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Getting Started With a Career in UK Engineering

Engineering in the UK

The UK engineering sector has long accounted for a large proportion of UK employment, as engineering companies make up 13% of all UK businesses, with 26% of all UK workers contributing in some way to the engineering economy. It’s been no secret that there is a skills shortage across engineering, with the UK government investing in research and development In the sector with a goal of growing to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

High demand for skilled workers is well publicised, with the IET skills survey reporting two thirds of engineering employers are struggling to fill vacancies due to skill gaps. With a high demand and a growing investment from the government, there is no better time to take the next step and begin a career in engineering.

How can I begin a career in engineering?

The most common route into engineering is through higher education and university, however there are many other routes to develop the skillset needed to build a career. Many companies are always looking for apprentices or trainees, not necessarily coming straight from education - with lots of small and medium-sized businesses open to training on the job or candidates that have put themselves through a qualification.

Which qualifications do I need?

The qualifications needed to get into an engineering role can differ depending on the desired route that a candidate may wish to go down. Most engineers should consider following a 3-year bachelor’s degree in engineering (BEng), with postgraduate courses to prepare you with a more expansive knowledge on your chosen/preferred field (suitably project management or research and development).

For those who may not be in a position to start an apprenticeship or university course, there are still other options. For those without a degree; many qualifications can be attained through contacting education providers/applying for apprenticeships. These can be completed alongside current employment.

You can find a list of apprenticeships here.

Which industries to target?

The skills shortage within technology and renewable energy is well known, with our previous blogs going into more depth on the current projections, but there are still many other areas within engineering that still have a strong demand, one of which is the manufacturing sector. Electrical, Electronic and mechanical engineers are in high demand with a wide variety of roles available.

Mechanical Engineering

Qualifications within mechanical engineering can differ depending on the desired route. For someone looking to get into a design role, looking into CAD software courses can be a great entry point. It would be recommended looking into certifications from industry leaders such as Solidworks or AutoCAD. Otherwise, for someone looking to be in a hands-on role within manufacturing or maintenance, looking into attaining a C&G or level 3 within mechanical engineering would be a great start point. This could open up opportunities within maintenance or manufacturing for example.

Electrical Engineering

Again with electrical engineering, there are multiple avenues to go down which will open up routes into the industry. Should someone be looking to work in commercial or domestic electrical maintenance, attaining a Level 3 Award in C&G 18th edition wiring regulations would be a good start point. Or should you be looking for a role in electrical automation, then a qualification specialising on PLCs would be beneficial.

Aerospace & Defence

One of the biggest contributors to UK manufacturing is the UK Aerospace and Defence industry, that is also experiencing a boom despite being badly hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with continued forecasted growth over the next decade. The UK aerospace industry is still the second largest worldwide behind the United States and even in the midst of the pandemic, turned over $32 billion in 2021 alone with exports counting for around $8 billion. The sector has long been a substantial contributor to the UK economy and provides over 280,000 jobs directly or indirectly, with the vast majority within engineering.

Industry giants such as Thales, MBDA & BAE systems have also launched new initiatives for diversity and inclusion, including free coding courses for women alongside many more apprenticeship schemes for those looking to begin their career. A recent report from Deloitte has also highlighted that the emergence of new markets including Space, AAM and smart factories will ensure a very positive outlook long term for A&D with continued strong employment prospects.


According to the Higher Education Graduate Outcomes Statistics, which surveyed 2019/20 graduates about their jobs roughly one year after graduation, the majority of engineering and technology graduates who secured highly skilled jobs had starting salaries ranging from £27,000 to £29,999. This places them among the highest starting salary earners across all degree subjects. It's worth noting, however, that this figure includes graduates across all industries, not just those in engineering.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Student Employers' (ISE) 2022 Recruitment Survey found that the median starting salary for graduates in the engineering, energy and industry sector was £28,667. It's important to keep in mind that this study was based on employees of ISE members, who are known to offer higher salaries than other employers. The survey also reported the median starting salaries for graduates in other sectors, including Built Environment at £25,500, Health and Pharmaceuticals at £28,500, and Retail and Fast-Moving Consumer Goods at £26,000.

If you’re interested in the salary progression of an engineer, The Engineer's 2022 salary survey offers insight into the current state of engineering salaries for all engineers, not just recent graduates. The survey reveals that the mean average salary level for engineers is £58,108, indicating a 2.3% increase from the previous year's mean average.

It's worth noting that the average engineering salary can differ based on a range of factors, including the engineer's area of expertise, sector, and location. The manufacturing sector appears to offer the highest salaries, with The Engineer's survey reporting an average salary of £65,340 for manufacturing engineers.

How we can help

A primary focus for Rise has always been to motivationally match candidates to roles and businesses that are able to offer a pathway that suits their aspirations. Whether this be for experienced engineers looking to further progress their career, or a graduate looking for their first professional role. Finding a business that can support long term ambitions is important to us and a key element in our recruitment process.

As a technical and engineering recruitment agency with over 17 years of experience, our specialisation in the industry, alongside our first-class service ensure that you’re not carrying the weight of finding that perfect job alone.

Head across to our ‘Jobs’ tab to search for over 1200+ UK engineering jobs.