Although it takes both time and money to qualify, those rising to the top of the legal profession can eventually earn six-figure salaries. A legal qualification can be the foundation for a rewarding and lucrative career: Civvy Street investigates.

“The law,” according to Mr Bumble in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, “is an ass.” Yet studying for a legal qualification certainly isn’t stupid. Take, for instance, a former Oxford law graduate by the name of Tony Blair; he may no longer be a practising barrister, but the skills and talents honed through legal training and practice took him to the top. Meanwhile, his wife Cherie Booth QC – as she’s professionally known – stayed in the profession, and reportedly earns even more than her husband – around £250,000 a year.

Alongside detectives, doctors and nurses, legal professionals continue to provide many of our most popular fictional characters – at least if TV and Hollywood are anything to go by. From Perry Mason in the 1950s and 1960s to the likes of Ally McBeal, LA Law and – in the UK – This Life, Judge John Deed and current BBC drama New Street Law – lawyers remain a focus of both drama and comedy. Yet TV and film seldom give an accurate picture of the profession in the UK as they inherently focus on the exciting parts of the job. In reality legal work can be slow and time-consuming, but that doesn’t mean it’s not also ultimately rewarding – be it as an intellectual challenge, an opportunity to ensure justice is done, or an opportunity to benefit from one of the top ranking professions when it comes to salaries.

In the UK, there are three main kinds of qualified lawyer: solicitors, who give advice and assistance on matters of law to the public, commercial companies and other organisations; barristers (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), who advise on court cases and represent clients in court (a role taken on in Scotland by advocates); and legal executives, who are qualified lawyers (but not registered on the Law Society’s roll of solicitors) specialising in a particular area of law, such as property, inheritance or business law.

Particularly in England and Wales, much day-to-day work undertaken in solicitors’ and barristers’ offices may actually be carried out – under qualified supervision – by professionals called paralegals; these are people who have substantive legal training but are not (or not yet) qualified as either solicitors or barristers.

The majority of people wishing to become qualified lawyers study Law at University: in England, Wales and Northern Ireland this will be a three-year Bachelor of Laws (LLB) or BA course, while an LLB in Scots Law can be studied, north of the border, as either an Ordinary degree over three years or as an Honours degree over four. After completing a degree, those wishing to become Solicitors will need to complete a year-long (full-time) Legal Practice Course (LPC) – the equivalent in Scotland is the Diploma in Legal Practice.

Students then need to successfully complete a two-year training contract with an authorised legal firm, during which time they will receive supervised practical training in both their chosen area of specialism and other aspects of law. After satisfactorily completing this training contract, students can officially join the roll of solicitors held by either the Law Society, the Law Society of Scotland or the Law Society of Northern Ireland.

Graduates wishing to become barristers must, after their law degree, complete a year-long, full-time Bar Vocational Course (BVC), followed by at least a year’s pupillage within barristers’ offices (referred to as ‘Chambers’); this is usually divided into two six-month periods referred to as ‘sixes’. In Scotland, those wishing to become advocates start as ‘Intrants’ to the Faculty of Advocates; subsequent professional training includes up to 21 months in a solicitor’s office followed by approximately nine months ‘devilling’ as a pupil to an existing advocate before sitting the Faculty’s examination in Evidence, Practice & Procedure.

Not everyone begins their legal career by studying law; some people may choose another degree subject entirely and take a conversion course later on. As the Law Society’s Isobel Rowley explains: “A lot of people complete another subject, even though they may have always wanted to go into law. After your first degree you complete a course which is either referred to as the Common Professional Exam (CPE) or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). This is quite a difficult course as you are condensing almost three years of legal knowledge into one year.”

If you prefer to avoid going to university full-time, you have two options. With the vocational approach, you can initially qualify as a legal executive and then become a solicitor later. If you can find work within a legal firm approved by the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX), you can then combine both practical and theoretical training. While this process is undoubtedly more time consuming than full-time study at university, it does allow you to ‘earn while you learn’ – which, if nothing else, can alleviate funding difficulties. Qualified legal executives can then complete further courses to comply with the criteria set by the Law Society and – thanks to the largely practical experience of their training – may be exempted from having to complete the standard two-year training contract before becoming a solicitor.

