We take a closer look at the energy industry, exploring the trends, types of jobs available, and the skills you’ll need to get your career started.
The energy industry is one of the largest in the world and is a sector that’s vital to the lives of people across the globe. It’s a broad and far-reaching field that can be both innovative and controversial. In this post, we explore the energy industry in detail, looking at some of the key areas and considerations.
As well as exploring some of the current energy industry trends, we’ll also explore some of the jobs and careers available. If you’re interested in working in the sector, we’ve also picked out some courses and resources that can help you reach your goals.
The global energy industry
Let’s start by looking at some of the definitions and trends in the energy sector at the moment. It will provide us with a useful context for some of the other key areas of this rapidly developing industry.
What is it?
The energy industry is vast, spanning many different areas, professions and specialisations. In general, it refers to the generation of power from oil, gas, nuclear, and renewable resources such as wind and solar.
There are generally three different areas that are linked to this concept – the generation of the power itself, the transmission and distribution of it, and the sales and metering side. Within each of these areas, there are many energy businesses, markets and jobs.
How big is the energy industry?
As you might expect, the global energy market is pretty massive. Estimates suggest that in 2018, global energy investment reached around $1.85 trillion. Other figures estimate that global oil and gas exploration and production is the 8th largest industry in the world by revenue, worth $2.7 trillion in 2021.
The industry is also expected to keep growing, particularly in some important areas. Data shows that the worldwide renewable energy sector is expected to be worth over $1.5 trillion by 2025, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.1 percent from 2018 to 2025.
Within this sector, the solar energy industry is projected to reach a value of $223.3 billion by 2026. In that same period, the wind energy industry is expected to be worth $9.1 billion.
Countries such as China, the US, India and Russia are some of the largest primary energy (taken from natural resources) consumers in the world. China alone accounted for 141.7 exajoules of energy consumption in 2019, compared to 7.84 exajoules in the UK.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the energy industry?
The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been felt across all shores and in just about every industry. The energy market is no different, and was particularly impacted early on in the pandemic.
The economic contraction that followed various national and international lockdowns saw growth in the industry grind to a halt. One study estimated a decline in global energy demand by about 5% by the end of 2020. Similarly, demand for oil was predicted to shrink by 9% and gas by 4%.
However, it’s not all bad news. Despite sharp declines in electricity demand in places such as Europe and India, there are signs of recovery as the pandemic rumbles on. In India, for example, electricity demand in September 2020 was 3.4% above the previous year.
What kinds of jobs are there in the industry?
Given how vast the energy industry is, there are many different jobs available across a variety of areas. What’s more, within each niche there is a range of career options available.
With this level of choice and different energy career paths, it can be hard to know which one might be right for you. To help give an overview of some of the jobs available, we’ve picked out some examples from a range of specialisations:
These roles tend to focus more on the technical skills needed to create, operate, and maintain the equipment used in generating electricity and other forms of energy production. Often, they require fieldwork and hands-on experience. Examples include:
- Mechanical engineer. Although this isn’t a role exclusive to the energy sector, it is one that’s vital to it. They focus on researching, designing, developing and testing the tools and machines used in a variety of power generation projects.
- Electrical engineer. While this role is similar to the one above, electrical engineers focus more on electrical components such as turbines, motors, machinery controls and transmission systems.
- Wellsite geologist. This is one of the essential roles in the oil and gas industry. These geologists examine rock samples from gas and oil wells to plan when drilling projects should start and progress.
Transmission and distribution networks
Another significant area of the energy sector involves ensuring that power reaches its destination in a safe and cost-effective manner. Again, there is a lot of variation in this field, and we’ve picked out a few examples below:
- Distribution engineer. These professionals focus on designing and developing energy distribution systems both above and below ground. As well as planning elements such as cable routes, they also analyse the performance of electrical systems.
- Project manager. This role is another that is common across many industries. However, in the energy sector, it focuses on overseeing projects related to the creation and maintenance of energy networks and their associated components.
- Environmental consultant. Most energy projects need environmental consultants to advise on the impacts of potential energy projects on the environment. Issues such as climate change, pollution, and the effects on ecosystems are considered.
Metering and sales
All kinds of organisations, individuals and entities use power. As such, there are many careers that deal with the supply and monitoring of energy. Here are just a few examples, often associated with gas and electric companies:
- Energy analyst. An energy analyst collects and examines information and data about how energy is used throughout the supply chain. They then help to inform policies and standards surrounding power usage.
