Want to make a practical difference to the world?
What is engineering?
Engineering is about applying scientific principles, turning them into something and getting them to do something useful. It is a technical field, requiring advanced specialisation.
Engineering is about developing ideas for designing, manufacturing and maintaining machinery, products and materials. It is a creative industry with a need to develop new, better but cost effective and safe solutions to practical problems. Engineering has a huge impact on our lives – it affects everything we use; iPhones, TVs, kitchen appliances, lawnmowers etc.
Engineers confront problems and come up with solutions using scientific and mathematical principles. It is hands on practical work and creative. The breadth is large; working with materials to create new clothes in fashion (think Teflon), finding new ways to preserve food to stop death from starvation in third world countries, developing new machines to help people walk after accidents, new production lines for increasingly sophisticated cars, creating robots that vacuum for busy time poor people. Engineering provides many exciting possibilities and with advances in technology and environmental and world problems needing resolving, it is a great area for job prospects and an interesting career.
1 in 5 engineers work in manufacturing in the UK, so this is one of the largest engineering sectors.
Women are underrepresented in engineering – the UK has the lowest proportion of female engineers in Europe; 9% compared with 18% in Spain and 26% in Sweden.
What difference do engineers make in the world?
Green technologies are worth £3 trillion in the world economy and growing fears around the environment mean that engineers in many sectors need to come up with ways of saving energy and preventing pollution to protect the world.
What is it like being an engineer?
Engineers are creative and innovative and find the most effective way to solve a problem getting involved in new product development; developing new products and improving current ones. Team work is typical and working in competitive and commercially important environments.
What types are there?
The majority of jobs in engineering occur in; aerospace, automotive, biotechnology, chemical, electrical and electronics, food and drink, metals, minerals and materials, marine, nuclear, oil and gas and pharmaceutical.
What skills do engineers possess?
Engineering skills are a combination of defining skills and enabling skills, specifically: theoretical understanding; creativity and innovation; technical breadth; practical application; team-working; communication and business skills. Many of these are transferable skills, and problem solving and creativity and innovative thinking are highly marketable.
Good qualifications in maths and sciences are ‘a must’ to enter engineering. Apprenticeships are a route in e.g. Jaguar Landover’s scheme.
How do I become an engineer?
If you are thinking of a second career, or one with good career prospects, engineering is a sound bet. There is a GCSE in engineering and pre-employment training courses.
Professional level which is level six or higher, choose an accredited degree programme in the discipline of your choice e.g. aeronautical engineering. Minimal qualifications for engineering degrees are two A levels including Maths or equivalent and 5 subjects at GCSE.
What are career prospects like for engineers?
Career prospects are excellent and over the next decade, there is going to be a huge demand for professionals with skills, experience and qualifications in engineering. In the UK, new communications systems, transport links, a low-carbon economy and a need to overhaul the electricity supply plus the fact that the current workforce are aging, are creating good job/career prospects. Engineers enjoy a wage premium of 15% compared with the average UK employee.
Like many professions, choosing a good course makes sense, and an accredited course rated by employers. Getting incorporated or becoming a Chartered Engineer with the letters IEng or CEng is a goal to aspire to, plus creating breadth of experience and a deep technical specialism .
Engineers earn good salaries and compared to many careers, a secure choice with good career prospects that shows no sign of shrinking. Emerging areas like space and satellite technology, medical engineering,, construction along with ‘green’ jobs in renewable energy, alternative fuels, zero carbon homes, and new nuclear energy, the future is bright for engineers at all levels. Opportunities to work overseas are also good.
Skill shortages are predicted to be acute in energy, utilities and civil engineering. Britain is likely to continue to excel in areas involving advanced materials which means growing opportunities for materials and chemical engineering, biometrics e.g. fingerprint readers and retinal scanners and robotic engineering.
With the aging population, pharmaceuticals is a sound bet with the amount of national income spent on healthcare likely to increase with wealth.
14 useful links for engineering
- The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) – mentoring, jobs, knowledge and much more. www.theiet.org
- The Royal Academy of Engineering http://www.raeng.org.uk/
- ‘Working futures 2010-2020’ Warwick Institute of Employment Research Engineering UK 2012 report. http://www.ukces.org.uk/assets/ukces/docs/publications/evidence-report-41-working-futures-2010-2020.pdf
- The Engineer magazine http://www.theengineer.co.uk/
- Useful report – the importance of engineering skills to the UK economy http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/Jobs_and_Growth.pdf
- Films about jobs in engineering and other sectors http://www.careersbox.co.uk/sector.php?sector=45
- The sector skills council for Science, Engineering, and Manufacturing Technology www.semta.org.uk
- Careers information in science, engineering and technology www.scenta.co.uk
- Sector skills for the automotive industry www.automotive-skills.org.uk
- Institute of chemical engineers www.Icheme.org
- Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining www.iom3.org and www.materials-careers.org.uk
- NHS careers for clinical engineering www.nhscareers.nhs.uk
- Web site for young engineers www.youngeng.org
- Sector skills council for Building Services Engineering www.summitskills.org.uk