Entry into the profession is entirely dependent upon your level of qualifications with two different avenues; graduate or non-graduate.
Engineering graduates will typically start their careers in technical functions learning about different areas of the business in a design and manufacturing capacity, before moving into a senior engineer role. This may see you managing a project for a client and contributing to the design, development, implementation and maintenance phases of the task.
The next step up would be into a Technical Manager, Principal Engineer or Programme Manager position. Most senior positions require chartered status and from here your career could reach the level of Engineering Director, Chief Engineer or Programme Director.
Non-graduates usually enter the field in an Operator (for GCSE level education), Craftsperson (Diploma level) or Engineering Technician (HNC, Higher Diploma or Higher NVQ level) role. Operators make up around one-third of the engineering industry’s labour force so there is nothing to stop those with limited education breaking into and progressing in the industry as practical experience is just as valuable as theory.
Operators and Craft workers specialise in a specific practical skill, such as welding or tool-making, whilst Engineering Technicians utilise their creative and practical skills - often with responsibility for operational engineering and other staff. From here, there are a number of middle management avenues available.
Technicians then choose whether to move sideways into a Project Leader or Team Leader role and then onto Project Management. Or they may advance their career as an Incorporated Engineer before becoming a fully qualified Engineer and following the career path described above for graduates.
Employment opportunities can be found in a wide range of organisations who will recruit people from a variety of engineering disciplines. This could be from multi-national corporations such as BP or BAE Systems to smaller local organisations. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, and it is up to you to decide which environment is right for you.
Employment contracts are predominantly permanent, however, you will also find many working as sub-contractors, working on a project-by-project basis. This is generally a more lucrative route to go down, but there can be a lower level of job security and the potential for work to dry up.
Wondering what to do now? Check out our expert career advice, find out more about the Engineering industry or search for the latest Engineering jobs.