Few industries are as crucial to everyday life and the economy as energy and utilities, delivering power and water to homes and businesses, and there are lots of opportunities for rewarding graduate careers
Types of energy and utilities jobs
The 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
- enforcing industry rules and regulations.
Within these industries, graduates can work in:
- human resources
- information technology (IT)
- marketing and public relations (PR)
- operational management
- project management
- research and development (R&D)
For examples of specific job roles in this sector, see energy and utilities jobs.
Who are the main graduate employers?
The best known energy companies in the UK are the 'big six' suppliers:
- Centrica (British Gas)
- EDF Energy
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
- National Grid plc
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 or explore careers in the renewable energy industry.
There are several water companies in the UK, some of which are also responsible for sewage treatment. For example:
- Anglian Water
- Scottish Water
- Severn Trent Water
- United Utilities
- Welsh Water/Dŵr Cymru
- Yorkshire Water.
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.
How do I find a job in energy and utilities?
In most cases a 2:1 at Bachelors level is required for graduate jobs and graduate schemes in this sector. Many roles, especially those that are technical in nature, require an accredited degree or postgraduate qualification in a specific engineering discipline (such as chemical, electrical or mechanical engineering).
For commercial roles in marketing, sales and human resources (HR), any degree subject is accepted. Business, accounting or numerical degrees are often preferred when it comes to finance and trading jobs. Some employers advertise research posts for those with PhDs. Search for postgraduate courses in energy studies.
In terms of employability skills, you will need to show:
- flexibility and a willingness to work outdoors, offshore or overseas
- problem-solving and analytical skills so that you can deal with complex technical issues
- specific skills and knowledge of increasingly specialised technology
- the ability to work in a team and manage projects, budgets and people
- communication skills, for example to explain designs or problems to non-technical staff.
There are a number of useful websites to help you as you consider different careers in this sector, including:
- Energy Institute - Careers
- RenewableUK - Careers
- Talent Source Network
- The National Skills Academy - Nuclear
You can also search for graduate jobs in energy and utilities.
Large energy and utilities companies offer structured graduate schemes in commercial, IT, engineering and environmental functions. You can find details of these on their websites. For graduate programmes in the nuclear industry, see nucleargraduates.
For roles within smaller companies, search specialist recruitment sites such as:
Many large firms offer work experience and summer placement opportunities and these will be advertised on their websites. For smaller companies apply speculatively or search for work experience in the energy and utilities sector.
If you want to learn on the job while earning a salary, apprenticeships are available with many major employers in the energy and utilities sector.
These apprenticeships are commonly in engineering disciplines, but also cover a range of other job roles. Here are some examples of what's on offer:
- EDF Energy - engineering maintenance apprenticeship, smart metering apprenticeship, nuclear engineer degree apprenticeship, chemistry apprenticeship and supply chain apprenticeship.
- E.ON - engineering apprenticeships including street lighting apprentice and offshore wind farm technician apprentice.
- National Grid plc - advanced and higher apprenticeships available.
- Severn Trent Water - apprenticeships in roles including utilities engineering technician, human resources consultant and laboratory technician. There is also a solicitor degree apprenticeship.
- SSE - engineering craft apprenticeships in energy networks, renewable operations and SSE contracting, and an IT degree apprenticeship.
This is just a small selection of what's available. Check the websites of major employers to find out more, or get general advice and information about the different types of apprenticeships and what level of education you need to have completed to be eligible.
What's it like working in the energy sector?
Graduates entering the energy and utilities sector can expect:
- a median starting salary of £35,000 for graduate roles with companies included in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, according to High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2018 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 and politically sensitive industry, as new technologies and targets for reducing carbon emissions have an impact throughout the sector.