What kind of job could I do?
The engineering sector is made up of a wide range of industries, from automotive manufacturing and chemicals through to utilities and telecoms. Most organisations recruit engineers from a variety of degree disciplines and have roles in a wide range of functions, from specialist technology development to commercial and management roles. The engineering business offers rewarding and interesting work at all levels and there is a wealth of opportunities for you to explore. The core work of the engineer involves ‘designing, developing, manufacturing, commissioning, operating and maintaining equipment, processes and services’, according to Engineers Ireland.
Alongside this type of work, your role could also include financial and commercial considerations, particularly as you progress in your career. For example, you might be expected to use commercial awareness in creating cost-effective systems and processes, or be responsible for managing budgets, resources and other technical staff.
Engineers can find themselves using their skills in a wide range of fields, depending on their engineering discipline and the product or service of their employer. There is a lot of flexibility to move between different disciplines: you could find yourself working on a project as part of a team of engineers, all of whom graduated with a different engineering discipline.
Some of the main job roles within engineering are design, research and development, production, and quality. These basic job roles can be found within several different engineering sectors.
Design is the fundamental key activity that underpins all other aspects of engineering: invention, innovation, improvement and development of existing and new technologies, products and services. Within manufacturing, engineers design new products, from conceptualisation to finished product.
Research & development
Engineers working in research departments develop new products, technologies and services, alongside testers and developers. Current research and development activity in Ireland is focused mainly in the software, microelectronics, and telecommunications sectors.
Civil and structural engineering
Civil and structural engineers work largely in the construction industry. They work for large construction contractors, in consultancies or in the public sector. Key disciplines include civil and structural engineering, while graduates of electrical, mechanical and environmental engineering are also sought.
In recent years both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have been investing in research & development (R&D) in order to promote themselves as competitive knowledge-based economies. Many leading multinational companies now have an R&D base here and there is also support to encourage R&D in indigenous companies. New horizons are opening up for engineers in this area, both in private commercial enterprises and in third-level and state research institutes.
Industrial manufacturing is currently still the biggest employer of engineering graduates. Most engineers in this sector come from mechanical engineering and manufacturing disciplines, but there is a huge overlap and mobility between disciplines in this area.
In a manufacturing environment, engineers are responsible for the safe and efficient planning, management, maintenance and modification of production methods and processes. Engineers can work on a specific aspect of production or be involved in the entire production process. They form a link through the whole multilayered chain of activities. Their job is to optimise the efficiency, safety and quality of the production process and its products.
The work can involve selecting, applying and monitoring quality systems for the production process, as well as examining products that have failed quality assurance tests and identifying solutions to the cause of the problem. Quality engineers also write quality manuals, instruct and supervise staff, and develop and carry out tests.