There's something for everyone in the engineering sector. Find out which path best suits your interests, skills and career ambitions

Whether it comes from using a smartphone, driving a car or accessing hospital equipment, engineers provide day-to-day comfort, safety and enjoyment.

Each area of engineering requires its own skill set, so whether you're scientifically minded or excel in a hands-on environment, would like to specialise in a particular area or are more focused on the bigger picture, you'll be a valuable asset to the sector.

Manufacturing engineer

While engineers are required at every stage of the production process to conceptualise, design and evaluate products and systems, as a manufacturer it's your job to take a practical approach and bring these designs to life on a large scale, efficiently and cost effectively.

You'll design, set up and modify products, typically focused on a particular stage of the process. Your responsibilities will include operating manufacturing machinery, organising the maintenance of equipment and repairing faults in a timely, efficient manner.

You'll also be concerned with details such as reducing the environmental impact of production, adhering to health and safety legislation and working to a budget. There are opportunities to work in a variety of sectors, including the food and drink, oil and gas, pharmaceutical and fashion industries. Find out more about becoming a manufacturing engineer.

Systems engineer

Systems engineering is an interdisciplinary role which ensures a project is delivered as smoothly as possible, by translating what needs to be done into a step-by-step process - from conception to production and operation - and acting as a point of communication between the client who has commissioned the project (such as the government or the Army) and the engineers who work to complete it.

You'll develop an awareness of how each part of a project interlinks, the relationships between different elements within the system (such as people, policies and software, to name a few), and their individual importance in achieving the end result.

Systems engineers collaborate with a range of people - as well as coordinating processes with engineers, you'll relay complex information to the client using non-technical language. Because of this, excellent leadership and communication skills are vital.

As a systems engineer you could be based within a specific company or work for a consultancy, dealing with a range of clients and projects.

Aerospace engineer

Working in the aerospace industry you'll be responsible for the maintenance and development of civilian and military aircraft, missiles, satellites, space vehicles and weapons systems. You'll apply excellent technical knowledge and innovative, creative thinking to your work, with the aim of optimising speed, fuel efficiency and flight safety while keeping costs and risks down.

Aerospace engineers are employed in a range of industries, including airline operators, the Armed Forces and government research agencies, such as the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Discover what life as an aerospace engineer is like.

Biomedical engineer

You'll work with medical professionals and researchers to design and oversee the manufacture of medical products and equipment for patients with additional needs, such as prosthetics and joint replacements, radiation therapy equipment, ultrasound technology and implanted devices such as pacemakers.

Your day-to-day tasks include using computer software and mathematical models to design, evaluate and refine prototypes, working to optimise the goods you're producing and performing tests to identify areas for improvement.

You'll need excellent attention to detail, good conceptual ability to bring ideas to life and good commercial awareness to ensure the projects you're working on will be profitable and beneficial to patients.

You could be employed in a number of settings, such as a hospital trust, manufacturing company or university research department. Learn more about becoming a biomedical engineer.

Broadcast engineer

It's your job to ensure television, radio and other media programming is broadcast on time and to the highest quality by operating and overseeing systems, performing updates and repairs where needed. You'll need excellent IT skills and a keen eye for detail to spot and solve problems efficiently in high-pressure situations, such as during live broadcasts.

You could be working on location and at unsocial hours, in a variety of environments, depending on the nature of your work. This could include international travel.

As broadcast engineering is a competitive field, gaining pre-entry work experience is highly important. Find out what else it takes to be a broadcast engineer.

Chemical engineer

You'll transform raw materials into products via chemical processes, such as creating plastic from oil, using the latest technologies and methods. The role requires developing new products, from trial through to commercialisation, and making improvements to product lines and systems as a result of your findings. Chemical engineers work in a variety of industries, including food and drink, textiles and pharmaceuticals.

You'll need an aptitude for chemistry and a mathematical mind to become a chemical engineer. A strong grasp of health and safety legislation is also vital, as you'll be working with potentially dangerous substances.

Salary prospects for chemical engineers are good - graduate starting salaries are currently in the region of £28,500, with chartered chemical engineers earning up to £70,000. Find out more about the role of a chemical engineer.

Civil engineer

Concerned with natural and man-made environments, civil engineers bring together a community through the design, construction and maintenance of its infrastructure, in areas such as:

  • buildings (e.g. houses, schools and hospitals)
  • roads and railways
  • power systems
  • sewage and waste networks.

As a consulting civil engineer, you'll ensure projects are completed safely and on time by investigating sites, assessing risk and drawing up detailed designs and plans. You'll need a numerical mind for budgeting and a creative approach to problem solving.

On the other hand, the role of a contracting civil engineer is to bring these plans to life. Working mainly on site, you'll oversee and partake in construction.

Discover what you could do with the range of skills and experience gained in a civil engineering degree, and top tips for getting into the industry.

Electrical or electronic engineer

Through the management, maintenance and development of broadcasting, transport and power channels, it's the job of an electrical engineer to keep the country connected.

This role encompasses work with control systems, robotics, telecommunications and building services, including heating and ventilation. You'll need an analytical mind to test and modify processes based on your findings, and for some roles - such as those in defence-related organisations - you may need to undergo security checks.

