Working in this sector is very challenging and varied as existing energy supplies are needed to last longer and new sources are needed to meet the increasing demand, especially from the emerging economies of China and India. Against this increasing consumption is the need to try and develop clean, renewable, sustainable and secure sources of energy. Energy supplies are a global commodity, with oil producing countries having a great deal of power. Therefore there is no surprise just how much international, geo-political concern and conflict arise regarding oil and the companies that supply it around the globe. Over the years we’ve witnessed numerous rows being raised on the international scene, some merely escalating into confrontations while others have led to boycotts, United Nations censures and in some cases invasions and all out wars!
The situation is constantly changing. The UK is a net importer of fuels to meet domestic demand, importing more coal, gas, electricity and crude oil that it produces. Whereas in the US an increase in home production through shale gas and oil has decreased the percentage they import from 60% in 2005 to 42% today.
Oil and gas still supply 50% of the UKs energy needs. Renewable energy sources, particularly wind power, make a significant contribution. In July 2008, the UK government launched its Carbon Transition Plan. This includes targets to cut greenhouse emissions by 34% by 2020 and have 15% of energy coming from renewable sources. The former Climate and Energy Secretary, Ed Milliband said "We think the environmental industries in Britain can generate about an extra 400,000 jobs by 2015" source:BBC website. Currently, however, the majority of jobs still are in fossil fuels.
Main Energy Industry Sectors
- Fossil Fuels/Oil and Gas - While there may be various alternative energy supplies available for some tasks such as electricity, there is currently no viable substitute for oil, making it the single most-used source of energy, ten times the energy produced from all other sources. There is a massive global industry involved in oil and gas exploration, extraction and production. Global players with opportunities for graduates include oil companies such as BP, Shell and ExxonMobil. Oilfield service companies, such as Schlumberger and Halliburton provide specialist services to oil companies to aid the exploration and extraction of oil but do not directly extract oil and gas themselves. In the UK much of the oil/gas industry is based around Aberdeen.
- Renewables -This energy sector covers a wide range of energy sources and technologies including wind, solar, wave, tidal, biofuel and geothermal. In the UK the renewables market is dominated by wind energy, with hydro-electricity and biofuels also becoming established. Tidal power is becoming more developed in Scotland with new specialist technologies are being tested, particularly in Shetland and Orkney. In 2013 Orkney, for the first time, produced more energy that it used. The Highlands and Islands are home to more than 10% of Europe's wave energy resource and 25% of its tidal energy resource. Solar power has been relatively slow to develop in the UK. Typical employers in the renewables sector include companies that develop technology and manufacture equipment, energy companies, and utilities companies. Organisations vary enormously, both in size and degree of specialism. International energy companies such as BP and Shell carry out research and development into a wide range of renewable technologies. Other international companies specialise in a single energy source, e.g. Vestas, who work with wind turbine technology. Utilities companies, which may have a national or international presence, are increasingly adding renewable sources of energy to their mix of electricity generation methods. Examples in the UK include Npower, Centrica and Scottish Power. At the opposite end of the scale are a myriad of small specialist companies that focus on developing and marketing a specific renewable technology.
- Integrated energy companies - This describes an organisation that uses a range of fuel sources (oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewables) to generate electricity to distribute to homes and industry and include some of the big players in the energy sector. These companies have evolved from the energy utilities companies of the past. Such organisations were typically regional operations and this heritage is sometimes still reflected in the name of the company, e.g. Scottish and Southern Energy. However, most now operate nationally and even internationally, eg Centrica, E.ON, EDF Energy and Npower.
- Nuclear Industry- The nuclear industry in the UK is set to provide a new generation of nuclear plants to contribute to the UK's vision of a low carbon future. This new generation of plants will start with Hinkley Point C. However, the meltdown of Japan's nuclear power plants after the earthquake in 2011 have added to the number of opponents. Many want to follow Germany's example of cancelling their nuclear programme. The industry consists of five main sectors: (1) Power generation; (2) Decommissioning; (3) Processing and reprocessing nuclear fuel; (4) New build; and (5) Defence. The 10 nuclear power stations currently generating electricity in the UK are run by companies such as British Energy Generation (part of the EDF Group) and Magnox. Other companies, such as Sellafield Ltd, are involved in decommissioning plants and waste management. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has overall responsibility for the UK’s civil public sector nuclear assets and for contracting out the decommissioning and clean-up of the UK’s civil public sector nuclear sites. The industry is supported by a number of nuclear technology services providers such as the National Nuclear Laboratory and Westinghouse. Such companies provide specialist expertise to the nuclear industry across a huge range of services from the development of technology to the design and manufacture of reactor systems to advice on waste management and decommissioning. In addition to the recruitment schemes run by individual companies there is now an industry-wide, national scheme for graduates. For more information on this, and the nuclear industry in general, visit the Nucleargraduates website and the UK Nuclear Industry Association.
