and pharmaceuticals.

Because of this, some areas of engineering – for example manufacturing engineering – will have a large crossover, whilst some parts of the sector will not.

Engineering & manufacturing Jobs

TitleSalaryLocation

Skills

There is currently a skills gap in the engineering sector, meaning employers are looking for people with practical and technical experience as well as theoretical knowledge – so push forward the skills you learnt during your placement year or whilst on work experience.

Don’t underestimate the value of soft skills - employers want team players and those who can communicate well, not just those who know their way around an engineering manual. It goes without saying that to work in engineering or manufacturing you’ll need the practical skills and scientific knowledge gained through your degree, and be willing to continually learn to keep these skills up to date. Other skills you’ll definitely need include the below.

- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Attention to detail
- Commercial Awareness
- Communication
- Creativity
- Leadership
- Teamwork

Progression opportunities

Whilst not the same in terms of specifics, career progression in engineering and manufacturing is broadly quite similar. As a graduate you are likely to start your career on the technical side, learning about the business and technical aspects of the role, before gradually taking on more responsibility and moving into a more senior role that might allow you to manage your own clients and projects.

Later in your career you could move into management, giving a greater input to the strategic drive and implementation of projects. In engineering, you will need to become chartered at this stage. Job titles here (again in engineering) include principal engineer and programme manager.

Of course, a graduate scheme will be structured and will give you a clear pathway that will lead you onwards in your career, presuming you’re successful in what’s required of you.

Career development

The Engineering Council has details on how you can become a Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) Engineer. Doing this means you are professionally registered and have enough skills to practice as an engineer, and will give confidence to potential employers. You’ll have to gather evidence of your work and skills and present it to a professional body to gain this status. In some cases you might need to have an interview, write an essay or take an exam.

Those working in manufacturing can solidify their skills with professional qualifications of certificates – examples include the Certified Manufacturing Practitioner award from the Institute of Manufacturing. There are multiple certificates, awards and diplomas available, depending on your specific areas of the industry.

Earning potential

Engineers earn a decent salary right from the start, due to their in-demand skills and the massive value they have for society. Pay increases with experience, and will grow further once you are managing projects or in charge of a team.

Once you are professionally registered, you are likely to earn more – chartered engineers command the highest salaries, followed by incorporated engineers.
Here are some average salaries for engineering jobs, according to Payscale:

Software engineer (entry level): £32,000
Software engineer: £34,453
Mechanical engineer: £30,007
Chief engineer: £60,510
Automotive engineer: £35,637
Electrical engineer: £31,053
Civil engineer: £30,317
Material engineer: £31,577

The National Careers Service offers further insight on the salary ranges for various jobs across the industry, from entry level roles to those with years of experience:

Manufacturing supervisor: £18,000 - £35,000
Structural engineer: £22,000 - £50,000
Satellite engineer: £16,000 - £30,000
Energy engineer: £20,000 - £80,000
Electronics engineer: £21,000 - £65,000
Production manager (manufacturing): £20,000 - £40,000

Related Companies

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Qualification requirements & subjects to study

It’s very helpful to have an engineering degree (BEng) to move into a career in engineering, and it’s possible that during this degree you will have specialised in a certain area – mechanical or chemical, for example. It is also likely that your degree will have included an integrated masters (MEng) – if it didn’t, or if your degree covered the full spectrum of engineering and you didn’t specialise, this might be something to consider.

Other degrees that can lead into engineering include physics, although you might have to follow this with an engineering masters in order to get the skills and knowledge you need.

Ideally, your degree will be accredited by the Engineering Council, which should entitle you to Chartered or Incorporated status – you can find out about that here.

You can also move into manufacturing with an engineering degree, or into less purely scientific areas within the sector for roles (in areas such as management) if your degree is in another subject.

How to get there

You are free to apply for entry level engineering roles with a bachelors or masters degree, although having a masters will certainly give you a stronger chance of being successful.

If you’ve had a year in industry as part of your degree (as you are likely to have done for the majority of engineering courses) make sure you have a clear picture of the skills you gained and the projects you worked on, and that you can make this clear in interviews and applications.

According to Institution of Engineering and Technology, 40% of engineering employees believe that engineering graduates lack practical experience – so make sure you’re very clear about what you learnt during your placement.

For manufacturing, you can move into careers in areas such as marketing, research and management without an engineering degree, and there are multiple graduate schemes and entry level jobs available in these areas. Additionally, you can move into more production specific areas if you do have an engineering degree. If you want to solidify your skills, postgraduate study could be an option.

Further Reading

Royal Academy of Engineers
Tomorrow’s Engineers
Women’s Engineering Society
Environmental Engineering
Society of Operational Engineers
Engineering Council
Engineering UK
Engineers Without Borders UK
Institute of Manufacturing
The Institution of Engineering and Technology