INTRODUCTION

WHAT DO ENGINEERS DO?

Sorry, there's no easy answer to that. What do you expect from a field of expertise that designs the latest satellite technology millions of miles above our heads and plans tunnels hundreds of metres below the sea?

 

What we can say is that it's about designing, making and improving 'things' - things that we all need to make the world a better place. It's also about solving problems - not 'My boyfriend never talks to me' type problems, but scientific and practical problems that really affect the real world.

People who work in engineering do all kinds of jobs. Some people are at the designing end of the job (this tends to get done on very expensive computers these days) while others are well and truly hands-on - making 'things' with their hands. Then there are other people who make business decisions and deals or who do research into brilliant new ways of designing and making things.

 

WHAT DO ENGINEERS DESIGN AND MAKE?

So engineering is all about designing 'things', making 'things' and improving 'things' (among other 'things'!). But what sort of 'things'?

The answer is: everything! In fact, if you took away all the 'things' that engineers have had a hand in designing, making or improving right now, you would find yourself sitting in a bare field (probably no chair, probably no desk, certainly no building and most definitely no computer) ... and probably without any clothes on.

In other words, you don't need a GCSE in engineering to find out all about it. Engineering is all around us, every moment of every day.

Here's a list of ten 'things' that engineers are directly involved with designing, making and improving, but it really could run into not just thousands, but millions:

ENGINEERING WE ALL NEED IT

Even engineers tend to take engineering for granted! Engineering touches every facet of every minute of our everyday lives.

A TYPICAL JOB IN ENGINEERING

THERE IS NO TYPICAL JOB IN ENGINEERING!

But there are things that people who work in engineering have in common:

They are likely to be using state-of-the-art technology, often computer driven, for all manner of tasks - designing or testing, welding or grinding.

They probably work as part of a team, all working to the same end - and having a laugh along the way!

They usually have well-respected qualifications, whether a basic NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in a general engineering skill or a highly specialised PhD that has taken many years of study to get.

WHERE MIGHT YOU WORK

In engineering you could work in a variety of places:

Offices ... sites ... abroad ... at sea .. in the air... in space ...

Most people who work in engineering mention the variety of their work as a good reason to get involved.

You could work in a small company with a handful of employees or for a multinational super-company with offices everywhere from Alaska to Zimbabwe. Either way - or if you work for an in-between sized company - the prospects are good and the training, usually spot-on.

WHAT YOU MIGHT WEAR

Engineering isn't stuffy about clothes like some jobs are. People in engineering wear whatever is right for the job on the day:

WHAT YOU MIGHT DO

This is likely to be quite varied too. You might:

Do research work with test-tubes and a microscope to develop new methods of doing things and new products

Use intricate skills and complex machinery to grind metal to an accuracy of a hundredth of a millimetre

Design an up-to-date new car instrument panel on a computer screen

Check that the fiendishly complicated equipment on a production line is working

Direct operations on a construction site for a multi-million pound bridge

Visit a customer to help them install state-of-the-art technology

Negotiate a vital business deal on behalf of your company ...

... but that's only a small selection. What you do will depend on your type of job and the branch of engineering you choose.

WHAT HOURS YOU MIGHT WORK

If you want a straight-down-the-line, nine-to-five day at the office, then engineering probably isn't for you. People who work in engineering are doers rather than desk potatoes.

There are some genuinely nine-to-five-ish jobs, but don't expect to be sitting down all day. Certain jobs start early, say 8 am, but that means they probably end early too. Some of the more manual jobs may involve shift work, but that means some of the managers have to work nights as well. So take your pick.

WHAT YOU MIGHT EARN

You guessed it - what you get paid will depend on the type of work, and your experience and qualifications. But in general, engineering is fairly well paid for all levels of work.

It isn't international banking, but if you're the sort of person who likes moving money around, rather than actually creating something, then you won't be interested in a job in engineering anyway. On the other hand, engineering is better paid than most other creative jobs, whatever level you go in at.

INSIDE ENGINEERING

Chemical engineering

Civil engineering

Electrical/electronic engineering

Manufacturing engineering

Marine engineering

Mechanical engineering


For further information and advice on engineering careers contact ECIS the Engineering Careers Information Service on Freephone 0800 282167 or e-mail:ecis@emta.org.uk