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Developing your career: Engineering

Engineering brings together scientific, creative and problem-solving skills in a huge range of contexts, and is at the heart of many wealth-generating industries – including urban design, sustainability, digital and mobile technology. Qualified engineers are valued for their rigorous approach to problem solving and high level of numeracy. These skills open up a wide range of other career opportunities – for example in management, law or finance – as well as in engineering itself due to the transferable skills gained by studying engineering.

Engineer working in lab

The UK has great strengths in its engineering, technology and design sectors, being world leaders in areas such as aerospace, motor sports and energy. Demand for jobs has been created by new technologies, particularly nanotechnology, and graduates can find employment across a whole range of manufacturing and service industries from food and fashion to construction and transport. Engineering is also central to the growth of the low carbon economy. The Department for Energy and Climate Change estimates that the renewable energy sector alone could create 500,000 new jobs by 2020.

There are opportunities in research, design and development, commissioning, project management, technical sales and marketing, technical journalism and patent work. UK trained engineers are in demand for projects abroad and as employees of international firms; and with the right experience and qualifications you can also work as a self-employed consultant.

STEM careers (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths): predicted growth areas

  • energy/environment
  • nuclear engineering
  • petroleum engineering
  • nanotechnology and biotechnology
  • aerospace, space technology and exploration
  • civil engineering
  • robotics
  • biomedical engineering
  • construction
  • chemicals
  • agri-tech
  • creative industries
  • automotive industry (low carbon vehicle development in particular).

Women in Engineering

Campaigns such as WISE (Women into Science, Engineering and Construction) have emerged to tackle the low rates of women in STEM subjects and a growing skills shortage. Several large companies and professional organisations also have mentoring schemes for women. The Women's Engineering Society is a professional network of women engineers, scientists and technologists offering inspiration and support to women entering the profession.

Understanding the engineering jobs market

For sector news, analysis and information visit The Engineering Council and SEMTA websites (SEMTA is the sector skills council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing).  For information about typical jobs within the sector – including day-to-day activities, the qualifications you need and what you might expect to earn – visit the Prospects careers website. If you live in Ireland look at the relevant information on career sectors and jobs with your degree on the GradIreland website.

How the OU can help

We offer undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in engineering, and related courses in areas like design, technology, environmental management and systems thinking.

Our professionally recognised engineering courses
We are very proud that our engineering qualifications have been accredited and recognised by the professional engineering institutions, enabling you to apply for registration as an Incorporated or Chartered Engineer – depending on your level of study.

OU engineering courses will also help you to develop as an ethically responsible professional, equipped with high level employability skills such as:

  • solving problems with creative and innovative strategies while utilising analytical skills
  • being logical and pragmatic, interested in the process necessary for a concept to become a product
  • having the ability to design and develop economically viable products
  • being conscious of global social, cultural and environmental issues in relation to engineering and technology
  • attention to detail, numeracy and high levels of computer literacy
  • being effective communicators, capable of team working and able to take on responsibility.

Getting started

If you’re not quite ready for degree-level study, our Science, technology and maths Access module (Y033) could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s designed to build your confidence and study skills while introducing subject knowledge in the disciplines of science, engineering and design, environment, mathematics, and computing and ICT. By the end of the module, you’ll be well prepared to begin your first full OU course.

More about Access courses

Work experience

Many engineering roles require significant experience in addition to a relevant qualification. Open University courses put you at a distinct advantage in this regard, as you’ll be encouraged to apply your learning immediately to your own role, and to build on your experience as a context for developing real-world knowledge and skills. However, if you’d benefit from additional settings in which to contextualise your learning, you could consider volunteering. The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s website is a good place to start. You can also explore our voluntary work pages or the following national websites:

The OU has an active and growing LinkedIn presence with over 100,000 students and alumni that you can access once you are registered, to explore work experience opportunities.  In addition to this our JobZone hosts a wide range of job vacancies and work experience opportunities that OU students can take advantage of, and the OU Careers Advisory Service has also developed online resources including webinars and a web page devoted to work experience.

FACT: 94% of OU Engineering and Technology graduates are in employment six months after they graduate.