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Where to start  

Engineering is an incredibly diverse sector. Specialty areas include automotive, engineering consultancy, defence, aerospace, life sciences, power, energy, manufacturing, civil and structural, software, and data science. Graduate starting salaries are usually £24-£35k, although some employers (typically oil and gas, technical consultancy, and IT) pay more.

Employers include large companies (Arup, Atkins, Rolls-Royce); small- and medium-sized firms (medical devices, software firms, AI start-ups), and the public sector (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory).

Don't overlook smaller and medium sized companies; these employ the majority of UK engineers. Many Cambridge graduates seek out more niche opportunities such as autonomous vehicles, medical devices, technical consulting, and Formula 1.

You can explore engineering areas starting from your degree specialisation, or alternatively, by the sector you'd like to work in; it’s possible to move into a different area of engineering. Prospects provides an overview of career options using your degree including aerospace, chemical, civil, electrical and electronic, materials science, mechanical, biomedical and nuclear.

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How to know if you’re suited to this sector

The most effective way to find out is by completing a number of summer placements, starting as soon as possible. Target Jobs offers an useful guide to interning and graduate careers in engineering, as well as an overview of the major engineering disciplines.

Read engineer job profiles within the Engineering and Manufacturing, Energy and Utilities, and IT sectors.

How to get the experience to be credible

The technical and numerical abilities gained through your degree are important, but employers also look for evidence of wider skills. These include problem solving, leadership, communication, teamwork, attention to detail, innovation, and project management. Seek out opportunities to develop these, both inside and outside of your studies. Use our Self-reflection toolkits on Handshake to audit your current skill set and identify areas to develop.

Secure industrial experience

  • Industrial experience is important. Many engineering students secure full-time employment straight out of university through the contacts they make during spring week placements or summer internships. The CUED Industrial placements office provides updates on potential placements. Many employers advertise summer placements on Handshake, particularly in Michaelmas term.
  • If you are a MEng student, you are required to complete an industrial placement before the start of your third year. Aim to complete at least one other placement in your penultimate year. Try out a different sector or size of company, and develop your commercial awareness and broader technical skills. For graduate recruitment, large firms give priority to their penultimate year summer interns.
  • If you are looking for experience in a niche area you may need to apply speculatively. Use Handshake, LinkedIn, and CHOICE database to find suitable employers.

Keep up to date with new developments

Follow professional networks

Further study or certification required

Most engineering roles do not require a postgraduate degree. Further study on its own does not necessarily lead to a higher starting salary, but expertise in a particular niche area can lead to new opportunities. You can always study for a PhD after you have gained some industrial experience.

After graduating, many Cambridge Engineers choose to continue their personal development by working towards Chartered Engineer (CEng) status, often on the Cambridge MEng course. Chartered Engineers hold the highest status in the engineering profession and are recognised worldwide. For further detail, see the Engineering Council website.

Graduate schemes will often support you in gaining CEng status (4-6 years after graduation). For further details, read Target Jobs' article ‘How to become a chartered or incorporated engineer after starting a graduate job’. If you work for an organisation without a training scheme, you can still work towards professional registration by developing your own profile of competence and experience.

How to find employers or training courses

Many engineering graduate schemes recruit in the Michaelmas term for an autumn start the following year. Other companies, including smaller and medium-sized firms, are more likely to recruit all year round.

Summer placements are advertised from October onwards. Larger employers tend to advertise summer internships as early as Michaelmas. Check the eligibility criteria for summer placements as some are only open to penultimate year students.

Graduate jobs and summer placements

  • Gradcracker - graduate jobs and summer placements/internships in Engineering, Science and Technology
  • Bright Network promote engineering graduate roles and internships 
  • Target jobs – career guides, internships, placements, graduate jobs, advice, employers
  • IChemE On Campus – resources for Chemical Engineering students
  • Why Not Chem Eng - a list of companies who employ chemical engineers from IChemE
  • Space Careers - a guide to roles in the space industry, includes vacancies
  • EnergyJobLine - advertises global jobs in the energy sector, with a section for graduates

National listings (all experience levels)

Tips for succeeding in the application or selection process
  • Apply early: applications may open up to 12 months in advance
  • Tailor your application for every role and proofread thoroughly before submitting. Your CV, cover letter, and application form should highlight both your technical and transferrable skills.
  • Research each organisation thoroughly - show that you understand what they do, what makes them unique, and the challenges they face
  • Be prepared for virtual interviewing and assessments
What Cambridge offers to help with this career
Other things you should know

Many organisations accept applicants from non-engineering degrees such as physics, materials science, chemistry and earth sciences. This will depend on the relevance of your particular modules. Many engineering employers will also accept a 2:2 (Target Jobs lists these employers).

The Engineer's 2021/2021 Salary Survey provides a comprehensive round up of UK salaries by experience level, engineering sector, and geographical region.

“Although you are encouraged to specialise throughout your degree, don’t let that specialisation define you as an engineer and don’t be discouraged from applying for roles which might seem outside your specialisation. You will continue learning throughout your career; your degree provides the foundations on which you can build.” MEng graduate (Mech Eng), now working for the UK’s largest car manufacturer.

What to do next

Now you have looked at this page, think about your next steps. Everyone's journey is different. There are many ways to move forward. Here are some actions you could take now: