A shift towards renewable energy sources and a greater reliance on digital technology has transformed the sector, with a greater demand for workers with technical skills and an awareness of environmental factors
Types of energy and utilities jobs
The industry 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 (HR)
- information technology (IT)
- marketing and public relations (PR)
- operational management
- project management
- research and development (R&D)
For examples of specific job roles, see energy and utilities jobs.
Who are the main graduate employers?
The largest and best-known energy companies in the UK are the 'big six' suppliers:
- Centrica (British Gas)
- E.ON UK
- EDF Energy
- Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE).
However, many other recruiters also have graduate openings. Read about the smaller energy suppliers that operate in the UK market.
Examples of other major graduate employers include:
- National Grid plc
- Wood Group.
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 renewable energy careers.
There are a number of water companies in the UK, some of which are also responsible for sewage treatment. For example:
- Anglian Water
- Scottish Water
- Severn Trent Water
- South West Water
- United Utilities
- Welsh Water/Dŵr Cymru
- Yorkshire Water.
View a complete list of UK water companies at Water UK.
Public sector jobs can be found with local authorities and in organisations such as the Water Services Regulation Authority (Ofwat) and the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), the bodies responsible for regulating the water and energy industries respectively.
For information about careers in waste management and recycling, see the environment and agriculture sector.
How do I find a job in energy and utilities?
According to the UK trade association for the energy industry Energy UK, around 738,000 people are employed in the sector, with £13billion invested every year to deliver power and energy to 28 million homes and businesses.
There are many opportunities to work in this sector, although the majority of technical roles will require an accredited degree or postgraduate qualification in a specific engineering discipline (such as chemical, electrical or mechanical engineering). Consider how to become an engineer.
For commercial roles in marketing, sales and 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.
In terms of employability skills, you'll 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, such as explaining designs or problems to non-technical staff.
There are a number of useful websites for those considering a career in this sector, including:
- Energy Institute - Careers
- RenewableUK - Careers
- Energy & Utilities Jobs
- National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN)
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 roles within smaller companies, search specialist recruitment sites such as:
Many large firms offer work experience and summer placement opportunities and these are 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 major employers in the energy and utilities sector.
These apprenticeships are typically found in engineering disciplines, but also cover a range of other job roles. Here are some examples:
- EDF Energy - business administration, engineering maintenance, project controls, nuclear engineer (degree level), chemistry and cyber security apprenticeships.
- E.ON - engineering apprenticeships including street lighting and offshore wind farm technician apprentice.
- National Grid plc - advanced, higher and degree apprenticeships are available.
- Severn Trent Water - apprenticeships in roles including utilities engineering technician, quantity surveyor, HR consultant and laboratory technician.
- SSE - offers apprenticeships in areas including electrical, mechanical, fitter, jointer, multi-craft and lines.
Check the websites of major employers to find out more or consider whether to go to university or do an apprenticeship.
What's it like working in the energy sector?
Graduates entering the energy and utilities sector can expect:
- a median starting salary of £40,000 for graduate roles with leading oil and energy companies included in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers, according to High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2021 report
- to work in offices, laboratories or offshore locations depending on the 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 impact the sector.
Future trends for the energy industry
The PwC & Energy UK B2B Survey posed questions to over 500 businesses of varying sizes in 2019 and found that over two-thirds (71%) of industrial and commercial organisations now had an energy strategy in place. In addition, only a third (33%) expected to be fully reliant on the grid for their energy supply within the next five years.
It was also found that just under a half (46%) of businesses planned to invest in renewable generation, more than any other technology.
With many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) favouring sustainable and renewable energy while investing in smart lighting, energy consumption monitoring and electric vehicle (EV) charging (to reduce fuel costs), energy suppliers are having to address these specialist demands and take on workers with the necessary skills.
Deloitte's 2021 Energy, Resources, and Industrials Industry Outlooks report found that the COVID-19 pandemic has shaped the trends and outlook for the coming years.
This upheaval has only served to accelerate the reliance on digital technologies across the oil, gas and energy sectors, with an adoption of new talent strategies to ensure the future of the industry. It's also expected that there will be a rise in environmental, socially-responsible and impact-focused investment.
Find out more
- Consider jobs in the oil and gas industry.
- Discover the 7 things you need to know about being an energy consultant.
- Explore relevant jobs in the engineering industry.