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The engineering industry job market outlook for graduates

Ryan Matthews

If you're studying engineering at university, check out this article to find out if there will be a job for you when you graduate.

If you’re considering a career in engineering, one of the first things you’ll want to know is whether or not – after making it through five years of MATLAB modelling, dry lectures, and heavy textbooks – you’ll be rewarded with a graduate job. So, before we go any further, let’s put your mind at ease: current data about various engineering specialities does indicate that most fields can expect strong growth over the coming years, and analysts expect that this will create job opportunities for graduates and senior engineers alike. Below, we look at what this means for some of engineering’s most popular speciality areas.

Engineering job outlook

Aircraft maintenance, aerospace, and aeronautical engineers

If you’re about to graduate from an aircraft maintenance, aeronautical, or aerospace engineering degree, then give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. You’re about to enter an industry that needs more engineers and is ready to pay them accordingly.

A recent study by Boeing cited consistent growth in global passenger numbers (about 6.2 per cent per annum), the increasing popularity of low-cost carriers, and strong consumer demand to explain why global airlines can expect to add some 41,000 new aircraft to their fleets by 2030. During the same period, approximately two trillion dollars will be invested in airport infrastructure. Other factors shaping the industry include a global increase in the number of private planes, strong profits for most major airlines, and the rising prominence of drone technology.

Taken together, these factors have created a very positive market outlook for new engineers in the international aeronautical and aerospace industries. Within Australia, the government predicts that growth will be strong between now and 2020, creating as many as 13,200 new jobs.

Civil engineers

Australian infrastructure has become a chief concern for the federal government, as population growth and the retirement of existing assets create the need for large-scale projects that will address issues such as urban congestion, national connectivity, and economic growth. The ‘high priority’ projects on its Infrastructure Priority List include upgrades to the Sydney rail network; extensions to the Melbourne Metro network; new motorways in Queensland; the construction of a second airport in western Sydney; and the development of Hobart’s Science and Technology precinct. Further proposed initiatives cover everything from upgrades to Darwin’s water supply to improved telecommunications infrastructure in Southern Australia.

Little wonder then that, according to a 2017 Engineers Australia report, civil engineers are experiencing more job growth than engineers in any other field. In fact, civil engineering accounts for the majority of engineering vacancies in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and the Australian Capital Territory. The federal government anticipates that this trend will continue, with very strong growth creating around 34,000 job openings by 2022.

Electrical engineers

Are you studying electrical engineering? Good news! The number of vacancies for electrical engineers has increased steadily since 2015, with around 2,000 new jobs expected to emerge between now and 2022. A high proportion of these jobs will be found in the manufacturing and technology sectors. This reflects the ongoing shift of Australian manufacturers towards the production of innovative and specialist goods, as well as the increasing importance of robotics, drones, medical technologies, electric cars, and tools (such as solar panels and storage batteries) for home power generation.

Industrial and mechanical engineers

While the federal government predicts that the total number of industrial and mechanical engineers will fall between now and 2022, the number of vacancies will be relatively steady, with up to 9,000 job openings being created during the same period.

Mining engineers

Mining engineering is the sub-discipline with the strongest predicted growth in Western Australia, the centre of the country’s mining economy. The anticipated expansion of existing mines and the construction of new ones has led the federal government to identify mining engineering as a profession with strong future growth.

Telecommunications engineers

With Australia currently possessing slower internet than 50 other countries, including Russia and Kenya, the need for talented telecommunications engineers couldn’t be clearer. Thankfully, the Federal Government’s Job Outlook website has identified telecommunications engineering as a profession with very strong future growth. This is great news if you’re a budding telecommunications engineer, or even just somebody who eventually wants access to a reliable telecommunications network.

Chemical and materials engineers

Compared to other engineering occupations, there is a lower total number of chemical and materials engineers. Due to retirements and the creation of new jobs, the profession is still expected to see as many as 2,000 openings between now and 2022.

Conclusion

It’s important to note that historical vacancy rates in Australian engineering have fluctuated more often, and more dramatically than vacancy rates in the overall national workforce. There is a simple reason for this: look at a long-term graph and you’ll see peaks and troughs corresponding to the global financial crisis, the resources boom, and the initiation of major infrastructure projects like the Snowy River Hydroelectric Scheme, the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tunnel, and WestConnex.

However, this apparent volatility shouldn’t discourage you if you’re a new graduate. As seen in our survey of major speciality areas above, the overall trend has been towards the creation of new jobs in engineering, with the majority of firms continuing to run graduate programs designed to recruit talented engineers and prepare them for stable careers. In fact, next year, the number of vacancies in engineering is expected to rise by 7.9 per cent across all subdisciplines, according to the Outsource Institute of Technology. To search for engineering graduate jobs and internships, visit GradAustralia’s job search page.