Nature of sector or roles
As you might expect, the range of jobs is immense, working for huge multinational companies like Shell to small SMEs specialising in renewable technologies. The larger oil and gas and utility companies offer graduate training programs in all areas from off-shore engineering to marketing. Positions for scientists, geologists and engineers are the most common but opportunities are also available in commercial roles, and in areas such as policy, security, regulation and law.
- Geoscience & Geophysics - roles may be in exploration, field development or production. e.g. Geoscientist, Geophysicist/field seismologist, Geophysical data processor, Seismic interpreter, Wellsite Geologist, Mudlogger, Geochemist - Oil/gas companies; Oilfield Services companies; Geotechnical consultancies; Mining companies - BP; Statoil; Shell; Centrica; Schlumberger; CGGVeritas; Neftex
- Environmental Science - small numbers of scientists join environmental teams who have responsibility for analysing, advising on, and managing the impact of operations on the environment - Engineering consultancies; Environmental consultancies; Government agencies; Nuclear industry - Atkins; GL Garad Hassan; Environment Agency; EDF
- Policy - Government; Think tanks; Government agencies; NGOs - Civil Service; Chatham House; Green Alliance; Environment Agency.
- Corporate finance - Oil/gas companies; Utilities; Other large companies - Shell; Npower; Halliburton.
- Trading, asset management & other finance - Oil/gas companies; Commodities traders; Hedge funds; Specialist asset managers - Gazprom Marketing & Trading; BP; Glencore; IKEN Capital.
- Consulting - This is a growing area, with large organisations such as PwC employing Energy Strategy Consultants, to specialist energy sector consultancies - Redpoint; CRU International; Green Energy Consulting; ESP Consulting.
- Regulation - Government departments & agencies; consulting firms; some opportunities within energy companies - Department for Energy & Climate Change; Coal Authority; Office for Nuclear Regulation; OfGEM.
- Other commercial functions - HR, Marketing and sales, Supply chain management (most large companies have commercial graduate training programmes) - BP; Shell; Centrica; Npower
- Law -Law firms with specialist departments may build a strong reputation for energy law - CMS Cameron McKenna; Burges Salmon
- Chemistry - Chemists in the energy sector may be involved in developing new technologies, for example working towards cleaner, more efficient fuel technologies. They also liaise closely with engineers on developing and refining processes - Oil/gas companies; Nuclear industry - BP; Shell; EDF
- Science R&D eg Physics, Materials - Research and development of new technologies. Petrophysicists in the oil/gas industry - Utilities; Nuclear industry; Renewables companies; Oil/Gas companies; Universities - Eon; Nuclear Graduates Scheme; Westinghouse; RWE Npower
The variety of technical and corporate roles for graduates in the energy sector makes it difficult to generalise about the skills required. However, most employers in the sector emphasise the need for the following:
- Analytical skills and ability to solve problems.
- Interpersonal skills and the ability to work in a diverse team, with those from different disciplines and cultures.
- Determination and drive.
- Proven academic ability – most graduate schemes require a 2:1 or above (some accept a 2:2).
- Ability to think commercially.
Networks - why and how to use them
Networking is particularly important and can help you succeed with your applications. If you have been in contact with someone working for the organisation then you have extra information for your application. Use social media sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (many organisations have their own page) to connect with organisations. Recent St Andrews graduates have gone on to work for RWE npower, SSE, BP, Baker Hughes, P Exploration & Operating Company Ltd, Docherty Consulting Ltd, Maersk Qatar. Alumni can make extremely useful contacts, giving you an "edge" with your applications and interviews. There are several ways to make contact with alumni.
- Saint Connect- is the new networking platform which allows you to connect with alumni and join discussion groups. Find out how to use Saint Connect by viewing the 'Video Tour' (bottom right-hand side of Saint Connect screen).
- Organisations at which alumni are currently working in the energy sector capacity who are happy to offer advice: Sindicatum Sustainable Resources, Exxon Mobil, Petrofa, Amec, united Nations Security Council, Centrica Energy, Carbon Capture and Storage Association
- Groups - "Oil Industry" and "Renewable Energy" by joining these groups you will receive updates on events, competitions, jobs and other sector related news.
