Good money, lots of variety, the chance to be part of a renowned group of professionals and always in demand - what's not to like about a career in engineering?
Engineering and technology may not be the easiest areas of study, but they're subjects that continue to be in demand, and because they are challenging, those studying them stand out from the crowd. You're also more likely to find employment quickly and work your way up the career ladder with an engineering or technology degree under your belt. In the latest (2010) UK Skills Report by Semta - the employer led skills council for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies - 30,000 skilled professionals are needed each year between now and 2016 to bridge the gap of those who are retiring.
Nuclear power is one such sector where engineering roles look set to be plentiful.
“Nuclear power will be a future growth area requiring engineering and technology graduates. EDF Energy alone is planning to build four new nuclear plants in the coming years and we are looking for all sorts of skills including - electrical, mechanical, civil and material engineering and maths, physics, chemistry and environmental science,” highlights EDF Energy graduate recruitment manager Ranjini Sachin. “This year alone (2011) we intend to recruit 80 graduates from all of the above disciplines for our Nuclear Science and Engineering Scheme. We will be recruiting in the thousands of people over the coming ten years.”
Those that are drawn to an engineering or technology course will also find enjoyment and satisfaction throughout their career, as IT marketing expert Richard Brandon highlights.
"Students drawn to a technology course probably do so because they find the subject interesting, and they will find employment in engineering and technology will continue to be interesting for the rest of their careers," he says. "It's an area that is guaranteed to continue to change and evolve so that, in a way, even experienced professionals are continually learning and refreshing their knowledge. For many of us in the field it's this constant change that is so appealing."
An engineering-based education also allows students exposure to various technical subjects and skill sets.
"They will be able to develop skills that are transferable to most industries such as problem solving, decision making, innovation, project management, team working and communication," says Tony Dearsley, Computer Forensics, Kroll Ontrack Legal Technologies. "They will also have the knowledge that they are contributing to a rapidly changing technological environment."
The key benefits of studying engineering are both financial and prospect based. Financially, the starting salaries are among the best across all industry sectors.
"In many areas, the demand for well-qualified, skilled graduates outstrips supply, and businesses are struggling to find recruits for vacancies. New engineering graduates can expect to earn around £22,000, which is ahead of sectors sales, human resources and even finance," says Allan Pettman, UK managing director, Global Knowledge.
"From a prospect perspective, ICT and engineering are getting increased prominence in business circles – particularly in service based industries and strong rounded candidates can also expect to progress quickly within organisations," he continues.
An engineering-based education also gives you a great base to branch into different sectors and also work your way up to high level management.
"Engineers find themselves in finance, investment banking, human resources, IT, business development and administration areas," says Patrick Hapsel, senior programme manager, Strategic University Relationships, Cadence Design Systems. "The industrial and economic success of every nation is rooted firmly in its manufacturing and engineering base, and the skills and ingenuity of its professional engineers."
"Looking at blue chip global organisations, it is not unusual for engineers to make it all the way to the boardroom, especially as engineers are usually very pragmatic and good with numbers - crucial qualities for senior executives," adds John Doherty, business development manager, CBSbutler.
There will always be employers in all sectors who're continuously seeking new blood, however at the moment there are some "hot" sectors for work opportunities. These include environmental solutions, security, medical engineering and green power.
"Green engineering is the most often cited example of an area that needs fresh blood, but this often conjures up images solely of wind turbines or solar power. In reality, there are opportunities throughout the power industry, looking at ways to increase energy efficiencies and develop other sustainable sources," says Professor Ken Grattan, Dean of the School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences and the School of Informatics at City University London.
"Safety and security is another key area for growth, whether that be physical defenses or cyberwarfare," he continues. "Dealing with the world's aging population will also be a challenge for engineers over the coming years – from developing new healthcare technologies to creating the types of advanced robotics that we see in Japan, to help elderly citizens. A key skill is to be inter- and cross-disciplinary in approach - bringing to bear all of the requisite approaches to problem solving."
"High performance engineering is also another area growing rapidly in the UK," adds Alec Reader, director of NanoKTN. "Rolls Royce is based in the UK, UK manufacturers produce the wings for Airbuses, there's a huge demand for trained professionals in this area and this will continue to increase as technology becomes more and more advanced and the number of numbers will continue to increase."
So there you have it. If you're considering studying engineering or already on an engineering or IT degree, you now have a number of ways to answer the question why study engineering? A good starting salary, great career prospects, employment security and a wide range of exciting areas to work in: why would you ever choose to study anything else?