You’re going to need bags of ‘energy’ to thrive in this profession (apologies for that awful pun!). Seriously though, energy engineers have a broad range of duties and a shedload of responsibility. Consequently, you’ll need to stay on your toes at all times in this line of work. The UK won’t be able to process the energy that is required for society to function properly if you don’t!
Energy engineers work across the full energy lifecycle, including extraction, production, conversion, transmission and distribution, and play an integral role in processing energy from a variety of sources, e.g. solar, wind and geothermal power, nuclear power, water, oil, gas and biofuels.
The primary responsibilities of energy engineers vary depending on the specific project that they are working on, their professional background and expertise, and the sector in which they are employed. However, various activities are common across the board.
If you enter this profession, you’ll be researching new methods and techniques to extract energy from scarce natural reserves; you’ll be designing, developing and building plants and equipment for extraction, production and distribution; and furthermore, you’ll be developing and improving existing procedures to enhance efficiency in the extraction, production and distribution cycles, reduce wastage and develop cleaner forms of energy.
In order to be successful in this line of work, you’ll need to keep up-to-date on industry developments, discoveries and inventions, so that you can keep your skills sharp.
Furthermore, you’ll need to develop a strong understanding of statutory and regulatory requirements with regards to energy usage and sustainability concerns. This legislation will influence all of your major decisions and technical tasks.
Salary & benefits
Energy engineers in the early stages of their careers tend to earn between £20,000 and £30,000 per annum, while professionals with a wealth of experience can earn between £35,000 and £80,000 a year.
Travelling around tends to be a major part of the role. Some employers will, therefore, provide their energy engineers with a travel allowance or company car.
Energy engineers engaged in lab-based roles, such as R&D, design and energy distribution, follow a standard nine-to-five routine over a five-day week.
Engineers working in field-based roles, such as drilling and extraction, production and refining, tend to follow irregular work schedules and often find themselves working long hours in noisy and adverse conditions.
The basic entry requirement for prospective energy engineers is a degree in any scientific or engineering discipline. However, candidates with qualifications in non-science or engineering subjects may also be considered, provided that they complete a relevant conversion course.
Alternatively, candidates without a relevant degree could do a postgraduate degree related to energy engineering in order to be eligible for entry into this profession.
In order to gain an edge over other applicants, it’s advisable to gain a solid amount of work experience before applying for entry-level roles. Many organisations offer sandwich placements, vacation schemes and internships, so research your options and get some experience under your belt.
Training & progression
Most employers offer structured graduate development schemes, which are usually conducted over a period of two to three years. These involve formal training sessions, rotational placements across multiple departments and the provision of academic and financial support for gaining chartered or incorporated engineer qualifications.
Career progression can be facilitated by obtaining membership from professional bodies such as the Energy Institute, the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
As you progress in your career, you may move into an independent consulting position or other roles incorporating policy development, management, planning and strategic decision-making.
Indeed, as you move up the ranks, you may have to take a step back from the hands-on technical work. Alternatively, if you want to continue doing technical work, you could always specialise in a niche area, such as renewable energy.