Overview of the energy and utilities sector in the UK

Dan Mason, Senior editor
January, 2017

Its role in delivering power and water to all makes the energy and utilities sector vital to the economy and everyday life - and it also provides many opportunities for rewarding graduate careers

What areas can I work in?

The UK energy and utilities sector is a mix of different companies involved in:

  • constructing and managing infrastructure such as power stations
  • generating electricity using fossil fuels, nuclear or renewables
  • distributing electricity and gas around the national network
  • buying electricity and gas on the energy market and selling it to consumers
  • extracting, transporting and refining oil and gas
  • providing clean water to homes and businesses, and treating wastewater.

Within these industries, graduates can work in a broad range of roles such as:

  • engineering
  • finance
  • human resources
  • information technology (IT)
  • marketing and public relations (PR)
  • operational management
  • project management
  • research and development (R&D)
  • sales
  • trading.

For examples of specific job roles in this sector, see graduate jobs in energy and utilities.

If you're interested in working in this area, it's important to be aware of the challenges facing the energy sector as it's one of the fastest-changing and politically sensitive sectors of the economy.

For example, with the country's last coal power stations expected to close by 2025, the UK will increasingly rely on gas, nuclear and renewables for its energy supply. Find out more about careers in renewable energy.

Who are the main graduate employers?

The best known energy companies in the UK are the 'big six' suppliers, which comprise:

  • Centrica (British Gas)
  • E.ON
  • EDF Energy
  • Npower
  • ScottishPower
  • SSE.

However, there are many others that also have graduate openings. Browse a list of the smaller energy suppliers that operate in the UK market.

Examples of other major graduate employers providing various services in different parts of the energy industry include:

  • Amec Foster Wheeler
  • BP
  • Chevron
  • ExxonMobil
  • Magnox
  • National Grid plc
  • Shell
  • Total.

A growing number of energy companies focus on renewable technologies. If this is your area of interest, you can search the members of RenewableUK to find relevant organisations.

There are several water companies in the UK, some of which are also responsible for sewage treatment. Among them are:

  • Anglian Water
  • Scottish Water
  • Severn Trent Water
  • United Utilities
  • Welsh Water/Dŵr Cymru
  • Yorkshire Water

View a complete list of UK water companies.

Public sector jobs can be found with local authorities and in organisations such as Ofwat and Ofgem, which regulate the water and energy industries respectively.

For information about careers in waste management and recycling, see the environment and agriculture sector.

What's it like working in the sector?

Graduates entering the energy and utilities sector can expect:

  • higher starting salaries than in most other sectors, with a median of £32,500 according to High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2016 report
  • to work in offices, laboratories or offshore locations depending on their role
  • opportunities to travel and work abroad, especially in the extraction, exploration and nuclear industries
  • a heavily regulated working environment that requires employees to keep up-to-date with the latest developments
  • to be part of a rapidly changing industry, as new technologies and targets for reducing carbon emissions have an impact throughout the sector.