If companies and organisations require technical expertise to which they do not have access within their existing workforce, they may turn to engineering consultants to help. For example, if an aerospace company wants to develop a new aircraft engine, they may use a consultancy firm with experts in this area to advise on its design or how it will be made. Whilst consultancy is popular and commonplace in Civil Engineering, opportunities also exist in other branches of engineering. Engineering consultants work for a range of organisations including independent agencies, in-house consultancy departments, research departments and sometimes university departments.
Larger engineering consultancies often work with a wide range of clients across different sectors, so work may demand flexibility and the ability to manage multiple different projects and simultaneously and solve a range of diverse engineering problems. Consequently, work in consultancy is likely to offer challenge and variety, involving dealing with a range of clients, planning, managing, designing and supervising the construction of projects and products. There are often opportunities to progress to running projects as a project manager, for which a postgraduate research degree and the skills involved can put you in a good position.
Examples of engineering consultancy firms include Frazer Nash, Cambridge Consultants, Fichtner, Mott Macdonald, Arup and Atkins
R&D Tax Credits
If you have a background in engineering and are familiar with research practices, then engineer roles aren’t the only opportunity for work in R&D.
The UK Government offers companies R&D tax credits for investing in innovation. These credits can be used to fund further research and development. R&D Tax Advisers or Consultants use knowledge and experience of both engineering and tax legislation to help companies secure funding and R&D Tax Credits. Work in this area requires a thorough understanding of the area of engineering in question, plus the ability to write successful grant applications and claims. As a result, the skills of Postgraduate Researchers map across well to this profession, which offers an alternative for Engineering PGRs who want to apply their engineering knowledge in a slightly different way from the more traditional move ‘into industry.’ Plus, many engineering industries are involved, from mechanical and Aerospace to Civil, Structural and Materials engineering.
Firms like TBAT, ForrestBrown , GovGrant and Ayming UK offer opportunities for engineering graduates to train as R&D Tax Consultants.
Field Applications Engineer/ Applications Scientist
If you have an interest in engineering but also a mind for business, and are looking for an alternative to a role in R&D, then working in Field Applications could be an option for you.
Field Applications Engineers come in after the R&D work has been done, in the pre-sales and post-sales stages of product development. When an organisation buys or wants to buy one of their company’s products, Field Applications Engineers provide them with technical support and training in how to use the new technology. They may also consult clients during the process of design, testing and building to ensure that products and solutions meet required specifications, and write manuals for new products. Similar roles exist in the scientific world too, where Applications Scientists provide support to client companies who purchase lab equipment, reagents and other scientific products.
A PhD can be a useful asset for Applications Engineer and Scientist roles as the writing, editing and presentation skills gained as a postgraduate researcher are crucial to the role and also need to be balanced with excellent technical abilities. Other important skills include:
- Problem solving/ ability to troubleshoot
- Interpersonal skills
- Customer service skills
- Willingness to travel