Alternatively, it may be possible to complete the CPE/GDL if you hold other academic or vocational qualifications recognised by the Law Society or meet their mature student requirements – that is, ‘display considerable experience or exceptional ability in an academic, professional, business or administrative field’ and have ‘satisfied the Society as to character and suitability to become a solicitor’. Each case is considered on its own merits, but time in the Armed Forces could count. Isobel Rowley said: ‘I would imagine that some qualifications people get if they’re with the Armed Forces might meet the needs of our wavers for the degree.’ If you believe you have relevant experience, you should contact the relevant Law Society direct.

Although a small proportion of law graduates use paralegal work as a stepping stone on their way to becoming a qualified solicitor, barrister or advocate, paralegals are increasingly recognised as being valued and skilled professionals in their own right – not least because they undertake a significant amount of work that would otherwise need to be done by the solicitors or barristers they work alongside. Formal education for paralegals is available from colleges, universities and other training organisations; many of these courses are supervised by the National Association of Licensed Paralegals and range from the Higher Certificate in Paralegal Studies (available on a day-release or evening class basis from many further education colleges or by distance learning from the Association itself) to joint degrees and postgraduate Diplomas in Paralegal Practice.

Whatever route you choose, you need to budget well, particularly if you’re opting for a full-time degree course. While Enhanced Learning Credits (ELCs) can help military personnel when it comes to paying for legal courses, the introduction this year of variable tuition fees in England and Wales means that undergraduates will have to eventually pay back tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year. (Scottish students studying Scots Law will only have to pay the one-off Graduate Endowment Payment of currently £2,145.) Fees to complete the LPC can vary from £5,000 – £10,000, while a postgraduate Diploma – through the NALP – costs £950.

“The average age of people becoming solicitors is 29,” according to the Law Society’s Isobel Rowley. “This is partly because the training process is quite long, but also because people are transferring in from having done other things.” Indeed, according to Holly Swaby from the College of Law, experience from other careers is increasingly viewed as beneficial when entering the profession. “Many law firms and barristers’ chambers welcome the broad experience that non-law graduates can bring to the profession – meaning that CPE/GDL students are well-placed to compete with law graduates for training contracts and pupillages.”

However, it’s important to realise that the legal world is highly competitive. “There are more people who want to do law degrees than there are training contracts available” admits Isobel Rowley. “There is a bottleneck. It’s not uncommon for people to have to write hundreds of letters to find a training contract.” But that’s not to say it’s impossible; and the ‘bottleneck’ varies across the legal sector. There are very few places on offer each year at the Bar, yet the number of solicitors is growing. “The profession has grown by half in the last 20 years,” Isobel Rowley adds. “Generally you’re looking at a profession where there are expanding opportunities, which I always think is rather encouraging.”

As Prime Minister Tony Blair and, indeed, current Lib Dem leader Menzies Campbell show, training in law doesn’t restrict you to a legal career. Indeed, skills honed during legal training – such as the ability to research, collect and analyse large amounts of information, and to both form and communicate cohesive and logical arguments – are highly valued by many employers, including accountancy and financial firms, the Civil Service, local government (coroners, for instance, must be either solicitors, barristers or doctors), and industry. The Government Legal Service also employs some 1,700 lawyers across 40 central government departments, agencies and public bodies, who provide a comprehensive range of legal services.

Isobel Rowley calls the path towards a legal career “tough but rewarding”, and she isn’t just referring to salaries that can – in time – rise to six figures. “A lot of people go into law because they want to help people at difficult times of their lives, or have a strong belief in international justice.” And for many of us, being able to make a real difference is what makes life worthwhile.

Minimum salary for trainee solicitor (from August 2006) recommended by the Law Society: £15,332 (£17,110 in central London). According to specialist legal recruitment company Hays Legal, newly qualified lawyers (including both solicitors and barristers) will earn from £22-45,000 a year, depending on their location in the UK and the size of the firm; in London this can range from £39-50,000 (£45-52,000 in the City of London). After seven years, lawyers outside of London can earn £34-85,000; in London the figures rise to £63-82,000 (£82-110,000 in the City of London). Salaries can rise even further – as Cherie Blair has shown – depending on your skill, expertise and reputation.

Paralegals will begin on salaries from £13-20,000, depending on location and size of firm; according to Hays Legal, after four years this could rise to between £18-31,000. Legal executives working in London can start on £16-25,000 as students, rising to £27-65,000 as fully qualified ILEX Fellows.


