With renewable energy sources and digital technology transforming the sector, many graduate careers have a strong focus on the delivery of power and water to customers
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 most well-known energy companies in the UK are the 'big six' suppliers:
- Centrica (British Gas)
- EDF Energy
However, many other recruiters also have graduate openings. Browse a list of 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 careers in the renewable energy industry.
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
- 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?
According to Energy UK, over 680,000 are employed in the energy sector, with £200billion having been invested in gas and electricity since privatisation. There are many opportunities to work in this sector, although a lot of 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 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, such as explaining 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 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 of what's on offer:
- EDF Energy - engineering maintenance, smart metering, nuclear engineer (degree level), chemistry and supply chain apprenticeships.
- E.ON - engineering apprenticeships including street lighting 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.
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 £38,500 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 2019 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 impact the sector.
Future trends for the energy industry
The PwC & Energy UK B2B Survey posed questions to over 500 businesses in 2017 and found that nearly half of industrial and commercial organisations were planning to invest in renewable energy generation, which was higher than with 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, energy suppliers are having to address these specialist demands and take on workers with the necessary skills.
Deloitte's 2020 Energy, Resources, and Industrials Industry Outlooks report found that many of the industry's existing challenges - including tackling growing cyber risk, having to justify new investments to regulators and preparing for and responding to natural disasters will continue into the next decade.
Driven by technological advancements, a demand for cleaner energy sources and climate science, many utilities companies are committing to reducing their carbon output over the coming years.