If you’re looking for a career that makes a difference - one that tackles the defining issues of our generation - you’ve come to the right place. As a professional engineer, you could be part of a team inventing flying cars, designing surgical robots or exploring outer space.
In order to get there, you first need to get some solid workplace experience under your belt: be it an insight day to whet your appetite, a summer internship or a full year in industry.
So without further ado, here is your ultimate guide to securing an engineering internship or placement with one of the best student employers in the UK.
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What is engineering?
In short, engineers use science, maths and a sprinkle of creativity to produce real solutions to real-world problems. From powering our homes to designing our cities, cars and phones, they come up with smart ideas that improve our day-to-day lives.
Whether it’s the bioengineers designing exoskeletons that are helping paralysed people walk again, or the structural engineers making buildings safer in the face of natural disasters, the work they do has a huge impact on the world around us.
Watch this epic video from the Royal Academy of Engineering to find out more:
While projects like HS2 faced major disruption throughout Covid-19, momentum has picked up again - and the government has even committed to £20 billion of R&D funding by 2025.
In the coming years, engineers will play a pivotal role in building a resilient future so that we are better prepared for global challenges like pandemics, climate change and food shortages.
There’s never been a better time to get stuck into this dynamic industry. However, you can’t afford to rest on your laurels. Competition for graduate jobs is at a record high, with the Institute of Student Employers reporting an average of 91 applications per graduate vacancy.
Keep scrolling to find out how to get ahead of the competition...
How do I get experience in engineering?
According to a report from The Institute of Student Employers, a whopping 78% of employers agree that graduates with work experience are more skilled than those without.
Not only is engineering work experience a brilliant opportunity to make your CV shine, it also gives employers a chance to get to know you. A lot of graduate recruiters like to hire students who they have already met on a placement, internship or insight scheme.
So the sooner you start planning your next steps, the better your chances of securing your first job in the industry. Let’s take a look at your options...
Placements in engineering
For: 2nd or 3rd years
Duration: 5-13 months
When to apply: Sep-Jan
One of the best ways to get engineering work experience in 2022 is through a year in industry. These structured programmes typically allow you to rotate through a number of functions - both technical and non-technical - to figure out where your strengths and interests lie.
Placement students are given real responsibility and trusted to work on live projects - which will give you plenty to talk about in graduate job interviews. Securing an industrial placement is like scoring a hat trick at the World Cup; it pretty much guarantees you a long and prosperous career in your chosen field. (Think of yourself as the Harry Kane of engineering.)
Engineering placements are largely aimed at second year students, who spend their third year of university in full-time employment before returning for a final year of studying.
If your course doesn’t give you the opportunity to do a placement, you should make it your priority to organise your own work experience around your studies whilst you’re still at university.
For: All students
Duration: 1-4 months
When to apply: Sep-Mar
Competition for placements is fierce, so if you don’t manage to secure one (or you’re just short on time), an engineering internship is another great way of getting industry experience that complements your degree.
Most internships in engineering take place in the summer holidays, and typically last between one and four months. So you may even be able to squeeze in more than one!
BAE Systems, for example, run a 12-week summer internship that offers students the chance to gain valuable industry experience with one of the world’s most innovative companies. They also tend to fast-track the most promising interns onto their graduate schemes.
Countless more of the UK’s finest engineering companies offer internships to students from all years, and all degree backgrounds. So whether you’re studying mechanical engineering, history or zoology - they want to hear from you!
Keep reading to find out who this year’s best employers are for engineering internships, or click below to apply right now.
What does an engineering intern do?
An internship will help you get a feel for where you want to work and what life as an engineer is like. Not to mention the fact that you’ll be able to build a network of industry contacts and hone the specific skills you need to succeed.
You’ll work with experienced professionals on real projects and receive invaluable feedback and guidance from senior team members to help you perform to the best of your ability.
This student scored their summer internship with Network Rail 4.6/5 due to the opportunities they were given to make an impact, as well as the level of support available...
"I was given a project that would be rolled out across the region, ensuring the safety of railway workers and commuters that use the railway regularly. I was regularly given support, with multiple meetings during the week to ensure I was doing ok with the tasks. I was also invited to take part in monthly team meetings, while also having 1-2-1 meetings with managers and colleagues to answer any queries I had about the company, work or any engineering topics I wanted to learn about." Summer Intern at Network Rail
"An internship or placement is your chance to learn more and immerse yourself in Dyson. You’ll work on live projects and be able to make a genuine difference. You’ll be supported by a development framework and in-house experts, while we help you to realise your potential. If you impress us, you could secure a full-time graduate role when you leave university." Dyson
How much do engineering interns make?