- LinkedIn – Alumni Tool, this feature shows the career paths of over 30,000+ alumni. Watch the YouTube video on how to use this resource. By using the search field you can find alumni working in a particular organisation eg Shell, BP, Chevron, Schlumberger, EDF Energy, Statoil, SSE plc, Subsea 7, Maersk Oil, ExxonMobil, LR Senergy
- Graduate recruiters - ask if they can put you in touch with any alumni now working for their company.
- Friends and family - ask around your immediate social network for any contacts in the organisations which interest you.
- This networking video produced by Cass Business School gives excellent tips on effective networking.
- Alumni Advice for Oil & Gas Industry
- A Masters is essential, ideally gain sponsorship as well to enhance employment prospects - University of Aberdeen- MSC Integrated Petroleum Geoscience, University of Leeds, Herriot Watt - Petroleum Engineering,
- Try and stay in a technical role for at least 10 years as you will be more in demand and "management" roles are always the first to go on a downturn
How to gain experience/internships
Many large companies offer summer internships for students in the penultimate year of their university course. Students on postgraduate courses are also often eligible to apply for these. Internships typically last eight to thirteen weeks Applications open early in the autumn and closing dates are usually between December and March.
- Oil and Gas - Examples of companies that offer summer internships include:
- Integrated Energy Companies - Centrica, RWE Npower and EDF Energy.
- Renewable Energy
- Renewable Energy Systems (RES) - offer internship projects to students and graduates.
- RegenSW - offer a small number of voluntary internships every year to people who want to develop an understanding of this sector.
- Bright Green Placements - offer a variety of paid placements in small Scottish companies, past roles have included a focus on renewable energy. Several past geography students have used these placements as a springboard to a graduate role.
Don’t underestimate the value of making speculative applications. Remember that some internships may not be advertised. Applying speculatively is also a useful way to approach small employers who don’t have a formal work experience training scheme.
How to get a (graduate) job
Unfortunately, very few of the large energy employers, especially in Oil and Gas, have a presence on St Andrews campus. They tend to visit more technical universities such as Robert Gordon and Heriot Watt. It is worth looking out for career fairs and sector related conferences outside St Andrews, such as:
- PETEX Conference - The 2014 Petroleum Experts (PETEX) Conference was held in London
- Offshore Europe- this conference, held in Aberdeen, although not an official recruitment event, allows you to network with professional in the sector.
- All Energy - this is the UK's largest renewable energy event - entry is free - representatives from all areas - business, legal, engineering, environmental
The Energy Institute provides useful advice on getting your first job in the energy sector, including:
The energy industry does not restrict its recruitment activity to the milkround, and many organisations recruit throughout the year, often for specific roles, and are flexible about starting dates.
In sectors dominated by SMEs (such as renewables and other specialist technology firms) a direct approach, or using specialist recruitment agencies may be productive.
Many of the following companies offer graduate opportunities.
- Oil & Gas
- BP - recruit into a wide variety of roles
- Baker Hughes - large oilfield services company, employ physicists.
- Exxon Mobil
- Shell recruit into many business areas including scientists for research, and the processing and distribution of oil.
- Oil Careers (recruitment agency)
- Oil and Gas Jobsonline (recruitment agency)
- Integrated energy companies/Utilities
- Renewable Energy Association
- Renewable UK - the trade and professional body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries. Searchable directory of renewable energy employers in the UK
- Sustainable Jobs - search engine for jobs and internships in Renewable Energy, Science & Technology, Environmental Internships, Green Management.
- Areva- supplies solutions for power generation with less carbon, both nuclear and renewables
- DONG Energy - wind power and natural gas
- Regen SW
- RES (Renewable Energy Systems)
- RWE Innogy - plans, builds and operates facilities generating power from renewable energies.
- Vattenfall - one of the biggest wind farm operators in Europe and owners of the Thanet and Kentish Flats offshore windfarms
- RenewablesCareers.com's - specialist green energy recruitment website
- Nucleargraduates - a comprehensive graduate programme which involves business, science, energy generation, the government, defence, the environment and more. Portal for students to apply to over 20 companies in the nuclear sector at the same time, run by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. There is a huge jump in the numbers of graduates needed by the industry. Programme is structured into four different secondments in the UK and globally. Put together by some of the biggest companies in the world including the NDA, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Ministry of Defence, AMEC, Atkins, Jacobs, Sellafield, Magnox North and the Environment Agency.
- UK Atomic Energy Authority
- nuclear British Energy power stations - electricity generation and supply
- Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (formerly BNFL)
- EDF largest UK nuclear generator. Employs graduates in power stations and in central support.
- AMEC run a graduate training scheme
- University of Kent Careers list of nuclear power recruiters
- The Green Jobs Network of websites provides link to jobs in Conservation, Environment, GreenJobs, Renewable Energy, Solar, Waste, Water and Wind.
