Introduction to Energy
The Energy industry is ever-expanding and comprises a range of energy sources, including oil, gas, petroleum, nuclear power, waste management and water.
One of the world’s largest employment sectors, in the UK there are six major energy companies, known as The Big Six - British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power and SSE. In addition there are over 200 petroleum companies. Approximately 50,000 people are employed in the nuclear industry, 5,000 in the coal industry, 140,000 in waste management and 160,000 in water.
Despite the importance of non-renewable energy sources, the energy industry in the UK and in the world is increasingly concerned with finding and effectively utilising sustainable resources, including solar power and wind turbines.
As a result, roles in this industry range from the sourcing, extracting and selling of oil to others dealing with solar power, wind, electricity, gas and waste management - making it an interesting career choice for graduates from a variety of backgrounds.
What roles are open to me?
There are a huge range of roles available, all of which deal with different energy sources and aspects of the industry.
- Drilling Engineer
- Environmental Consultant
- Energy Manager
- Hydrographic Surveyor
- Mining Engineer
- Petroleum Manager
- Quarry Manager
- Seismic Interpreter
- Waste Management Officer
- Water Engineer
- Wellsite Geologist
British Gas, EDF Energy, E.ON, npower, Scottish Power, SSE, Endesa SA, Rosneft Oil, Reliance Industries, RWE AG, LUKOIL, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron Corp, China Petroleum, Total SA, Exxon Nobil Corp and Petrobras Brasiliero.
What qualifications and skills do I need?
The requirements vary depending on which aspect of the industry you wish to work in. For technical roles, such as Water Engineer or Geochemist, you’ll need an accredited degree in a specific discipline and may also need a postgraduate qualification for roles in certain areas, such as geoscience. For roles in energy marketing, HR and sales, you’ll generally need a 2:1 in any discipline, while for finance roles a degree in maths, business or economics may be required.
In addition to your degree, employers look for attributes including strong analytical and problem-solving skills, technical knowledge, teamwork, project management skills, flexibility and adaptability. Many companies also like to see evidence of work experience, either as part of your degree (on a sandwich placement) or through an internship or summer placement, which are widely available throughout the industry.
Although a degree is required for some roles, there are a number of opportunities for school leavers including apprenticeships and school-leaver programmes in areas as diverse as gas installation engineering, customer service or administration. If you wish to undertake a degree and advance your career in a more specialist area, such as renewable energy or geoscience, some major companies will even sponsor your studies, giving you the chance to advance your career at no extra cost to you.
Once you’re employed in the industry, some companies will offer support to study a Masters to enhance your skills and knowledge - even paying some or all of the fees. In addition, engineers may receive support and training to achieve chartered status, while those employed in other fields may benefit from on-the-job training and development to keep their skills and knowledge up-to-date.
The application process varies depending on the company and role you're applying for, but should follow some or all of the steps below:
- Online application form
- Online testing (technical or engineering roles)
- Assessment day
- Final interview
The average salary depends on the role, level of entry, location and company you apply for. In general, the starting salary for a graduate technical role will be from £20,000 - £30,000 per year, although roles in offshore drilling may have higher starting salaries. For school-leaver programmes or entry level roles, the average starting salary ranges from £15,000 - £23,500 per year. As you gain experience and additional qualifications, your salary will increase significantly. This also depends on the specific sector of the industry you work in - for example, a senior wind analyst can earn up to £80,000 per year, while some senior roles in offshore drilling can earn upwards of £110,000 per year.
Are there any downsides?
One of the well-known downsides of a career in energy is the need to relocate - many industries have hubs in remote locations or offshore oil rigs, which can see you working away from home for extended periods. Working in the industry can also be stressful as projects are often deadline dependent (with high financial stakes). In addition to this, work can be physically demanding and sometimes dangerous, and following safety protocol is a top priority.
Is it right for me?
Aside from excellent earning potential, a career in the energy industry can give you the opportunity to work on ground-breaking research, projects and developments, often with far-reaching, even global effects. If you choose a career in renewable energy, you’ll also be at the forefront of the fight to cut greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, helping preserve the planet and developing sustainable energy sources and technology for future generations. If that sounds like the career for you, visit our Energy forum to find out more.