There are two main routes to enter into an engineering career and this is dependent upon your level of qualifications or experience but essentially is either graduate or non-graduate.
Graduates with an engineering degree usually enter employment as a graduate engineer or in technical functions learning about different disciplines within the company or department. The progression route usually is Graduate Engineer, Technical Engineer and Senior Engineer level. At Senior Engineer level upwards you could start managing projects and contribute to design, planning, development, deployment phases of engineering activities.
The career ladder upwards would be Principal Engineer, Engineering Manager and in some cases Programme Manager position. Many High Tech company Senior Executives, Directors or Chief Engineer started life as Graduate or Technical Engineer. Most senior positions require Chartered Status though this is not compulsory.
Non-graduates could start immediately after leaving school with GCSE level education as Technical Operator through Youth Training Schemes or Apprenticeships with a local college or company. Those with Diploma level qualification or following completion of a structured Apprenticeship Training with and sometimes without combined college course could become a Craftsperson. To become an Engineering Technician you require HNC, Higher Diploma or Higher NVQ level qualifications. However you can achieve your qualifications by attending part time course while completing a structured apprenticeship or employment with on the job training.
The key message for anyone considering this route is that practical experience is just as valuable as theory and therefore even if your educational qualifications is limited you can still progress into a good engineering career.
Technical Operators and Craftsperson specialise in a specific practical skill such as Milling & Turning to make components or tools. Engineering Technicians combine practical with theory and creative skills for example to diagnose electronic faults or programme a robot to carry out manufacturing tasks. In some cases Engineering Technicians can progress to Project Leader or Team Leader and then onto Project Management or Technical Supervisor. There is also an opportunity for Technicians to advance their career as an Incorporated Engineer before progressing to become a fully qualified Engineer and following the Graduate Career Route above.
There are many opportunities in engineering and these can be found in a wide range of companies and organisations willing to recruit school, college and university leavers. This could be from a multi-national corporation such as General Motors or Nokia Siemens Network to smaller local companies. The choice is yours whether you decide to go with a local or global organisation as each type has advantages and disadvantages that you would need to weigh to find the career suitable for you.
Engineering contracts can be permanent with an annual salary or temporary sub-contract on a daily rate. However in most cases they are permanent and where they are temporary sub-contract this can be project based or for a duration of time (i.e. 6 months). Sub-contractor daily rates are usually more lucrative but contracts can be easily ended at short notice and therefore job security could be low when there isnt much work in the industry.