The Law Society
01527 504433

Law Society of Scotland
0131 226 7411

The Law Society of Northern Ireland
028 9023 1614

Institute of Legal Executives
01234 841000

Faculty of Advocates
0131 226 5071

The Bar Council
020 7242 0082

National Association of Licensed Paralegals
0117 927 7077

Marine Engineering

The sea’s enduring role in global trade and travel ensures that the marine environment continues to offer a host of engineering opportunities for those looking for a challe nging and important career.

The Ulysses is an impressive sight: 209m from prow to stern and 51m from keel to the tip of its funnel, this Irish Ferries vessel is far from being just a ship – it’s a floating hotel built on top of a multi-storey car park and a power station, which cuts its way through the sea between Dublin and Holyhead, whatever the weather.

The design, construction, conversion, testing and maintenance of such vessels – as well as any underwater craft, remotely operated vehicles, offshore platforms and equipment – is at the heart of marine engineering. The importance of such work is undeniable; with water covering almost three quarters of the Earth’s surface, it’s not surprising that over 95% of all the UK’s imports and exports travel by sea. British companies also remain significant players in the world’s offshore oil and gas extraction industries.

Maritime activities underpin our whole quality of life – ensuring the safe, reliable and cost-effective movement of food, consumer goods and raw materials. The industry also supports a wide range of exciting and challenging careers – particularly for skilled engineers. According to the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST), marine engineering is a multi-disciplinary field, with marine engineering technicians and marine engineers (who will normally also have a supervisory or managerial role) working in a variety of sectors:

· the design, development, construction and maintenance of vessels and associated machinery;

· overseeing offshore oil and gas platforms, rigs, pipelines and equipment;

· inspecting marine vessels, installations and equipment for safety and insurance purposes;

· ensuring the safe function of machinery and equipment in the likes of the Merchant Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary.

If you have already earned relevant marine engineering qualifications from your time in the Royal Navy, and are leaving as an engineering technician (marine engineering) or marine engineer officer, then you will be well-placed to move into a civilian position with a marine engineering company, the Merchant Navy or the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. Qualified engineers from the other Services might wish to augment their existing experience with some vocational training; further information on courses and registration is available from IMarEST or the Engineering Council.

If you a re under 25 years old, a common entry rou te for aspiring engineers both inside and outside of the Armed Forces is to train as a technician apprentice, for which you will need clear knowledge and understanding of subjects including English, science and design and technology or appropriate equivalents.

Broader engineering courses open to people of all age groups include a range of National/Scottish Vocational Qualifications and City & Guilds Certificates. These, in turn, can be stepping stones t owards relevant Higher National Certificates and Diplomas, such as the BTEC Higher National Certificate/Diploma in Marine Engineering. Institutions across the UK – such as Newcastle University ‘s School of Marine Science & Technology, or the Department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, operated jointly by Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities – offer a range of undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications. Entry requirements are decided by the individual institutions, but courses will require demonstrable understanding of physics, mathematics and chemistry.

Suitably qualified/experienced marine technicians can improve their professional development by registering with the Engineering Council in order to attain EngTech status, or by attaining incorporated or chartered status, either through the Engineering Council or IMarEST.

Marine engineers are characterized by their love of challenge, their passion for technology (including the very latest in IT), and their commitment to both continuous professional development and the highest standards. As a truly international profession, marine engineering offers plenty of interesting and rewarding opportunities. However, it has particular appeal to ex-Services personnel. “The discipline onboard a ship is similar to the discipline in the Navy,” says Professor Mesbahi from the School of Marine Science and Technology (MaST) at Newcastle University, which describes itself as the largest and broadest-based marine school in the UK. “You have a captain, the chief engineer, and then second and third engineer officers – a line of command is there. It’s not as strict as the military, but you are part of a discipline and structure suitable for civilian-type vessels.”

A career in this sector also suits those who are looking for a challenge. “We are not standard engineers,” says Professor Mesbahi. “If you originally joined the military because you were desperate for more adrenalin and enjoy dealing with big objects, then here is the place for you to come.”

Marine engineers should have strong analytical skills, an innovative approach to problem solving, excellent mathematical, IT and technical knowledge, strong communication skills and an eagerness to keep up to date with new developments. A willingness to travel and to work at sea for extended periods is also important. (In compensation, leave time is usually generous.)

Starting salaries for new marine engineering technicians are between £12k and £15k a year. With experience and qualifications, earnings can rise to between £17k and £23k, while senior technicians can earn over £25k. In contrast, graduate marine engineers will start at around £20k a year; experienced marine engineers can earn between £28k and £37k, with senior engineers earning over £40k.

