From air, road, rail and water transport to supply chains and warehousing the UK's transport and logistics sectors encompass a range of essential services. Learn more about employers and industry trends

Areas of transport and logistics

There's more to the transport sector than meets the eye. As well as transport networks, it also incorporates vehicle manufacturing, infrastructure maintenance, transport planning and traffic management. People and businesses rely heavily on these networks and services.

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
  • haulage
  • 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.

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
  • Evri
  • FedEx (also owns TNT)
  • Royal Mail Group
  • UK Mail
  • UPS
  • Yodel.

Government departments and agencies include:

  • Department for Transport (DfT)
  • National Highways.

Working in the sector

Graduates entering the sector can expect:

  • 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 officers.
  • 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). 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 and transport planning, 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.

Essential skills

Graduate recruiters look for candidates with:

  • excellent communication and customer service skills
  • IT literacy
  • numeracy skills
  • spatial awareness
  • flexibility, adaptability and the ability to be mobile
  • geographical knowledge
  • the ability to concentrate for long periods
  • decision making and planning skills
  • project management
  • commercial awareness
  • the ability to negotiate
  • practical problem-solving ability.

For some roles, such as bus, taxi or lorry driver you will need a clean driving licence. A second language or the ability to learn one may also be useful in customer-facing roles or logistics jobs.

Getting a graduate job in transport and logistics

Larger organisations offer transport graduate schemes in disciplines such as:

  • engineering
  • finance
  • general management
  • HR
  • IT
  • operations
  • transport planning and logistics.

Find out more about road and railway careers and visit the websites of leading employers, including Network Rail, 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, 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, Ryanair run schemes in head office, operations and IT.

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

There are also a number of transport apprenticeships to consider if you're looking at alternatives to university.

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.

Another way to get your foot in the door is to search work experience opportunities in the transport industry.

The DfT is committed to investing in transport infrastructure, which incorporates the upgrading of Britain's road and rail network. Multi-million pound projects are in progress to improve journeys and connectivity across the country, notably the A14 road upgrade and HS2, the high-speed rail link, plus major work on the East and West Coast Main Lines.

These projects mean that talented graduates are needed to replace an ageing workforce and to solve modern, complex problems. Furthermore, digital transformation means that graduates with knowledge and skills in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), the internet of things (IoT) and blockchain will be highly sought after by employers within the transport and logistics sector. To find out more, see big data courses.

This said, the transport and logistics sector hasn't been without its challenges. Strike action has occurred across the industry with rail workers, bus and tram drivers, TfL underground workers and Royal Mail staff all walking out in opposition to pay and working conditions. Further strike action is planned for rail workers, bus drivers and TfL underground workers.

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