Is the Energy Industry a Good Career Path?

April 11, 2024

The energy sector may be changing, but there will always be roles to fill in this essential field. For those looking for a future-proof career path, there are few that could be as certain as a career in energy. Whether you choose a career in fossil fuels or green energy, there will always be roles to fill in this candidate-driven sector.

A lot of people fear going into a fossil fuel role this late in the game as there is a clear change in focus towards renewable and green energy. That said, there will always be demand for more traditional fuel sources. While there might be a clear need to switch to renewables, fossil fuels will still play a role in the future of energy production.

Renewables cannot yet meet all of our energy demands. And even when renewables can come close, there will still be work in decommissioning and repurposing sites. And as green energy expands, there will always be new roles to fill in building and maintaining new green energy sites. With this in mind, let’s explore the future of the energy sector and if this offers a promising career path for those at the start of their careers.

What training is required to work in the energy sector?

Most entry level roles in the energy sector will require a minimum of a Bachelor's degree, but some will ask for a Master’s degree. Other paths to entry into the energy sector include traineeships and apprenticeships. This will enable you to gain on the job experience while also working towards a qualification.

Some people with an engineering background may be able to re-skill in the energy sector after undergoing a short training course. This could be self-funded or it could be training provided by an employer. If you are working in an energy role in a sector that is due to be decommissioned, it could be a smart idea to think about retraining in a similar field where you can put your existing experience to good use.

There are also entry level roles with no technical background that might not require any specialist education beyond proficiency in English and Maths. However, it’s worth noting that these career paths will commonly have a clear ceiling until you undergo additional training. Working within the energy sector in an administrative role will offer opportunities to upskill and become highly specialised.

The easiest route into the energy sector would be through a degree programme. Choose a university with excellent links with energy companies and you could benefit from a streamlined recruitment path when you graduate. You could also create your own opportunities by completing internships during the summer to help increase your job prospects at the end of your course.

Are there plenty of entry level jobs in energy?

For those thinking about studying a degree that would lead into a career in the energy sector, you will be pleased to know there are many entry level roles available in the energy sector. The energy sector is a candidate-driven sector at the moment, and it looks set to stay this way for some time. This simply means that there are more employers looking for candidates than there are candidates to fill them.

When this happens, graduates get snapped up quickly and also enjoy fast career progression as employers are keen to train them up to fill specific roles. When candidates are in charge, this can also mean higher starting salaries and bidding wars for the best candidates.

In short, if you graduate in an in-demand field with a first class degree or even an upper second class degree, you could find yourself in employment very quickly. Throughout your studies, you are also more likely to be offered internship and work experience opportunities, as employers will be keen to get you in the door.

Is there career progression in the energy sector?

Another key consideration before embarking on a career path is the possibility for career progression. No one wants to think about the prospect of getting caught in a dead end role that doesn’t lead anywhere. Thankfully, this is not the case for the energy sector.

The energy sector is moving fast, and employers have to move even faster to keep up. It’s vital for employers to anticipate where they will be in the next few years, rather than taking a wait and see approach. So even after completing your degree and undergoing initial training in your role, you can expect to be offered more opportunities to learn new skills as your career progresses. 

In general, a fast-moving sector like the energy sector would not be suitable for someone who is looking for a simple job for life. You need to be actively engaged with the developments happening in the industry so you can play a role in shaping the future of the sector, not just playing a passive role.

Is there training available for energy professionals?

For those looking for a career path with ongoing training opportunities, you’ll be pleased to learn there are plenty within the energy sector. As the industry is always moving forward, the demands and requirements are always changing. While there might be demand for gas power plant operatives one year, and then this could switch to demand for decommissioning experts the following year. 

Likewise, there might be demand for wind power installation experts one year, and then maintenance experts the following year. The sector will always be moving forward, and employers need to be seen to be keeping pace – sometimes even setting the pace – not just playing catch up.

If you’re keen to continue adding to your skill set and evolving in your career path, the energy sector will serve you well. Employers will always need highly engaged workers that are willing to do what it takes to keep up with the times and keep pushing the industry forward. 

You could undergo additional training in a formal capacity, such as returning to university to complete a Master’s degree or even a PhD. You could also undergo work-based training, such as traineeships, work shadowing and seeking out a mentor.