According to Professor Mesbahi, the last five to six years have seen a revitalized marine engineering sector in both the UK and Europe, after decades of decline in which work had transferred to shipyards in Japan, Korea and China. “Marine transport still carries about 85% of world trade; growing passenger transport has added to that. So, practically speaking, there is a very, very good market for employment. More than 90% of our graduates get a job within three or four months of graduation. We also have a huge overseas demand. The market is booming, particularly for engineers trained in the UK.” Proof of the reputation enjoyed by British engineering can be found in the 49 nationalities currently registered on undergraduate and postgraduate courses at MaST.

Marine engineering offers many opportunities – from travelling the globe to practical problem solving. But, according to Professor Mesbahi, who himself was once a marine engineer working on ships around the world, there’s one ultimate plus. “Ships are amongst the largest man-made objects ever built,” he says, “and we have the privilege of playing with those toys!”


Institute of Marine Engineering, Science & Technology (IMarEST)
020 7382 2600

Engineering Council (ECUK)
020 7240 7891

Institution of Mechanical Engineers
020 7222 7899

Dept of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering, Glasgow
0141 548 4094

School of Marine Science and Technology, Newcastle University
0191 222 6718

Motor Industry

Thousands of people with experience in engineering and mechanics leave the Armed Forces every year; what career opportunities can they and other Service leavers expect in the civilian motor industry?

Thousands of people with experience in engineering and mechanics leave the Armed Forces every year; what career opportunities can they and other Service leavers expect in the civilian motor industry?

Napoleon Bonaparte allegedly once said that an army marches on its stomach. Yet modern day soldiers seldom march anywhere at all – at least, not outside of the parade ground. Instead, the Army, like the Royal Navy and the RAF, depends upon the skills of its engineers and mechanics to keep moving; just like most of the UK’s population, the Forces rely on motorized transport to get around.

There are over 32 million vehicles in the UK; indeed, according to the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI), the UK’s retail motor industry directly employs around 584,000 people in some 69,000 businesses. So if you have gained mechanical experience and skills in the military, or if you want to learn, there are a wide variety of opportunities on civvy street.

According to Automotive Skills, the sector skills council for the retail motor industry (which covers the maintenance and repair of vehicles, as well as their sale), the sector is well-suited to those who enjoy practical tasks and working with state-of-the-art equipment. Technical roles in vehicle maintenance and repair include:

Auto Electrician: responsible for the installation and repair of electrical and electronic systems; this is a role which is bound to become even more important as our vehicles become more electronic in design.

Commercial Vehicle Technician: concerned with the regular servicing, maintenance and repair of lorries and other commercial vehicles such as buses.

Light Vehicle Technician: repairs, services and maintains cars and light vans.

Motorcycle Technician: as the name suggests, motorcycle technicians repair, maintain and service motorcycles.

Roadside Recovery Technician: responsible for the assessing and securing of broken down vehicles (and those involved in accidents) plus their safe removal and transportation.

Roadside Assistance Technican: also known as motor vehicle breakdown engineer, their job is the assessment, diagnosis and repair of faults as part of a roadside assistance service to motorists.

The retail motor industry also offers a wide range of roles in sales & marketing, administration and management.

Vocational qualifications gained while in the military – such as City & Guilds and NVQs – are recognized outside, although it is worthwhile considering one of the related courses run by the Career Transition Partnership (CTP) at their main Resettlement Training Centre in Aldershot. Currently, the CTP run regular courses for workshop technicians and roadside patrols – both last for two weeks, are designed for people with a Service mechanical background, and aim to provide the Service leaver with the theoretical and practical experience they need to do the job. Quite apart from offering a useful refresher course, they can emphasise your skills to civilian employers.

“We work directly with the CTP to help retain people from the Armed Forces for work in the motor industry,” says the IMI’s Aisleen Marley, “by approving their training courses through the IMI’s Quality Assured Awards (QAA) scheme. Those who complete the QAA course are also eligible to apply for membership of the IMI, which is the Professional Association for individuals working in all areas of the industry – from sales to vehicle maintenance. Membership gives them added recognition as professionals within the industry, which adds to the qualifications they have already received.”

The IMI also runs the Automotive Technician Accreditation (ATA) scheme, a voluntary programme designed to underline the competence of technicians working in the retail motor industry. ATA registered technicians have passed a comprehensive and rigorous series of tests of practical skill and knowledge, and are reassessed every five years to ensure they’re abreast of the latest technological developments.

If you’re looking to enter the motor industry without any previous mechanical experience, there are around 300 colleges and training providers across the UK that offer qualifications including National/Scottish Vocational Qualifications (N/SVQs) and City & Guilds/BTEC Certificates or Diplomas. Information on these can be found through both IMI and Automotive Skills; it is important to check that the qualification ensures you meet the National Occupational Standards (NOS) agreed for the sector.

Most mechanics work in small independent garages, in the large service departments of manufacturers’ dealerships, or specialist fast-fit chains such as Kwik-Fit; others work in organisations such as local authorities, vehicle breakdown companies, large private firms and the emergency services. In terms of career progression it is possible for experienced and qualified mechanics to go on to qualify as MOT testers, approved LPG engine converters or as roadside assistance technicians for the likes of the AA or RAC.

Many vehicle technicians are paid hourly rates on a scale guided by the National Joint Council (NJC) of the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF); others will be on annual salaries. Average wages are not high – from £14k-£18k a year – but those with experience can earn over £20k. Breakdown mechanics earn £13k-£23.5k, depending on experience. According to the most recent report from the RMIF, while many sales executives and business managers experienced overall falls in their paypackets last year (thanks to reduced commission from lower car sales) technicians/mechanics benefited from an annual increase of more than 5%.

The retail motor industry offers a worthwhile career with prospects, and is ideal for those who enjoy working with their hands and seeing an immediate, real-world result from their work.


Automotive Skills
Careers Helpline: 0800 093 1777

The Institute of the Motor Industry
01992 511521

Retail Motor Industry Federation
020 7580 9122


Considering working for the UK’s largest employer? We highlight the health career opportunities in the National Health Service.

As a member of the Armed Forces, you’ll be used to working, as part of a larger team, towards a common goal; indeed, you’ll be familiar with both command structures and the responsibility that comes with making and carrying out important decisions. You could well have some specific qualifications underlining your ‘trade’ or management skills. So, if you’re looking to work in a comparable environment, when you step out onto civvy street, why not consider a nationally recognised employer that depends upon teamwork across a whole range of professions to achieve the mutual goal of serving the health needs of the UK population.

The National Health Service (NHS) is the UK’s – indeed Europe’s – largest single employer, with over 1.3 million people – or about one in twenty of the adult working population – on the payroll. By its very nature, it is an employer that could offer a wide range of career opportunities for service leavers – and we’re certainly not just talking about those with an interest in medicine!

As the UK’s major healthcare provider, it’s no surprise that the NHS employs the majority of the UK’s nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, midwives and health visitors; nor is the fact that, despite major recruitment campaigns over the last few years, they’re still looking for more!

Yet the NHS offers many more career opportunities: clinical staff make up slightly under half of the NHS’s total workforce. The NHS also employs people in Allied Health Professions (AHPs), such as physiotherapists,
radiographers, podiatrists (aka chiropodists), speech and language therapists, counsellors, occupational therapists and psychologists.

Then there are areas such as Biomedical Scientists (also known as Medical Laboratory Scientific Officers); after all, someone’s needed to carry out tests on samples from patients as part of the diagnostic process for conditions such as diabetes, HIV, meningitis and cancer.

Even all these, however, are not enough to keep our health service running on its own; the NHS employs over 35,000 people in management and administration, and over 164,000 ‘infrastructure’ staff ranging from cleaners to IT specialists. Indeed, the NHS offers employment in over seventy different professions. The main requirements for nigh on every single job in the NHS are good communication skills, and an ability to work in a range of environments, with a variety of people, both as part of a team and on your own.Now, does that sound at all familiar to you?

Truth be told, there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ service leaver, so there’s no simple answer to the question of how you can enter the NHS; you may be heading for civvy street after only a few years, or you may have completed the minimum period to qualify for an immediate pension and are now looking for a new career to keep yourself busy. You may wish to begin or continue a clinical career, or one in management, each of which requires different qualifications.

Increasingly, decision-making and the allocation of resources within the NHS are now under more local control, with the vast majority of clinical staff working in NHS hospitals and healthcare centres employed by NHS Trusts or Primary Care Trusts (PCTs). Many vacancies will be advertised locally or through specialist publications – such as Nursing Times – as well as on the NHS’s own careers website.