According to thousands of reviews left by students on RateMyPlacement.co.uk, the average engineering internship salary is £17,751 (pro rata).
However, many companies offer significantly higher salaries in a bid to hire the best students. BP’s summer engineering internship, for instance, comes with a hefty salary of £28,000 pro rata, as well as perks like paid holiday days, subsidised restaurants and on-site sports facilities.
If you continue with a career in engineering, expect to see your salary skyrocket at an almost alarming rate. The Engineer Salary Survey (2021) revealed that the average graduate earns £33,725 a year. This figure then jumps to £56,506 for managers and £84,091 for directors.
Best Student Employers in Engineering
So, now that we’ve waxed lyrical about the importance of getting work experience, you’re probably wondering which companies to apply to...
There are heaps and heaps of organisations offering engineering placements and internships, so it can be tricky to narrow them down.
Start by thinking about what’s most important to you. For instance, do you want to work for a household-name like Rolls-Royce? Or would you rather make a bigger impact in a smaller team?
Next, have a browse of the Best Student Employers. Based on 1000s of honest reviews submitted to RateMyPlacement.co.uk, this comprehensive list reveals the top companies to work for in terms of student satisfaction. (It’s basically the Oscars of work experience.)
Students across the country rated these employers the best in engineering:
Engineering careers: where to take your degree
Whatever your passion there’s an engineering role to suit you. You could find yourself working behind-the-scenes in television as a broadcast engineer, developing racing cars for a Formula 1 team, or even designing Facebook's photo filters.
In fact, there are too many different types of engineering to give them all our full attention, so we’ve drawn up this nice shortlist instead:
- Aerospace engineering
- Biomedical engineering
- Chemical engineering
- Civil engineering
- Design engineering
- Electronic & electrical engineering
- Environmental engineering
- Industrial engineering
- Mechanical engineering
- Mineral engineering
- Nuclear engineering
- Software engineering
- Structural engineering
Whether you want to stay in the industry or direct your skills elsewhere, there are so many options out there. With marvellous skills like complex problem solving, creative thinking and project planning in your arsenal, employers will be practically falling at your feet, begging you to work for them. As such, it’s not unusual for engineering students to apply themselves to a non-technical role within an engineering organisation, or a different industry altogether.
What is civil engineering?
Civil engineers design, innovate and create the infrastructures that we all depend on; from bridges, roads and railways to iconic skyscrapers, sports stadiums and shopping centres. Beyond that, they are tasked with life-saving projects such as protecting communities from the impact of flooding or providing refugee camps with clean drinking water.
Given their pivotal role in shaping the world we live in, civil engineers need to be commercially aware, excellent team players and have a solid grasp of maths, IT and science.
Check out our overview of civil engineering placements to find out what it’s really like to work in the industry.
What is mechanical engineering?
Mechanical engineers come up with ways to improve the mechanical processes and products that make the world tick. Because they design and work with all kinds of mechanical systems, careers in this field span many sectors, including aerospace, healthcare and power generation.
As a fully-fledged mechanical engineer, you could end up doing anything from building energy-efficient heaters to designing and testing prosthetic limbs. The possibilities are endless!
For help with applying to companies like Rolls-Royce, Siemens and Network Rail, take a look at our guide to the best internships for mechanical engineering.
What is chemical engineering?
Chemical engineering is all about transforming raw materials like oil into everyday products we all rely on, such as fuel, electricity, plastics, food and cosmetics. As well as figuring out how to make these products, chemical engineers help to manage the world’s resources, protect the environment and control health and safety procedures.
For this reason, chemical engineers are not confined to any one industry - instead they work for a wide range of employers in different sectors, including pharmaceutical companies, food manufacturers and water treatment services.
For a deep dive on chemical engineering placements, career options and more, have a read of our guide to finding chemical engineering work experience.
Engineering Work Experience Reviews
Here at RateMyPlacement.co.uk, we’re committed to helping young people make well-informed decisions about their careers. That’s why we publish thousands of reviews of placements, internships and insights, all submitted by real students like you.
As for engineering, there are over 6,000 reviews spanning a vast range of sectors, including: aerospace, automotive and electrical engineering. Each offers an exclusive glimpse into what it’s really like to do work experience in engineering for a particular company.