The role of an engineering consultant can be a diverse one, working across a range of different industries and using different engineering disciplines.
Other times, a consultant may specialise in a particular industry, working on similar projects and building up a wealth of expertise in a specific area.
Like all engineers, they use their knowledge of science and mathematics to develop real-world solutions. The exact duties will vary according to the nature of the project and industry but, generally-speaking, a consulting engineer will provide expert guidance and assistance to clients for planning, design and construction challenges.
Example responsibilities of construction engineers include:
1. Feasibility Studies:
Mapping out the feasibility of a project, including timescales, equipment and costing
2. Project Planning:
Designing a project including processes, risk assessments, staffing and other requirements
3. Project Management:
Managing a project from start to finish, including liaising with, and reporting to, different experts and clients and, typically, leading a team of other engineers and experts
Using design and planning expertise, consulting engineers can solve technical challenges, improve performance, create new designs, improve processes and procedures, check for causes of failure, advise on monitoring and maintenance, advise on materials limitations and benefits, provide equipment advice, help implement health and safety improvements and more to optimise a project.
Consulting engineers use their skills and knowledge to offer innovative solutions for a range of different industries. This work will often require site visits to meet team members or clients and discuss issues. Aside from site visits, much of the work of a consulting engineer is desk based, including administration, design and project management tasks.
Most consulting engineers begin their careers by getting an engineering degree or equivalent qualifications via an apprenticeship. Whichever route you take, work experience is important in order to get some on-the-job experience of consultancy work.
Here are some steps to becoming an engineering consultant:
- Get a Degree (or similar qualification): Bachelor’s degrees in engineering or a related field are often the first step to becoming a consulting engineer. This will give you relevant knowledge and skills to gain an entry-level position.
- Specialise: You may need to choose a speciality in your field to focus on. Choose an area you feel you are strong in as well as something you have an interest in.
- Get an Entry Level Role: You will need to start at the bottom and work your way up, so seek an entry level role at a consulting engineering firm.
- Advance Your Career: Continue to build up your skills as you gain on-the-job experience. You will probably need to investigate further study or even a post-graduate degree as well as certification to move your career forward.
Aside from the formal engineering qualifications and knowledge that you can gain from a university degree, you will also need to employ a range of other skills and attributes to succeed as a consulting engineer. These include:
1. Communication and Teamwork Skills:
It is important that you are able to work with others, including fellow engineers, client, managers and others. You will also need to be able to effectively communicate to others to ensure projects run smoothly, the work is completed satisfactorily, and to provide feedback and reporting.
2. Sales and Contract-Winning:
You will need to be able to keep winning new work contracts by selling your services. This may involve fighting off competing bids and explaining why you should be chosen for a particular job.
3. Versatility and Adaptability:
Because engineering consultants work on a range of jobs across different industries, you will need to be versatile and adaptable in the application of your knowledge and skills to solve real-world challenges.
4. Detail Focussed:
Project management requires a focus on details so that you can spot any potential problems before they arise and solve any that do come up quickly and efficiently. You will be expected to deliver high levels of service to clients, so it is important to be abreast of the work so you can deliver the best results.
Consulting engineers can be hired by a range of different clients, including construction companies, government bodies including local authorities, power generation companies, and more. As a result, the duties of a consulting engineer may vary and many consulting engineering companies will cover a range of capabilities and specialisations to cater to different needs. Other companies, however, will favour specialising in a particular area of engineering.
Consulting engineers often work alongside other project team members including fellow engineers and technicians. Common tasks include design, project management and coordination, site inspections, engineering administration services, equipment selection and more. The knowledge and insight of consulting engineers help optimise project efficiencies including improved production and safety with reduced materials use, fewer failures and lower overall costs.
As mentioned above, consulting engineers may need to tender for projects against other companies and individuals. Clients will generally select a consulting engineer based on criteria including:
- Professional competence, reliability and reputation
- Specialist knowledge, skills and experience
- Cost of service
Selection may include an interview and the submission of information to the client, including systems and working methods, as well as feedback from previous clients. Because of this it is important to deliver the best outcomes possible in order to secure repeat and future work.
The salary for engineering consultants varies depending on location, experience and seniority. That said, consulting engineers can command good wages even at entry level with many companies paying a premium to hire the best consultants. This means that consultants frequently earn more than in-house engineers.
The exact earning figures for engineering consultants vary depending on which sources you use, but salaries begin at around the £29,000 mark in the UK, according to Payscale.co.uk (in 2022), rising to over £75,000 per annum at the top end. This creates an average salary of £40,969 per year. However, Reed.co.uk determine that an average consulting engineer’s salary is £58,449 per year, with a pay range of £30,000 to £100,000+.
Regardless of which figures are closest, consulting engineers are among the best paid engineering professionals.
Consulting engineers work on projects where they can provide leadership and expertise in the design, planning, modification, monitoring, analysis and removal of public and private infrastructure.
Registered professionals, these engineers will often specialise in specific areas such as civil, industrial, agricultural, chemical, electrical, environmental, geotechnical, structural, and other forms of engineering.
An engineering consultancy job can provide a varied workload, depending upon your expertise and clients, with many professionals working for consultancy firms and organisations.
Acting as planners, designers and project managers, consultants can also find work as advisors for governments and other public and private clients. Consulting engineers may lead teams of multi-skilled professionals from project inception through to completion, or be brought in for specialised parts of a project.
Working either as part of a consultancy company or as sole traders, consultant engineers typically earn more than in-house engineers, providing the potential to be among the highest earners in the profession.
How does Engineering Consulting Work?
Engineering consultants work on short term projects for different clients. The work needs to meet set requirements, such as improving efficiencies, reducing costs or solving challenges. Working either as part of a larger consultancy firm or independently, engineering consultants usually work to meet specific goals on a specific project. The employment of a consultant may run for the entire duration of a project or just be for a certain part of the project.
Why do Engineers go into Consulting?
Consulting can provide a challenge for engineers, offering a varied workload and getting to meet and network with a variety of people across industry and business. While this can be professionally demanding, it also tends to be better paid than in-house consulting. The variety of work, the wages and the opportunity to challenge yourself and your skills are all reasons for engineers to go into consulting.
Is Engineering Consulting a Good Career?
Engineering consulting is a good career for anyone with the right knowledge, skills and experience. Either focussing on a certain area of expertise or working across several specialisations for a range of clients, engineering consultancy offers variety and good rates of pay.
How much do Engineering Consultants Make?
The wages for engineering consultants vary according to location, expertise, experience and client requirements. However, due to the challenges of the role, engineering consultants typically command higher wages than in-house engineers.
In the UK, for example, glassdoor.co.uk stated that the national average salary for an engineering consultant is £42,873 as of Oct 22, however senior consultants can earn in excess of £100,000 per year.