what is an engineer?

As an engineer, you apply the principles of science and mathematics to come up with practical solutions to technical problems. Your work leads to solutions useful in commercial applications that meet societal and consumer needs.

Engineers develop new products using tested designs and processes. When creating a product, an engineer often specifies the requirements and puts together the components. They also test the functionality to ensure the effectiveness and reliability of products. Design, analysis, and testing processes are used to produce various items, from computers to chemicals and automotive products.

what does an engineer do?

As an engineer, your work involves product design, as well as the production and maintaining of various products. For instance, you will be in charge of supervising factories to ensure the equipment is handled appropriately. You also figure out the cause of machine failure and complete the necessary repairs. You are involved in maintenance to ensure the equipment retains high-quality production standards.

As an engineer, you work in various industries depending on your field of study. Some engineers work in construction or industrial settings, while others work in the energy sector or pharmaceuticals. 

Would working as an engineer suit your talent for science and mathematics? Then read on to find out what competencies and qualifications you need to thrive in an engineering role.  

engineer jobs

average salary of an engineer

The average salary of an engineer in the UK is £47,896 per year, according to The Engineer's Salary Survey. However, your salary varies depending on the engineering sector and your seniority. The highest-paid engineers in the oil and gas sector earn an average of £53,913 per year, followed by engineers in the energy and chemical sectors. Junior engineers earn an average salary of £30,557, while senior engineers in managerial positions earn £47,972 per year. Engineers in director positions make as high as £72,072 per year. Aside from the base salary, you also earn bonuses, overtime pay and receive various benefits.

what factors affect the salary of an engineer?

Your salary as an engineer depends on your education level and qualifications. Some companies pay more to engineers with postgraduate qualifications. A graduate with a masters degree will have a higher starting salary and better chances of promotion. Apart from degrees, having a chartered or incorporated status also improves your compensation package. Additionally, the company size and complexity of the project determine your earnings. For instance, an engineer working in a nuclear plant is paid more than an engineer working in the construction industry. Large companies also have extensive resources and pay more since they handle complex projects and require high experience levels.

Man with tie in an office. Primary color: blue.
Man with tie in an office. Primary color: blue.

types of engineer

As an engineer, you need to specialise in a particular field of study. Some of the types of engineers include:

  • mechanical engineer: as a mechanical engineer, you assist in designing and developing machines and equipment used in industrial processes. You can work in the production of industrial computer systems, trains and various equipment.
  • chemical engineer: as a chemical engineer, you solve problems by converting chemical substances into valuable products. For instance, you research and develop medical products from chemical components in various ingredients. You also formulate recipes and procedures for creating multiple products.
  • civil engineer: your job as a civil engineer includes building and constructing structures like bridges, tunnels and railway lines. You can also work in buildings to ensure the structures are solid and sound.
  • electrical engineer: your work entails working with electricity and electronic machines. You can install electrical lines in commercial and residential areas or produce electronic products.
  • oil and gas engineer: as an oil and gas engineer, you construct pipelines for transporting oil and gas without posing a danger to the environment.

working as an engineer

Engineering is an inspiring career that allows you to explore your creativity and solve problems in society. Let's take a look at the daily tasks and work environment of an engineer.


education and skills

Some of the educational qualifications you need include:

  • degree: almost all entry-level engineering jobs need a bachelor's degree, but some require college graduates with qualifications in science and mathematics. Engineering degrees are available in mechanical, civil, electrical, chemical and aeronautical fields. You can also be trained in one branch and work in a related field. For instance, mechanical engineers can work in aerospace engineering or automotive. This allows you to shift to fields with better employment prospects when you need a change.
  • postgraduate: after a degree course, you can do doctoral studies like a master's and PhD. While it isn't compulsory, it deepens your knowledge and helps you acquire sector-specific skills. Postgraduate studies are crucial to getting into research and product design.
  • apprenticeship: instead of getting an undergraduate degree in engineering, you can do an apprenticeship. It provides you with on-the-job training and a national diploma in engineering.

skills and competencies

Aside from training, you need soft skills to help you succeed. Some of the skills include:

  • critical thinking skills: as an engineer, your central role is to solve problems. Hence, you need to be inquisitive and think critically to come up with ideas. When the performance doesn't meet the standards, you should determine the cause and find a solution.
  • attention to detail: when you are an engineer, a small error can cause significant problems. For instance, if you miss some components, the product may not work or meet the expectations. Your attentiveness to details will come in handy.
  • science and mathematics aptitude: engineers use advanced mathematics to analyse, design and find solutions. Aptitude for maths, science and technology helps you solve problems and succeed in your work.
  • project management skills: as an engineer, you juggle multiple project elements, from design to testing and production. Management skills help you achieve your goals at the expected budget.
Male caucasian worker in logistics environment. Wearing glasses. Checkered shirt. Groomed beard and moustache. Primary color blue. Secondary color yellow.
Male caucasian worker in logistics environment. Wearing glasses. Checkered shirt. Groomed beard and moustache. Primary color blue. Secondary color yellow.


FAQs about working as an engineer

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