Have you ever considered using your bachelor’s degree in the energy industry? Or perhaps you have experience of engineering or a scientific subject and you’re looking to transfer across? Whatever your situation, working in the energy industry, on energy systems and the various renewable energy sources – is one of the most exciting, fascinating and innovative industries to be part of! Here we look at what it takes to design and build power plants and to be successful as an energy engineer, with the possibility to apply for different engineer jobs within the oil and gas sector.
From solar power to offshore wind farms, renewable or sustainable energy, there are so many different sources of energy and options to help you achieve a rewarding energy career. Although some employers require a postgraduate qualification in an energy subject such as mining, energy or petroleum engineering, this is not essential. A degree in a related discipline such as chemical engineering or a degree apprenticeship are the usual entry routes into energy engineering.
What about the core skills and knowledge needed to work in the energy sector? As well as the technical engineering, maths and computer science foundation that you’ll have from your academic studies, employers hiring energy engineers will also be carefully looking at interpersonal or soft skills. You will need to be very analytical and meticulous, with a strong attention to detail given the precise nature of the role but you’ll also need to think quickly on your feet and use your initiative. Being innovative and coming up with new design and building ideas is a key part of the job.
That’s the skills requirement part, but as to the actual day to day work, what will a typical day look like? You could be working in an office, laboratory or on a rig, managing projects and budgets, researching and designing potential new sites and meeting lots of new people. It’s a really varied role that requires lots of planning, organising and decision making, so you need to have the courage of your own convictions.
Different types of energy careers for engineers
Furthermore, you’ll be liaising with other specialists, for example geophysicists and geologists, so stakeholder management skills are crucial. You’ll also clearly need to understand how your work impacts the environment so the work carried out must meet carbon emission regulations. As you progress in your energy career, you can work your way up to senior engineer level, which could well involve managing people so you’ll be expected to have excellent communication, teamwork and time management skills.
Starting salaries in the energy sector are very competitive and these can rise quickly the more experience you get. You could work towards becoming a chartered engineer (CEng), an internationally recognised global qualification, which would be another string to add to your bow and influence your remuneration. You will also be expected to continue your professional development and keep your skills updated – industry bodies such as the Energy Institute (EI) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) offer a range of courses.
Although women are under-represented in the sector, there are many initiatives to promote Science, Maths, Engineering and Technology (STEM) disciplines for young girls at school. That work is paying off with more women entering the industry and making their mark in what has historically been a male dominated sector. The industry is crying out for more talent to plug skills shortages and redressing the gender gap is a big part of that. Organisations such as Women’s Engineering Society (WES) provide mentoring schemes and a platform for women in the engineering sector to network.
Working as an energy engineer in wind power, helping to build and design wind turbines or solar panels is a very rewarding career in many ways. From manufacturing companies to government departments and environmental consultancies, not only are salaries and benefits first class with fantastic career progression opportunities, there is always demand for top engineering and science talent. And if you work for a multinational and want to travel, you may get your wish!
Above all, the projects you’ll be working on will make a huge difference to people’s lives, helping to increase renewable sources as the UK moves towards net zero carbon emissions. No wonder the sector has such an appeal to those looking to develop their engineering career.
Want to put your engineering skills to the test in the energy sector? Take a look at all our latest oil and gas, mining and energy jobs.