Are salaries in the energy sector competitive?

As demand for renewable energy grows, so too do the salaries within this sector. There simply aren’t enough qualified workers to keep up with demand, so it is very much a candidate-driven market. This means you’ll have your pick of employers and you might even be able to use your position to negotiate a higher salary.

Salaries remain competitive from the start of your career right up to the senior management level. For those looking for more freedom, you’ll also have the choice to take on a consultant role and increase your earning potential even more.

Salaries are often high in the energy sector due to unsocial working hours, which could include night shifts, weekend shifts or time spent away from home for extended periods of time. For those working on offshore wind farms, the earning potential will be even higher, as you will also be working in potentially hazardous conditions.

Which sectors are currently booming?

Renewable energy is enjoying its moment in the limelight as the UK switches focus to green energy sources. Wind, solar, hydro and tidal power are all big news in the UK but it’s not just energy generation that will translate into job opportunities. Energy storage and upgrading the National Grid to be able to accommodate renewables will also be a key part of the puzzle. 

On the ground, there will need to be engineers trained to install heat pumps and other green solutions into UK homes and businesses. We’ll also need a huge infrastructure update to accommodate more electric vehicles on the roads. So it’s not just work for engineers working in remote locations. There will also be opportunities for individuals keen to start their own businesses to help deliver green technology to homes and businesses throughout the UK.

Can anyone join the green energy sector?

If you’re thinking about a career change, it’s never too late to go back to education and retrain in a new sector. Demand for green energy is soaring, so if you have the skills and aptitudes required to succeed in this field, it could be worth the time spent going back into education. In general, the following skills are required to succeed in an engineering role in the energy sector:

  • Problem solving
  • Strong computer skills
  • Teamwork and working well under pressure
  • Analytical ability and numeracy skills
  • Excellent communication
  • Keen attention to detail

If you recognise these skills in yourself and you suspect that you could perform well in the energy sector, it’s worth looking into conversion courses that would enable you to fast-track your education to use your existing work experience as the foundation for your energy sector training. You could also explore entry level roles, traineeships and apprenticeships to enter the sector.

What does the future hold for the energy sector?

We will always have an energy sector, so we will always need energy workers. There is a common misconception that switching to green energy will lead to job losses, since we will be using renewable sources of energy. This is short-sighted thinking that fails to take into consideration the wide range of roles around the energy sector that will need to be filled. There will be upgrades, maintenance, and decommissioning of old sites to consider.

The National Grid will need continual upgrades and maintenance, to start. There will also be a move towards energy storage, either on a large scale, or on a smaller scale in individual homes. For example, homes could be fitted with solar panels and heat pumps and generate the majority of their own energy. The grid will then need to be upgraded so that homes with these capabilities are able to share surplus energy with their neighbours.

In general, the energy sector is due for some seismic shifts that will change the face of energy provisions in the UK. Not to mention, these changes are also going on all around the world. When you choose a career in the energy sector, you are opening up a world of opportunity, as your skills and qualifications will be in demand across the world. For those keen to travel, this presents a unique opportunity. 

Should I choose a career in the energy sector?

If you’re on the verge of picking your university subjects and want to know if the energy sector is a worthwhile career path, you’ll be pleased to know this is one of the few truly future-proof career paths available. However, it’s worth noting that you’ll need to be adaptable and willing to commit to lifelong learning and development if you really want to future-proof your career.

For those thinking about changing career paths, you’ll be pleased to know that the energy sector is highly candidate-driven, which means you’ll be in high demand. When a sector is candidate-driven, you can use the demand for your skills and experience to negotiate the salary you want and the benefits that mean the most to you. 

Job interviews are more likely to feel like a conversation than a grilling. Once you have demonstrated that you have the skills and experience they are looking for, you can expect employers to be willing to turn the tables and give you an opportunity to ask your own questions. You can also expect international employers to be willing to join the 

Final thoughts

The energy sector is currently booming, with renewable energy driving the sector forward and fueling demand for skilled and knowledgeable workers. 

If you’re considering a career change, or if you’re at the start of your career wondering if this is the right path for you, the energy sector could provide you with the opportunities for development that you are looking for. 

As a candidate-driven industry, you can expect strong salaries and employers that prioritise the importance of employee retention, which means they will put employee happiness and satisfaction first.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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