Careers in automotive engineering and manufacturing

The automotive engineering and manufacturing industry is a great career option for up and coming engineers, with a huge variety of roles and apprenticeships available - and good wages to boot!

Jaguar Land Rover car plant The automotive manufacturing industry covers a range of companies involved in the manufacturing of everything from whole vehicles and bodies to engines and components. Don’t just think of cars - this sector covers all kinds of vehicles including buses, vans, lorries, fire engines and trailers.

And things are looking good - an estimated 154,400 people are currently employed in the UK’s automotive manufacturing industry (2013) across 3,220 workplaces. Although many consider these established markets as relatively saturated, the UK is fairing OK, and the global industry continues to expand as companies look to explore emerging markets including China, India and Russia.

There are many engineering opportunities available in this sector with roles including design engineer, electronics engineer, production engineer, engineering maintenance technician and quality control inspector to name just a few.

The majority of roles are full-time at between 35-40 hours per week and for some there’s the opportunity to go self-employed if they wish - six per cent work this way in this industry in the UK (2013).

The skills and qualifications you need

Automotive engineers need to have good technical ability and many employers like to bring people on board with qualifications like a foundation degree or a BTEC HNC/HND. However many organisations offer some great apprenticeship schemes.

For advanced apprenticeships the majority expect applicants to have five GCSEs at C or above, which must include English, Maths and a science or technology subject.

For higher apprenticeships you’ll also need two A levels at C or above in Maths and a science or technology subject.

Apprenticeships available in automotive engineering and manufacturing

There are many apprenticeships available in this sector, with the majority of the largest employers offering schemes. Many provide both advanced and higher apprenticeship, as Robinder Gill, from Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) Graduate, Undergraduate and Apprentice Recruitment explains.

“We’ve got two types of apprenticeship the traditional advanced apprenticeship, and the higher apprenticeship. People can apply for an advanced apprenticeship after their GCSEs. This is a four-year hands-on apprenticeship where you qualify as a dual mechanical/electrical engineer. The apprentices go into the tool room, work on maintenance and maybe prototype vehicles etc. If you’re practically minded then that's a great route for you,” he says.

“The higher apprenticeship has a slightly higher entry point, you need A levels as well as GCSEs. This is a six-year programme, but at the end of it you come away with a BEng as well,” he continues. “These are for specific areas within the business where we need engineers but struggle to find them.

“For example, there’s an area within finance called cost engineering, which involves out-costing programmes and processes, and they want an engineer by trade. We find these places harder to fill because most engineers want to be physically on the products, so this higher apprenticeship trains people in areas including cost engineering and supplier assistance within purchasing and procurement. They’re more niche apprenticeships.”


Once qualified, starting salaries in this sector begin at around £20,000 a year. During advanced apprenticeships many employers pay around £200 a week, but this can go up over time depending on your progression. For example at JLR many apprentices are earning around £400-450 per week by the time they get towards the end of their apprenticeship.

For JLR’s higher apprentices, the starting salary when joining the scheme is £16,000 a year and the company also pays university tuition fees. Over the six-year apprenticeship this again rises as they progress through each stage, with many completing the programme with an income of £32,000 per year.

Want to find out more?

Further information on working in the automotive engineering and manufacturing industry can be found at the following sites: