The Ultimate Guide to Starting an Engineering Career on Civvy Street

Posted on Sunday, April 16, 2023 by Faye CoppNo comments

Organisations across the country are experiencing a huge shortage of skilled engineers to fill their roles. Therefore, choosing a commercial career in engineering is a great option for anyone looking for a job with attractive salaries and benefits. So whether you have gained engineering qualifications and experience in the military or you are looking to kickstart a career in engineering, there’s lots of routes you can go down.

In this guide we illustrate the various engineering career paths with tips on how to find the best training and employment opportunities within this booming industry. 


Engineering is part of almost everything we do! Engineering is a discipline dedicated to problem solving, combining  the use of scientific principles, maths and science, to create, design and build machines, structures, bridges, vehicles and buildings.


Traditionally, engineering is divided into four main categories; chemical, civil, electrical and mechanical engineering. Most recently a number of IT/Software and Computer/Cyber systems roles are classified as engineering roles. 



Chemical engineering involves the application of different science principles with maths to solve problems related to chemicals, fuels and other materials. Some engineers design and operate machinery that handle the manufacturing processes. In chemical engineering there is a lot of pressure on research and development; alongside a high standard of focus on health and safety.



Civil engineers are responsible for designing, building and manufacturing the infrastructure in the world around us. One of their main roles is to study maps and survey reports and other data in order to obtain the safest structure possible in the most efficient manner. Another key responsibility is surveying land which involves assessing and recording details about an area of land to help plan construction projects. To work in civil engineering, you will need a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering or a related field. 



Mechanical engineers are typically involved in:

  • The generation, distribution and use of energy

  • The processing of materials

  • The control and automation of manufacturing systems 

  • The design and development of machines 

  • The solution to some environmental problems. 

Veterans in this field don’t necessarily need a degree in mechanical engineering but it definitely would help; alongside a somewhat basic understanding of maths and physics. However, your willingness and ability to learn efficiently and quickly about the relevant topics is useful. 



Electrical engineering has recently experienced huge developments due to the widespread use of electronic hardware in robotics, automation and other fields. Becoming an electrical engineer requires a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering or a closely related field. Working in electrical engineering is attractive to some veterans as it involves individuals who are highly organised and who work well with processes. A career in electrical engineering has a wealth of opportunity to grow and develop within the role into  managerial and supervisory roles - both of which leadership skills would be valuable. 


IT/Software engineering involves both computer systems and the development of software products. It operates within a set of principles, best practices and methods that have been carefully tested and developed to meet the needs and requirements of ever changing software and technology.  



Computer and Cyber engineering sit between IT and traditional engineering and incorporate different fields of electrical engineering and computer science. The skills required in this discipline are in very short supply - a problem that will continue to grow as greater reliance is placed on robotics and automation. Roles for military jobseekers to look for are: digital forensics, security policy and network defense; cybersecurity and IT or cyber project management.


The industry has a lot of career progression potential with salaries spanning from a starting salary of £28k all the way to experienced/chartered engineers earning up to £57k/£77k (with each subdivision’s salaries average at around £44k-£48k). Mechanical engineering remains one of the broadest and popular disciplines within engineering.


Ex-military engineers have an extensive portfolio of technical expertise such as: civil engineering, aircraft engineering (avionics and mechanical), marine engineering, automotive and systems engineering. Although your specialist qualifications and experience are important, it is your  ‘soft’ skills which give you a competitive advantage on Civvy street. But the key is to translate your military skills into civvy language. 

We spoke with Eddie Mewies, the managing director at M-EC Consulting Development Engineers about how to overcome the commercial inexperience barrier. He believes your military skills significantly complement the style of work their employees do daily and they actively seek veterans to fill in their employment gaps where necessary. 

“At M-EC we are invested in supporting those who serve our country. We welcome job applications from those who are leaving the military or are reservists, as we feel you have many transferable skills that complement the work that we do,”. Eddie Meies 

Engineering usually requires qualifications to demonstrate an applicant's experience and skills, however employers also look to the ex-military talent pool for the valuable  soft skills they bring, including:

  • Working calmly under pressure

  • Delivering efficiency

  • Time management

  • Planning and Implementation

  • Problem solving

  • Teamwork

  • Collaborative working

  • Adaptability and resourcefulness

  • Leadership; motivating others

  • Being flexible and resourceful

Employers find that military people are proactive, team players, mission-focussed with the drive to get things done to the highest quality standards. 


If you’re looking to start-out your career in engineering there’s many different routes you can take, ranging from training courses to work placements and veteran-specific programmes. 

It is important to spend some time thinking carefully about which option is best for you long-term. There are many routes to get into engineering available, ranging from engineering qualifications to work placements and internships offered to veterans. 


Some of the most important and easily accessible engineering qualifications include the Basic Mechanical Engineering (Fitting) by CTP. There are also apprenticeships designed to help you upskill in Engineering and therefore move into employment more successfully, some of which are provided by companies such as Cadent and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). 


Recently, The new TIS Academy has partnered with Skills for Security to create new job opportunities in an attempt to fill in the employment gap seen in engineering. The Chief Executive of TIS, James Twigg said: “For too long there’s been an engineering skills shortage in our industry, but with the launch of the TIS Academy we’re renewing our commitment to deliver highly-skilled individuals across our growing and demanding business.” The programme will ensure that all participants have the relevant knowledge and skills required to enter into this industry but is giving them an alternative route to take. 



Military engineers are qualified up to Postgraduate level, with knowledge, skills and experience in:

  • Computer Aided Design (CAD).

  • Site Safety Supervision.

  • Engineering Maintenance.

  • Human Resource Management.

  • Project Management.

  • Engineering Instruction and Training.

  • Warehousing and Storage.

  • Mechanical Engineering.

  • Electrical/Electronic Engineering.

  • Air engineering (avionics and mechanical).

  • Systems engineering.

  • Marine engineering .

  • Health and Safety.

  • IT.



The number of apprenticeships offered by engineering employers in the UK is growing as they understand it may be their best way of ensuring a consistent pool of hard-to-find talent into their organisations. It is a great route to choose if you have none or little commercial experience and will help you get a foot in the door, with the possibility of an offer of  a salaried job at the end of your apprenticeship. 

We’ve highlighted a couple of programmes well suited to veterans:

  1. CADENT 

    The Apprenticeship Programme run by Cadent offers 3 different Apprenticeship Programmes:

    1. Operate and Maintain 

    2. Electrical and Instrument 

    3. Repair Team Leader

    These are great opportunities which are accessible to the armed forces community.



    There are many different apprenticeships on offer by GSK,  some of which are Engineering Apprenticeships. Their multi-skilled engineering apprenticeship programmes are designed to create the technicians and engineers of the future. As an engineering apprentice, they will give you the opportunity to develop mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, control & automation skills. 



    The Apprenticeship Programmes run by Rolls Royce is a way to combine on-the-job training with digital learning and practical skills development. In this apprenticeship, you study towards a degree or other nationally-recognised qualifications – all fully sponsored. This will then give you an Engineering qualification that you can use to work for Rolls Royce or a similar company. 



    The Property Maintenance and Engineering Training Course is run by Building Heroes within the Engineering - Welding and Fabrication industry and is eligible for all veterans. It is a 5-week free course which will provide you with numerous qualifications, the main ones being in Construction, Engineering Operations and Health and Safety. This training opportunity is completely free to all veterans!



    The Military 2 Rail Programme is offered by Siemens, this is an intensive 6-week development programme aimed at bringing military personnel into the rail industry and developing their career outside of the military. 



    The UK Retail Technician Programme is provided by Jaguar Land Rover. As well as welcoming direct employment applications from members of the Armed Forces, they have also created innovative placements and training, designed to provide insight and support for careers beyond the military. The Jaguar Land Rover Retailer Academy works closely with the UK Retail Network to identify and train the next generation of Retailer Apprentices. The Network spans the length and breadth of the UK from Inverness to Truro and Swansea to Norwich. Apprenticeship opportunities are advertised all year round.

    The career opportunities that exist on the Jaguar Land Rover Retail Apprentice Programme are: 

    • Vehicle Service Technician 

    • Vehicle Sales Advisor 

    • Customer Service Advisor 

    • Vehicle Parts Advisor 



    Companies like BT offer Transition Workforce Workshops which is a BT Group-wide external mentoring programme that supports Armed Forces leavers, veterans and their families in their transition to civilian employment. The programme was first set up in 2010 by BT’s Chairman. Transition Force seeks to achieve a positive employment outcome for everyone attending the workshops by providing support through; interview techniques, CV writing, and by also highlighting the current career opportunities within BT and Openreach, providing an insight on each part of the business and providing an insight on the current job market.



    The Electrical Engineering Opportunity offered by Network Rail  has two separate functions, the operations and the maintenance elements. The operational function delivers the services that ensure safe performance of the railway, including managing the systems and processes that keep the rail network working: from signalling operators in their regional Rail Operating Centres, to mobile operations managers and incident response teams that help reopen any part of the network that’s blocked, level crossing managers and station customer service teams. Additionally, the maintenance element involves the day-to-day upkeep of the network. The maintenance employees support their operations and project teams by making sure every part of their infrastructure is maintained and in good working order.




1000s of organisations in the UK have pledged to support to support Service personnel, veterans and their families via The Armed Forces Covenant. We’ve categorised this list by those awarded gold or silver for their dedication to the Armed Forces community.


  • Aesseal

  • Alstom

  • Atlantis Marine

  • Babcock International

  • Capita PLC

  • Drumgrange LTD

  • Forsberg Services

  • Lothian Buses

  • Masterfix

  • M Group Services

  • United Utilities

Read more about these top forces-friendly employers and why they actively recruit from the military talent pool here.

Many companies in the Engineering industry are huge supporters of the' skills veterans have acquired during their time within the Armed Forces. As mentioned, some provide apprenticeships or training programmes to help you upskill and translate your military experience into a job on civvy street. At SaluteMyJob we can help match up your military skills with the right role that suits your experience. Get in touch here. And to discover engineering roles today, click here.

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