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Helping you find a career in the Metalwork industry

Metalworking is a hugely varied career, with metalworkers working with a broad range of metals, from gold ornaments and silver jewellery, to steel girders, copper wiring and cast-iron fences. There are also in a number of other industries, including construction, manufacturing, energy, and even in the Armed Forces!

More academically-oriented roles include chemical, physical or process metallurgy; for these roles you will require an academic background in chemical engineering, physics, or engineering.

The metalworking industry in the UK involves 11, 100 companies, employs around 230, 000 people, and directly contributes £10.7bn to UK GDP. The majority of UK metalworking businesses are small, with an average of 21 employees. The steel industry is Britain’s largest single metalworking sector, with 600 businesses employing 32, 000 workers accounting for £1.6 billion in economic output in 2016. Historically the UK metalworking industry has been male-dominated, there are now organisations such as the Women’s Engineering Society and WISE which seek to offer support to women interested in engineering and metalworking.

Alongside the variety of roles in industry or materials, metalworkers can work in various functions within different industries. A metalworker might focus on welding, or precision tooling (using a variety of tools to precisely shape metals in order to produce parts for machinery), or designing bespoke metal products for individual customers.

Metalworking is a highly-safety conscious industry and for very good reason! Metalworkers will work with materials at very high temperatures (the melting-point of steel is over 1,300 degrees!), and will use large, powerful machines. Safety on site is an absolute priority for metalworkers, no matter how large or small the company or project they are working on. You may also find yourself working in a laboratory.


Skills & interests required for a career in Metalwork
No matter which area of specialisation you choose, as a metalworker you will need to be:
  • Precise and good at basic maths (for calculating measurements, etc.)

  • Good at working on practical, hands-on problem solving

  • Able to follow, and create, technical plans

  • Responsible and capable of following rigorous safety requirements

  • Able to work to high standards of accuracy

Depending on your area of specialisation, you may also be required to have experience:
  • Working with design software (such as CAD programs)

  • Using machinery

It may also be beneficial for aspiring metalworkers to have an interest in working with clients, understanding their requirements and being able to offer them expert guidance.

If working a metallurgical role, you will also need to be scientifically literate (for instance, as a chemical metallurgist you will need to know core aspects of metals’ chemistry related to extraction, refinement and corrosion), usually possessing a degree in a relevant field.
Graduate schemes & other typical career progression routes in Metalwork
With an engineering or scientific academic background, you can expect an entry-level metallurgist position to offer progression to technical supervisor, consultant or manager of a multidisciplinary team of engineers and scientists. If you are looking to work in Metalworking without an engineering background, there may be opportunities to start at more junior technician positions and receive on-the-job training.

There is a strong focus in the sector for Continuous Professional Development (CPD), affording opportunities for you to learn new skills (both technical skills, and also business skills). CPD is usually achieved through your employer, although you may wish to take the initiative yourself if there are areas which you are particularly interested in. Guidance on CPD can be found at the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining (IOM3).

Graduates looking to work with precious metals must be aware that salaried, permanent roles in metalwork design are few and far-between, with the majority of designers working independently for themselves as freelancers.
Tips for getting into the field
Book a session with your university’s career advisor to talk through your interest in metalworking or metallurgy and speak to your department or faculty for details of any events or partnerships they might offer for you to get to know the sector better.

Certain graduate positions may require you to have completed an accredited engineering or science degree – this will usually be specified in any job posting, and you can check the status of your degree programme at Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining.
How much can graduates earn in Metalwork?
Earnings can vary greatly in this sector - graduate metallurgists can expect a starting salary within the range £22,000 to £28,000 per annum, although this can vary regionally and according to specialisation. You can progress to salaries of £30,000 to £40,000 after a few years experience, and possibly around £60,000 once you achieve Chartered Engineer (CEng) status. In a senior management position, and with at least 10 years of experience, you may earn up to £80,000.

Those seeking to work in design-oriented metalworking can expect a low starting salary, usually ranging between £13,000 to £17,000 p.a., and experienced permanently employed designers may range £20,000 to £30,000. As many designers work independently or run their own businesses, earnings can be extremely varied and will depend on market conditions, personal expertise and the nature of the products made.
What qualifications do I need for a career in Metalwork?
For metallurgical positions you will be required to have a BEng or BSc in an accredited degree programme (e.g. chemical engineering). For more advanced positions or in research roles you will often be required to hold an MSc/MEng degree, or potentially even a Ph.D.

While there are no formal degree requirements for design positions, graduates looking to work in these roles will find a degree/HND in a craft-based qualifications (e.g. design/silversmithing) potentially very helpful in securing entry to the field.
Read more about the Metalwork industry
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