- Metering Technician. This role is another very hands-on one. These technicians visit industrial, commercial and residential sites to install, remove, and exchange gas, electricity and other power meters. They also carry out general maintenance on them.
- Energy sales advisor. These professionals help individuals and organisations find the right energy products for their needs. They deal directly with customers on a variety of issues related to tariffs, pricing, and supply.
How do salaries compare?
As you can see, there are all kinds of roles across the various energy sectors. Not surprisingly, this means that salaries also vary considerably. Although exact numbers vary between roles, companies and countries, we’ve highlighted some average annual base salary data in the table below. Information comes from PayScale, Glassdoor and Prospects.
What skills do I need to enter the energy industry?
As we’ll see, there are many routes into the energy industry. However, you’ll need to have the right skills and knowledge if you want to pursue a career in the field. The energy job market is often competitive, meaning you’ll need to develop the necessary abilities to stand out to employers.
The exact skill set you’ll need will depend on the exact role, company, and sector you want to work in. You’ll generally need a specific set of hard skills related to your chosen job, as well as the interpersonal and transferable skills to thrive in the industry.
Below, we’ve picked out some of the most common and sought-after hard and soft skills for the energy industry:
This term refers to the job-specific knowledge you’ll need to succeed in your role. These technical abilities will vary greatly; however, it’s always useful to have:
- Engineering. There is always a need for those with a background in engineering. In pretty much every sector, the demand for engineers is high, making it an essential skill for the energy industry.
- Geology. Those with geological and geophysical knowledge and skills will often find many jobs in the energy industry.
- Chemistry. No matter which area of the energy market you’re interested in working in, having skills in chemistry can be incredibly valuable.
These are the transferable and interpersonal skills that allow individuals to work as part of an organisation. They can be harder to define and teach than hard skills, but they’re no less valuable. Examples include:
- Project management. As with any industry, there is always demand for those who can effectively plan, manage and deliver successful projects.
- Teamwork. The energy sector is often a collaborative place to work, meaning you’ll need to work with others from a diverse range of backgrounds and disciplines.
- Leadership. Effective management and leadership are a must-have for every organisation within the energy industry. Those who can bring out the best in others are highly prized.
Why work in the energy industry?
If you’re considering choosing a career in the energy industry, you might be wondering whether you’re suited to it. There are many reasons why you might consider such a path and many roles available if you have the right skills. Here are some of the ways in which an energy industry career might be a good fit for you:
- Demand is high. There is always a need for skilled professionals in the energy market. If you want a career with room for progression and plenty of choices, you can’t go far wrong with a role in this field.
- There are opportunities to innovate. If issues such as sustainability and clean energy are of interest, working in this sector can give you the chance to work on many interesting and innovative projects.
- It pays well. Salaries in the energy industry are generally well above average. In certain roles, you can quickly start earning a fair amount of money.
- It’s a growing industry. We will always need energy of some kind, which means that this is a sector that will continue to expand. As such, you can almost guarantee that there will be a career with plenty of progression and choice.
How to get a job in the energy industry
If a career working in the energy and power industry sounds appealing, you’re probably eager to get started. There are several routes you can take to get started, but you’ll usually find you need a mix of skills, knowledge and experience to find the right role. Here are some areas you might want to get started with:
- Education. You’ll find that many of the technical jobs in this sector require at least a bachelor’s degree in a field such as maths, engineering, physics, or chemistry. A Master’s degree in a specialised field can also help to boost your prospects.
- Training. Many of the larger energy companies offer training such as graduate schemes and internships. These can be a great way of taking your first steps into the industry.
- Experience. By working in a role that’s adjacent or connected to your career goal, you might be able to upskill or gain on-the-job training as you go.
- Networking. It always helps to know other professionals in the business. Getting your name out there and connecting with the right people can be a good way of raising your profile. Whether it’s through forums, conventions, or expos, you should try and network with as many people as possible.
As we’ve seen, the energy industry is a vast and fascinating one, with plenty of opportunities for those with the right skills. While countries around the world might be phasing out the use of fossil fuel and oil energy, renewable energy seems to be very much on the rise. As such, a career in energy and power could be long-lasting and far-reaching.
If you’re interested in developing your essential skills to work in this field, you’ll find a wide range of courses and ExpertTracks that can help you on your career path.