Have you ever questioned your career choice as an engineer? Established professions for bright graduates are now vying for talent as opportunities open up in the “cloud,” and today’s most in-demand jobs weren’t even in existence as little as eight years ago. So what still makes someone decide to nail their colours to the mast of engineering?
“Speed to competence” is highly comparable across the professions. It takes a minimum of seven years to become a chartered engineer, but this timeframe is more likely to be eight to ten years. It takes 10-12 years to become a medical doctor and a minimum of nine years to become a practising solicitor.
Pay is another tangible measure of comparison. With the term “engineer” frequently abused through overuse and diluted, there has traditionally been some devaluation of the profession.
But the latest recruitment activity for recent graduates suggests that recognition and reward for engineers is beginning to become more apparent. Graduates fresh from an IMechE-accredited course can achieve an average starting salary of £24,000. And exceptional starting salaries of up to £35,000 are being offered to similarly exceptional candidates in the high-value engineering sectors of oil and gas, aerospace and defence, energy, and pockets of automotive research.
Another thing an engineering graduate today has in their favour is the choice of opportunity at their fingertips – three separate job offers per graduate are a common occurrence.
Average starting salaries compare favourably with those of newly qualified doctors and dentists earning £20,741. The legal profession however offers the highest-paid graduate jobs, with salaries at an average of £36,000. Law is therefore unsurprisingly popular with almost three times as many applicants for each available entry-level vacancy.
As an engineer’s career develops, salary levels rise to an average of £56,000 for those who are chartered and £39,000 for qualified but non-chartered professionals. So there is real benefit in becoming chartered.
That point’s worth noting by engineering companies capable of offering mentoring to help staff to achieve chartered status, as it will be an important differentiator to becoming an employer of choice in the battle for talent. Recent research suggests that the number-one reason why people choose an employer is for personal development potential.
Comparing the salaries of experienced engineers with those of our medical cousins shows some potential for further recognition, with specialist doctors earning between £37,000 and £70,000, GPs earning from £54,000 to £81,000, and consultants £75,000 to £101,000. Notwithstanding a person’s attitude to the sight of blood or the lifestyle implications of working nights and weekends, the size of the pay cheque may be less of an issue to most engineers, whose motivations are more inclined towards the intangible rewards available.
Engineering is after all one of the few professions where someone can admire their handiwork and its benefit to society, even if it might mean crawling under a vehicle to see it, or reminding friends and family of the technical input provided every time a plane flies overhead or a light switch is flicked on.
If such gratifying opportunities are not available to you, or your salary does not compare quite as favourably as you would like, you might still take some solace from the fact that engineering is the most entrepreneurial of all the professions. Engineers are the professionals who are the most likely to start and run successful businesses. That’s probably because engineering is firmly rooted in the private sector.
If you still require inspiration, it might be worth remembering that 20% of CEOs running the top 500 global companies have degrees in engineering.