There's more to the transport sector than road, rail, air and water networks. It also incorporates logistics, supply chain, vehicle manufacturing, transport planning and traffic management

According to the Department for Transport's Transport Statistics Great Britain 2019 report 808 billion passenger kilometres were travelled in 2018, with 8.3 billion passenger journeys on public transport, creating plenty of work for the sectors employees.

And with government commitment to invest in the UKs roads, railways, ports and airports there is a need for a new generation of skilled workers to help shape the future of transport.

Areas of transport and logistics

People and businesses rely heavily on the country's transport and logistics networks.

Passenger transport incorporates operations (driver, pilot and air crew), route planning, customer service and safety. This is then split into:

  • aviation
  • bus and coach
  • light rail, tram and metro services
  • rail
  • taxi and private hire
  • water transport.

Logistics/supply chain can be broken down into:

  • freight transportation
  • maritime and port operations
  • postal and courier activities
  • warehousing, storage and handling.

Large transport companies also recruit graduates to HR, finance, IT, sales, marketing, communications and procurement roles.

For examples of careers in the industry, see graduate jobs in transport and logistics.

Working in the sector

Graduates entering the sector can expect:

  • a variety of working environments - for instance, if you're working in air transport as a pilot or cabin crew you'll travel, spending time in airports and on planes. Managers in transport and logistics work in offices, but they may be located in sea ports, airports or distribution warehouses.
  • the work to be highly pressurised and demanding - you'll often have to work within tight timeframes to fix problems and if you work within public transport you'll come into contact with members of the public on a regular basis. Certain roles also come with a high level of responsibility. For example, as an air traffic controller, airline pilot or passenger transport manager you're responsible for passenger safety.
  • long working hours - employees often work outside normal hours, including early mornings, evenings and weekends. Time spent away from home is also a feature of some roles, for example, airline pilots, air cabin crew and merchant navy officer.
  • a range of salaries - in management roles starting salaries can be relatively low, but typically rise considerably at senior levels. On average, air cabin crew earn starting salaries between £12,000 and £14,000, transport planners between £20,000 and £25,000, while airline pilots working for large companies typically earn £28,000.
  • a lot of roles to be male dominated - however, the imbalance is slowly improving.

Entry requirements

These vary depending on the role. For graduate roles in passenger transport management, any degree subject is accepted, although some employers prefer it to be business or economics related. To work for a logistics company, you'll need to hold a logistics degree, while an accredited engineering degree is typically required for electrical or maintenance engineering jobs.

Some positions expect professional qualifications. For example, to become a pilot you'll need an Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) - see how to become a pilot in the UK. To drive a lorry, bus or coach, you'll need a Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (Driver CPC) - or to apply for a National Vocational Training (NVT) concession while you're driving.

For most transport careers a postgraduate qualification isn't required, although having one may give you an advantage in growth areas such as logistics, if you don't already have a related degree.

Further training through professional bodies may be an advantage for developing networks, continuing professional development (CPD) and keeping up to date with advances in the industry.

Whatever level you're at, The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) in the UK provides details of relevant transport and logistics courses to progress your career.

For information on entry requirements for different roles, see transport and logistics job profiles.

In terms of skills, graduate recruiters look for candidates with:

  • excellent communication and customer service skills
  • IT literacy
  • flexibility, adaptability and the ability to be mobile
  • geographical knowledge
  • decision making and planning skills
  • commercial awareness
  • practical problem-solving ability.

Main transport and logistics employers

The sector is dominated by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with large firms the most likely to take on graduates.

In rail, coach, bus and private hire, you may find work with:

  • Addison Lee
  • Arriva
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car
  • FirstGroup
  • National Express
  • Network Rail
  • Stagecoach Group
  • Transport for London (TfL).

Leading logistics and transportation companies include:

  • Gist
  • P&O Ferrymasters
  • Stobart Group
  • Wincanton.

Air transport employers include:

  • Airbus
  • British Airways
  • easyJet
  • Heathrow Airport
  • International Airlines Group (which includes Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia)
  • Manchester Airports Group (MAG)
  • Ryanair
  • Virgin Atlantic.

For water transport, consider:

  • Cunard
  • Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
  • P&O Ferries
  • Peel Ports Group (six UK and Ireland ports including Dublin, Glasgow, Liverpool and the Manchester Ship Canal)
  • Saga Cruises
  • Stena Line.

Postal and courier companies that take on graduates include:

  • DHL
  • DPD
  • FedEx (also owns TNT)
  • Hermes Group
  • Royal Mail Group
  • UK Mail
  • UPS
  • Yodel.

Government departments and agencies include:

  • Department for Transport (DfT)
  • Highways England.

Getting a graduate job in transport and logistics

Larger organisations offer transport graduate schemes in disciplines such as general management, engineering, operations, transport planning and logistics, IT, finance and HR.

Find out more about road and railway careers and visit the websites of leading employers, including Network Rail, Transport for London (TfL) and engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald.

Large postal and courier delivery companies such as DHL, DPD and Royal Mail Group run formal graduate programmes.

There are also schemes for graduates with an understanding of logistics and supply chain management. Gist, Boots, Lidl and EDF Energy are among the employers offering graduate opportunities.

For those seeking careers in air travel, many leading private employers run airline graduate schemes - for example, British Airways runs schemes in logistics, data and finance, as well as a future leaders programme while easyJet runs Talented Career Programme in business operations, technology and leadership.

To explore the graduate roles currently available, search transport industry jobs.

There are also a number of transport apprenticeships.

As the majority of organisations are SMEs, many don't advertise formal transport internships or work placements - but approach them speculatively to enquire whether they have any opportunities.

Search work experience opportunities in the transport industry.

The Department for Transport is committed to investing in transport infrastructure, which incorporates the upgrading of Britain's road and rail network, as outlined in its Transport investment strategy report (2017). Notable projects including the A14 road upgrade and HS2, the high speed rail link, plus major work on the East and West Coast Main Lines. There's also the proposed expansion of Heathrow Airport in London.

However, Britain's transport network continues to struggle with the increased demand on its services. Talented graduates are needed to replace an ageing workforce and to solve modern, complex problems.

Due to the rise in online shopping, logistics and supply chain management is a growth area. Retail giant Amazon has rolled out its own network across the UK, with Amazon Logistics delivering goods directly to the consumer.

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