A shift towards renewable energy sources and a greater reliance on digital technology has transformed the energy industry, with a greater demand for workers with technical skills and an awareness of environmental factors
Careers in energy and utilities
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:
- John Wood Group (known as Wood)
- National Grid
- TotalEnergies UK.
A growing number of energy firms focus on renewable technologies. If this is your area of interest, you can search the members of RenewableUK to find relevant organisations.
There are a number of water companies in the UK, some of which are also responsible for sewage treatment. These include:
- Anglian Water
- Scottish Water
- Severn Trent Water
- South West Water
- Thames 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 the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), the body responsible for regulating the energy industry.
How do I find a job in energy and utilities?
According to the UK trade association for the energy industry Energy UK, around 743,000 people are directly or indirectly employed in the sector (2022) - equating to one in 48 jobs in the UK. Also, more than £13billion was invested in 2021 to deliver power and energy to 28 million homes and businesses.
There are many opportunities to work in this sector, although most 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 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.
Useful websites for those considering a career in this sector include:
- Energy & Utilities Jobs
- Energy Institute - Careers
- GreenJobs - Energy jobs
- National Skills Academy Nuclear (NSAN)
- RenewableUK - Careers
You can also search for graduate jobs in energy and utilities.
For roles within smaller companies, search specialist recruitment sites such as:
Many large firms offer work experience and summer placements, with these opportunities advertised via their websites.
For smaller companies, apply speculatively or search for work experience in the energy and utilities sector.
Energy graduate schemes
Large energy and utilities companies offer structured graduate schemes in commercial, IT, engineering and environmental functions.
Energy graduate schemes are available with:
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.
Leading recruiters offering energy and utilities apprenticeships include:
- EDF Energy - chemistry, cyber security and nuclear engineering apprenticeships at degree level.
- E.ON - engineering apprenticeships including street lighting and offshore wind farm technician apprentice.
- National Grid - advanced, higher and degree apprenticeships are available.
- Severn Trent Water - apprenticeships in roles including utilities engineering technician, quantity surveyor, HR consultant and farming liaison officer.
- SSE - offers apprenticeships in areas including electrical, mechanical, fitter, jointer, multi-craft and lines.
Check the websites of major energy firms 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 £35,000 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 2023 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 UK energy industry
To meet the government's target of achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the energy industry is leading the way by investing in low carbon energy solutions. With 40% of electricity now coming from renewable sources, this is a step in the right direction - although our overreliance on gas, the largest contributor to the UK's energy mix, has been shown up by the recent energy crisis.
UK organisations in all sectors are having to consider their impact on society and the environment, with environmental, social and governance (ESG) now playing a greater role in an overall business strategy.
PwC's 26th Annual CEO Survey (2023) revealed how just over half (55%) of UK CEOs are investing in the tech skills and understanding of their ESG teams, with under half (43%) investing in technologies aligned to their ESG policies. They also found that just under a third (31%) have implemented measurable data-driven strategies to cut down on emissions.
With many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) also 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.
This means that there will likely be greater demand for energy consultants and those with knowledge of renewable energy solutions. Discover 7 things you need to know about being an energy consultant or explore renewable energy careers.
Deloitte's 2023 Energy, Resources, and Industrials Industry Outlooks report found that continuing to attract and retain employees with the required skills has posed a greater challenge with a number of roles remaining unfilled along with high turnover rates.
Despite this, the report also highlighted an increased 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. This is likely to result in the need for IT graduates (in areas such as cyber security and big data) to fill these technical roles.
Find out more
- Consider a career in the oil and gas industry.
- For waste management and recycling careers, see the environment sector.
- Explore related jobs in the engineering sector.