How much will I earn in engineering?
Start a career in engineering as an apprentice or graduate and you should have enough to live on – and a good salary a few years down the line.
Starting salaries for engineering higher apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships
A typical starting salary for an engineering higher apprenticeship is between £12,000 and £15,000. A handful of opportunities offer around £16,000 to £18,000. The starting salary for an engineering degree apprenticeship is usually a bit higher at between £15,000 and £20,000. Obviously you’ll feel better off if you can find work close to home and live with your parents. If you need to leave home, rent will take up a significant proportion of your take-home pay to start with and you’ll probably have to line up an inexpensive houseshare.
However, many employers give apprentices an annual pay rise if they perform to the expected levels at work and in their studies.
Starting salaries for graduate engineers
Starting salaries for graduate engineers are much more varied than for higher and degree apprenticeships. Typically graduates earn around £18,000 to £35,000 in their first engineering job.
Just like apprentices, university students typically spend their late teens and early twenties either living with their parents or renting rooms in shared accommodation and counting the pennies.
Comparing salaries for engineering graduates and apprentices
It’s a bit pointless to compare salaries for engineering graduates and apprentices directly. If you start a higher or degree apprenticeship at age 18, you’ll have three or four years of experience and pay rises under your belt by the time graduates of the same age as you start to join the company. Graduates will also have student loan repayments that are deducted directly from their salaries (if they earn over £25,725).
So at this stage would you be earning more or less than a graduate of the same age? It’s likely to depend on the individual employer and on the level of qualification it puts its apprentices through.
Looking again at Jaguar Land Rover, the starting salary for degree apprentices is £20,000 and the starting salary for graduates is £29,000. The graduate scheme is open to those with a bachelors degree (which typically lasts three years in England and Wales and four years in Scotland) or a masters degree (which typically lasts four years in England and Wales and five years in Scotland). However, the company’s six-year degree apprenticeship involves completing a bachelors degree part time while working. Rob Gill, recruitment delivery team manager at Jaguar Land Rover, comments: ‘Degree apprentices should be on around £33,000 at the end of six years. This should be similar to what a graduate who is two years into the graduate scheme is on, so there is parity between the two.’
If your earning potential is a deciding factor for you in whether or not to go to university you may need to speak to employers individually about how the salaries of former apprentices compare with those of graduates. Talking to them in person at careers fairs and open days is a good way to do this.
Will my earnings later in my career be affected by whether I join as a higher apprentice or as a graduate?
It’s difficult to be definitive about how much you will earn later in your career, as there are many different factors that affect this. Your earnings are likely to be influenced by how hard you have pushed yourself in your career and how much you have done to chase pay rises – for example moving from company to company, taking on demanding responsibilities or studying for extra qualifications in your own time.
However, many engineers choose to become professionally registered (see our article on how to get into a career in engineering for more detail). There are different levels of professional registration, and on average the higher the level, the higher the salary.
The simplest route to the highest level, chartered engineer, is with a masters degree, which you won’t get on a higher apprenticeship or degree apprenticeship. The simplest route to the next level, incorporated engineer, is with at least a bachelors degree, which you may or may not get on a higher apprenticeship or degree apprenticeship. You can become registered at engineering technician level without a degree. However, you may decide to study for further qualifications at a later date, or become professionally registered at a lower level and then demonstrate how you’ve gained the skills and knowledge to move up a level on the job.
According to The Engineering Council’s Survey of Registered Engineers 2013 (the most recent survey of its kind) the average (median) total earnings for engineers registered at different levels who responded to the survey were as follows:
- chartered engineers: £63,000
- incorporated engineers: £45,500
- engineering technicians: £40,000.
You can find more information on salaries for engineers with a degree on our graduate careers website TARGETjobs Engineering.