What is the energy and utilities industry?
Energy companies search out materials, like gas, oil and natural forces like wind, to transform them into energy. We use this energy to power our lives, from the petrol in our cars to the electricity that heats up our water.
And it’s not just about making power. Utility companies also provide water and phone lines to our homes and businesses. So, that’s most of what we need to keep us clean, warm and connected.
It takes a lot of different people to create a utility supply, from the scientists and engineers who develop usable energy or create pipelines to our homes, to the salespeople who make sure it reaches the customer and the electricians and plumbers who keep it flowing.
Although many of the big energy suppliers still focus on non-renewable energies like coal, they are also investing more and more in renewable energies, like solar and wind power, to help meet the clean energy targets set for the country.
What energy and utilities jobs can I do?
- Engineers: There are lots of roles for engineers including drilling engineers, who drill carefully into the earth to look for resources, and mechanical technicians who keep the machines running. Petroleum engineers search for crude oil, which we use to make petrol, and try to extract as much as they can while keeping the environment around them safe. Renewable energy engineers come up with new ideas and help to improve the current ways of capturing energy from the sun, wind, sea and other sources, from building solar panels to converting horrible waste into lovely clean energy. Telephone engineers hook up phone lines and make sure they keep working. Many phone engineers install broadband lines as well and check their speed.
- Skilled workers: There are also lots of jobs for skilled workers including welders, pipelayers and scaffolders.
- Diving: A lot of the hunt for resources goes on underground or underwater so commercial diving jobs are also common.
- Scientists: Geoscientists, geologists and chemists search for the perfect places to extract natural resources and turn them into energy. They can map out an area, check out what minerals are in the soil and advise engineers on the best ways to reach new or old resources.
- Mudloggers: Mudloggers are an unusual-sounding bunch, but they do a very important job helping geoscientists to collect and analyse the soil, rock and liquids thrown up by drilling to find traces of oil or gas.
- Hydrologists: Hydrologists study the flow of water above ground and hydrogeologists study it underground. They both work to plan and protect sources of water, to make sure we can all access it safely from our taps at home and that it doesn’t run out. Hydrogeologists might also work in developing countries or countries in conflict to help build new wells and get water flowing to refugee camps.
- Project managers: Finding and creating energy calls for big teams of people and project managers are needed to make sure all the scientists, engineers, drillers and divers talk to each other and that work goes to plan.
- Electricians: Wire up our homes, factories and businesses to make sure we get electricity to all of the places we need, and safely too.
- Plumbers: Do the same job with water, gas and sewage pipes and are there to fix boilers, blockages and leaks when things go wrong.
- Sales and marketing: These teams come up with new ways to attract customers to choose a utility provider and can plan big national campaigns.
- Administration: There are also lots of jobs available in HR, finance, legal, health and safety and administration.
Is a career in energy and utilities for me?
If you are interested in science, careers in agriculture and the environment and you enjoy analytical subjects, then a job in the energy industry could be for you.
Lots of these jobs take you outdoors and some of them will take you underground, so if you’d rather be out-and-about than in a lab, there are some great opportunities here.
You’ll need to be calm under pressure (and bad weather!) and enjoy working as part of a team. If you are based on an oil rig or a drill site, you might need to spend time away from home as well.
How can I start a career in energy and utilities?
The education route
A-level: You should also take Maths and Science related subjects at A-level including chemistry, engineering, geography and Geology.
For geoscientists, you will need a degree in geology or physical sciences. Hydrologists will also need a degree in environmental sciences or something related like geography.
For engineering technicians and mudloggers, you might need a degree in geology or engineering, but a higher national diploma and relevant work experience can also be a way in.
The in-work training route
Vocational: Intermediate and advanced apprenticeships are available for jobs like mechanical technicians and maintenance workers for oil and gas companies as well as some renewable energy companies. There are also intermediate and advanced apprenticeships available in telephone engineering and water maintenance and management.
Lots of plumbers and electricians start out as apprentices after GCSE and get their qualifications on the job. Your apprenticeship will help you work towards diplomas from City & Guilds, EAL or BPEC or you can study for these courses at college.
To be a diver you don’t need academic qualifications, but you will need to pass medical tests and take professional diving qualifications with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
To get a feel for working with machines, the best thing you can do is practise. Try taking an old gadget apart, like a clock, and putting it back together (make sure no one minds you taking it apart first!). Help with DIY tasks at home too. It's so valuable to do something instead of simply reading about it.
What energy and utilities qualifications are available?
As well as training to become a qualified engineer, plumber, technician, diver etc., there are also lots of opportunities to get specialist training on the job. For example, you could become a chartered engineer or chartered geologist. As an electrician, you could train to specialise in working with renewable energy sources like solar panels.
Did you know these energy and utilities facts?
The Druzhba "Friendship" pipeline is the world's longest oil pipeline. Stretching from Eastern Russia to Germany, it’s an impressive 2,500 miles long and chugs around 2 million barrels of oil a day along its pipes.
For more information on careers advice for the energy industry, take a look at the Work Advice section of our site.