Electronic engineers work on a smaller scale. The role involves designing, developing and testing equipment, such as resistors and transistors, to be applied to a range of areas, from mobile phone technology to medical equipment.

You'll be highly employable - electronic engineers find work in academic and commercial research establishments, non-electrical organisations (e.g. to help implement computer systems) and the public sector.

Starting salaries are good - while electronic engineers can expect between £21,000 and £25,000 in their first role, electrical engineers will earn an average of £26,000. Your exact salary will depend on the organisation you work for and your location.

Engineering geologist

Your responsibilities as an engineering geologist focus on identifying and dealing with geological factors that may affect engineering works. Before embarking on construction projects, you'll assess the integrity of soil, groundwater, rock and other natural conditions to ensure that any developments made to the site are sustainable in the long-term.

The job can be stressful as the decisions you make can have major environmental impact, but you'll base these decisions on extensive field investigations and data analysis, which you'll use geological maps and specialist computer software to complete.

Learn more about the role of an engineering geologist.

Land-based engineer

As a land-based engineer you'll design, test and develop agricultural, construction and other off-road vehicles, including tractors and dump trucks. You'll carry out a range of tasks, including the designing, testing and development of specialist equipment and carrying out environment impact assessments.

Starting salaries are typically around £25,000, rising to £35,000 with experience.

There are plenty of opportunities across the UK and further afield, and travel is a big part of the job. Find out more about becoming a land-based engineer.

Marine engineer

Ships, submarines and military vessels are just a selection of the vehicles you'll build, maintain and repair as a marine engineer (also known as a naval architect). You may also work on their water distillation and fuel systems, propulsion mechanics and ventilation systems, and test their engines for safe and efficient operation.

Some aspects of the job, such as on-ship inspections, require working in high-pressure, physically demanding environments. The design and research elements of your work, however, will take place in an office or laboratory.

A relevant degree, accredited by a body such as the Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA), will provide you with the technical and nautical knowledge, including use of complex computer systems and technical drawings, needed for this industry.

Opportunities to work overseas and extended periods of absence from home are common. You can also expect a higher than average starting salary, ranging from £30,000 to £35,000.

Mechanical engineer

As mechanical systems are found in almost all products and services in our day-to-day lives, this is one of the broadest, most fast-paced areas of engineering to work in. Mechanical engineers are sought after in a range of industries, from energy and environmental to healthcare and information technology. You could work on the development of anything from smartphones to spacecraft.

If you're mathematically minded, able to work with a range of people and software and can deal with high levels of pressure, a career as a mechanical engineer will suit you. In more senior positions, your role is likely to involve overseeing entire manufacturing processes.

A degree in a relevant subject, ideally accredited by a professional body such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), is highly recommended for this role. Many courses offer a year in industry and other placements, which will equip you with the practical skills you'll need to support your technical knowledge. 

Learn more about becoming a mechanical engineer and see what you can do with a mechanical engineering degree.

Nuclear engineer

You'll be responsible for the design and development, running and decommissioning of nuclear power stations. As well as having knowledge of complex instrumentation, electrical systems and how nuclear systems work, you'll also need to address security and safety concerns of the people, businesses and environment around you - particularly when disposing of high-hazard radioactive material at the end of its lifespan.

Within the role there is plenty of opportunity to specialise - find out where a career as a nuclear engineer could take you.

Quarry engineer

Using various drilling and excavation methods, you'll find the most efficient ways to extract raw materials from underground. You'll also collaborate with minerals surveyors before a new quarry is opened, to make sure the site is commercially viable and safe.

To do this, you'll use specialist computer software to evaluate site models and go on site to carry out practical geology assessments. Once plans have been approved, you'll manage the day-to-day running of the site and produce plans to deal with emergency situations. Your duties mean you'll need excellent planning and organisation skills and a creative approach to problem solving.

Technical brewer

You'll oversee the process of brewing and packaging beer, ensuring a consistently high standard of production. You may also be responsible for developing new recipes and ensuring the safety of the plant and machinery, or you might specialise in one area of production.

Your tasks include introducing new brewing methods and making accurate records of raw materials, production stage timings and quality control checks. You'll need a keen eye for detail, good decision-making skills and stamina to deal with the physical demands of the job.

Brewers typically work 40 hours per week, but due to the continuous nature of the production line this will include evenings, weekends and coming in at short notice to deal with emergencies if they arise. See what else is in involved in becoming a technical brewer.

Water engineer

Tackling pressing issues such as global warming and population growth, your main priorities as a water engineer are to serve communities by providing clean water, disposing of waste water and preventing flood damage. This may involve developing and repairing pipework or designing sewer improvement schemes. Unsocial hours, shift work and travel are common features of the job, and you'll be required to work on site in sometimes wet, dirty and cold conditions.

You can enter this field at technician level with an HND or foundation degree, but having a degree in a related field (such as civil engineering, physical geography or environmental science) will work to your advantage. Some employers may prefer their employees to hold a MEng or MSc. Find out more about becoming a water engineer

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