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What type of engineering job is right for me?

03/11/20 Oliver Taylor Consultant, R&D / Engineering

An additional 203,000 people with a minimum of Level 3 engineering skills are required to join the UK workforce every year in order to keep up with the demand, making engineering one of the fastest-growing sectors. With so many disciplines to choose from, finding which engineering job is right for you can seem an intimidating task. While there are four main branches of engineering – chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical – which each have their own set of sub disciplines, there are other interdisciplinary roles that can’t be categorised as the main branches. This overview of the main branches and popular interdisciplinary roles will help you decide which type of engineering job is right for you.

Electrical engineering

Electrical engineering is a discipline responsible for the study, design and development of equipment, devices, systems, and machinery which use electricity, electronics, and electromagnetism.

Electrical engineering is divided into a wide range of inter disciplines including computer engineering, power engineering, telecommunications, signal processing, radio-frequency engineering, etc. Engineers who study this discipline go on to work in a broad range of sectors, including automotive, electronics, instrumentation, renewable energy, and telecommunications. Therefore, this field of engineering can offer professionals an extremely diverse career and the chance to constantly be learning something new.

Though technology has the power to create a digital skills gap in most job markets, few are impacted to the same extent as electrical engineering. 36% of companies in the electrical sector noted an increase in their engineering and technical workforce over the last three years, yet 40% admit they are still facing a talent shortage. The ever-evolving disciplines mean there is constant need for RF engineers, software system architects and electronic hardware design engineers who can be at the forefront of future technologies.

Chemical engineering

Chemical engineering uses the principles of maths and sciences (such as chemistry and physics), along with life sciences (biology, biochemistry) to convert raw materials into products such as alternative energy, fuels, and industrial chemicals - this branch of engineering is responsible for producing polymers, plastics, antibiotics, dosed medication, food and drinking water. Common roles include molecular engineering, materials engineering and process engineering. Like most other disciplines, to be successful in chemical engineering you need to have strong problem-solving skills – if there’s a flaw in the design of a plant evaporator it could be up to you to get to the root of it.

Mechanical engineering

Mechanical engineers are responsible for the design, development, build and maintenance of machines, tools, engines, and systems. Employees working in this discipline are often involved with products that have moving parts, including aircraft engines, machine tools, prosthetic devices to steam turbines. The wider engineering sector is known for being male-dominated, however, even fewer women enter this discipline – only one in 10 mechanical engineers are female. As the demand for mechanical engineers continues to grow, employers are proactively searching for women to join their team as mechanical design engineers, thermal engineers and CAD  design engineers, making this a great career option for young women engineers.

Civil engineering

In the UK, it would be near impossible to go a day without benefiting from the work that civil engineers do. These professionals plan and construct roads, bridges, water and sewage systems and much more. Of all the disciplines, civil engineering has the richest history and the earliest examples date back thousands of years. Just as with the other major branches, civil engineers must be strong communicators as most day-to-day tasks involve collaborating with a team.

Interdisciplinary engineering

Interdisciplinary engineering jobs that can’t be solely categorised under the main branches include product assurance engineer, field sales engineer, applications engineer and project engineer, but one particular role that is booming is software engineering. A 2020 State of Software Engineers report shows that in 2018, blockchain engineers enjoyed the largest surge in demand, totalling 517%.

Blockchain, which began to emerge as a real-world tech option in 2016 and 2017, is already starting to change IT in much the same way open-source software did a quarter-century ago. Based on a peer-to-peer (P2P) topology, blockchain is a distributed ledger technology (DLT) that allows data to be stored globally on thousands of servers – while letting anyone on the network see everyone else's entries in near real-time. Recording the information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change, gain control, hack, or cheat the system.

However, the growth of online gaming and wearable technology has shot AR/VR engineers to the top in 2019, creating a 1400% increase in demand. They develop new software and build features that make disparate XR tools work together. These systems are often programmed in C#, C++, Objective-C, Swift, etc.

Make your next career move with Redline

For 35 years, Redline Group has been helping candidates across Europe secure their next career move within the electronics, engineering and high-technology arena. Many of our consultants have previous experience working in the sectors in which they recruit, meaning that we’re able to adopt a knowledge-led approach and provide first-rate advice to our candidates. As a leading technical recruitment agency, we can also offer CV preparation tips, interview advice, and offer negotiation guidance.

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