- Change Agents provides specialist recruitment and support to graduates to resource a wide range of sustainability projects in the public and private sectors, on a not-for-profit basis.
- Energy jobline - search for global energy jobs
Applications, interviews and assessment centres
The recruitment process for jobs in the energy sector may vary according to which company and role you are applying. It’s vital that you research the company prior to an interview and to understand the skills and competencies they are looking for. Also check the employer’s website as many provide details on their recruitment and selection processes.
Relevant Postgraduate Study
Many graduate employers are keen to employ students who have postgraduate qualifications, whether at Masters or PhD level, and see them as often offering enhanced maturity and a broad set of transferable skills. Where employers have ‘graduate schemes’, do be aware that while they will often recruit postgraduates as well as undergraduates via these, often at the same salary. Further study is particularly useful for a graduate whose first degree is unrelated to the energy sector although experience can be equally or in some cases more important.
Extracted from the University of St Andrews LinkedIn resource, here are a few examples of St Andrews graduates who have undertaken relevant postgraduate courses and their current employment details:
|Oil & Gas / Energy
- Imperial College London - Master's degree, Petroleum Geoscience
(Petroleum Geoscience Graduate, Statoil)
- University of Aberdeen - MSc, Integrated Petroleum Geoscience
(Exploration Manager - Kurdistan at Hess Corporation)
- Cass Business School - Master of Science (MSc), Energy, Trade and Finance
(Senior Associate, Energy and Natural Resources at KPMG)
- Heriot Watt University - MEng
(Lead Production Technologist at Talisman Energy)
- University of Aberdeen - Master's Degree, Integrated Petroleum Geoscience
(Logging Geologist Baker Hughes)
- Durham University - PhD, Marine Geology & Geophysics
(Senior Geophysicist at Petrom)
- Cass Business School - Master of Science (MSc), Energy, Trade and Finance
(Senior Associate, Energy and Natural Resources at KPMG)
- University of Wales, Aberystwyth - Master of Science (MSc), Environmental Monitoring and Analysis
(Graduate Environmental Engineer at Galliford Try)
- The University of Dundee - Master of Science (MSc)
(Nuclear Engineer at EDF Energy)
- Imperial College London (postgraduate) - MSc Environmental Technology, Environmental Technology
(Manager, Energy and Assets, EY)
- Cranfield University - Master's Degree, Global Water Policy and Management
(Water Resources Specialist - Supply Demand Strategy Planning at Anglian Water Services)
- University of St. Andrews - M.Res, Management and Sustainable Development
(Business Change Support at Spark Energy)
- University of Strathclyde - Environment Studies, Environment Management
(Environment and Energy Manager, University of St Andrews)
- University of East London - MScArch, Advanced Environmental and Energy Science
(Managing Partner at Ecofitter LLP. Advice Architecture Renewables)
- Napier University - MSc, Environmental Sustainability
(Business Development Manager (onshore) at Senvion)
- Imperial College London - MSc, Environmental Technology
(Senior Associate at PwC, Sustainability and Climate Change)
- The University of Glasgow - MSc (Distinction), Carbon Management
(Senior Manager at Ofgem)
- University of Strathclyde and University of Glasgow (combined course) Scholarship - MSc in Environmental Management
(Energy, Environmental & Sustainability Consultant at Hurley Palmer Flatt)
- The University of Edinburgh - Master of Science Public Policy & Global Health, Political Science and Government
(Onshore Wind Development Analyst at RWE Innogy UK Ltd)
Further information on postgraduate courses can be found on the Prospects and FindaMasters websites. It's also useful to refer to relevant professional bodies and sector skills councils, which will typically provide details of accredited courses: these are courses that meet the skills and training requirements of the associated industry and can support the attainment of chartered/professional status. Examples of relevant professional bodies include:
|For further information on researching and planning for a postgraduate qualification, please visit postgraduate study.
Key UK links and resources
Careers Centre resources
Use CareerConnect, your central careers hub, to:
- Book an appointment with a careers adviser
- Search for vacancies (Job Shop, internships/work experience, graduate jobs)
- Register for events
- The Careers Centre subscribes to GoinGlobal, a specialist website with information and job vacancies worldwide.
Related Careers A-Z pages
General energy careers information
The USA job market and recruitment timetables, for both internships and graduate jobs, for sectors of employment often differ from the UK.
The Careers Centre subscribes to the reputable independent USA careers information and vacancy provider Vault. The links below will take you directly to Vault subscription resources which cover this sector. You may find further useful and relevant resources linked from there as well.