5 exciting careers in engineering

Dame Sue Ion, Royal Academy of Engineering
February, 2017

The £456billion engineering industry is more varied, exciting and innovative than ever before. Discover what your career in the sector could look like…

As an engineer, you could be working on innovative technology that helps to shape the world around us - from the buildings we enter and the bridges we cross, to the clothes we wear and the technology that saves our lives. Indeed, engineering jobs are as diverse as the workforce that fills them.

For example, Elon Musk, one of the world's most well-known engineers, is currently working on a number of exhilarating projects ranging from self-driving cars to renewable energy and space travel. Engineers have even changed the face of fashion, by creating materials such as Gore-Tex and Lycra.

EDF Energy's recent Jobs of the Future report found that this surge in the diversity of engineering careers means that the number of jobs in science, research, engineering and technology will rise at double the rate of other occupations between now and 2023, with 142,000 new jobs expected.

With an average starting salary of around £27,000 - almost £5,000 more than the graduate mean - engineers can enter roles you may not have even heard of. Here are five examples…

Digital security engineer

With cybercrime on the rise, digital security engineers help to protect people, businesses and even countries from criminal and terrorist attack.

This type of engineering requires great coding skills and a keen eye for detail. It is in huge demand; research has found that there will be a 1.5million shortfall in the global security workforce by 2020.

Magnet engineer

Like the number of pixels on a camera chip, the strength of the magnet in an MRI scanner dictates its resolution - and hence how useful its images are.

Magnet engineers at Siemens Magnet Technology (SMT) are behind the groundbreaking MAGNETOM 7T that more than doubles the field strength of most MRI scanners. Last year, it was shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award, the UK's longest-running and most prestigious prize for engineering innovation.

The magnet's high-quality scanning has the potential to provide earlier diagnoses for medical conditions such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. The success of this work may mean the difference between life or death for patients.

Medtech engineer

Medical technology has saved countless lives across the globe, thanks to innovations such as the asthma inhaler and the artificial heart valve.

Engineers in this field work hard not only to save people, but also to improve the quality of life for those with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Recently, engineers from Blatchford developed the world's most advanced prosthetic limb, the eventual winner of the 2016 MacRobert Award. Its intelligent design allows amputees to walk with greater freedom and confidence.

Textile engineer

Lycra, Polyester and the self-cleaning fabric Silic have revolutionised the way we make our clothes and dress ourselves.

This creative role sees engineers developing comfortable and fashionable fabrics with new properties; such as water or heat resistance or, more recently, 'smart materials'. Textile engineers have also helped to make space travel possible, with professionals in this industry working on spacesuits used by NASA astronauts.

Urban design engineer

These engineers make decisions about buildings, transport systems and the infrastructure of our cities. Working in multi-disciplinary teams with planners and architects, they help design metropolises that strive to overcome the problems facing the world's booming urban population, such as housing, transport, pollution and communications.

Designing the cities of the future can mean developing self-driving electric cars or creating a system that generates electricity through footfall in high traffic areas.

Dr Dame Sue Ion DBE FREng FRS is chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award judging panel.

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