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Sector Overview

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

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.

Skills required:

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:

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.

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.

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:

Energy Institute

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.

Jobs online

Many of the following companies offer graduate opportunities.

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.

Useful websites:

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


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Related Careers A-Z pages


General energy careers information


USA resources

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.