If you’re already a Registered Nurse, Doctor or Consultant, you are in a very good position when it comes to finding clinical employment on civvy street. Indeed, thanks to the closure of separate military hospitals over the last few years, you’re likely to spend at least some of your military career working in NHS hospitals which host Ministry of Defence Hospital Units (MODHU).

According to Commodore Annette Bicton, Director of Resettlement at the Ministry of Defence: “Qualified doctors, dentists, consultants, nurses, technicians, etc. are so employable that it isn’t much of a challenge to resettle them. Many of them who do their full training with us train in civilian hospitals, so the training is very similar (to civilians).” That said, you may still wish to use the move to civilian life as an opportunity to further develop your career; for instance, Registered Nurses may choose to concentrate on areas such as children’s, mental health or learning disability nursing.

Nor is the NHS just an opportunity for medically-trained personnel; 21st century military forces require the particular management skills of Human Resources/Administration staff and logistics personnel. Working in these areas within organisations as large as the armed forces – often on a worldwide stage – will have given you highly transferable and marketable skills – and qualifications that would be well suited to the managerial side of the NHS – large hospitals, after all, need the most appropriate and cost-effective organisation of appropriate staff, supplies and equipment!

NHS staff at all levels can access eduational provider NHSU, which provides a variety of new learning opportunities for current employees, managers and those planning to join pre-employment programmes. Through the NHSU, you can work for qualifications ranging from NVQs to Foundation Degrees, depending upon your existing qualifications. The NHSU helpline – u-i – offers information and advice on learning opportunities, and the kind of support and funding that may be available.

No matter the length of time you spent in the services, at some point you are likely to have been given some basic first aid training; that may have wetted your appetite for working in the healthcare sector. Alternatively, you may already be working as a healthcare assistant or Combat Medical Technician (CMT) and wish to train to become a fully qualified Nurse. As a CMT, you are likely to hold, or be working towards, qualifications such as City & Guilds or National Vocational Qualifications (Levels 2 or 3) in subjects like Direct Care or Emergency Clinical Care; such qualifications can prove particularly useful if you’re now planning to enter a civilian nursing course, regardless of whether you opt for a Diploma in Nursing Studies, or a Nursing degree.

As part of their programme to recruit more Nursing staff, the NHS currently offers favourable funding arrangements for Nursing students, including the payment of course fees (at either diploma or degree level) – and the provision of a bursary.

Anyone looking to enter a Nursing programme should contact NHS Careers, or look through the prospectus of any trust or university of interest. Applications should be made through the Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service (NMAS), which will also provide information about all nursing HE courses.

Three-year Nursing programmes are divided equally between theory and practice. The first year is the ‘Common Foundation Programme’, and it is taken by all students, regardless of branch choice. It includes core issues and topics in a wide variety of care environments. The second part – the ‘Branch Programme’ – concentrates on specific subjects and contains practice placements working in Adult, Children’s, Mental Health or Learning Disability Nursing.

At the end of the programme, newly qualified RNs will probably have a three-month period of supervised practice when they start their first real job. First steps after qualification will usually be spent in the specialisation developed during the second part of the training programme. All professional Nurses registered with the NMC are legally required to re-register every three years, and must also state that they have updated their knowledge and skills base.

The current Labour government has very much nailed its reputation on its increased investment in the National Health Service; this is set to continue over the next few years, and much of this continues to be concentrated on the recruitment and retention of staff. For, while the NHS may have already met initial targets for recruiting new Nurses, there remain significant shortfalls in the numbers of full-time staff working in the NHS; indeed, with many nurses working part-time, the situation is hardly improving. Meantime, the private medical sector is continuing to grow as a major employer of medical staff.

As a result, demand for nurses – as well as other clinical staff – is almost certain to rise, particularly with the continued development of helpline services NHS Direct (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and NHS 24 (in Scotland). There are also good opportunities for other clinical professions. NHS-employed Dieticians, for instance, can work in a wide range of environments, and the increase in their usage means that a newly qualified Dietician can rise to a Senior II position (earning between £18.9K-20.4K) in around only a year; chances of further promotion within two years are also good.

Even if a permanent job is not available or not wanted, part-time positions and job-shares are now very common. Most hospitals and a number of nursing homes run Nurse banks, a useful way of testing the environment while also earning, while a number of employment agencies specialise in Nursing and Allied Professions. “NHS Professionals” is an in-house agency that matches the preferred working patterns of staff with the clinical needs of hospitals and departments across the UK.

Pay and conditions in the NHS continue to improve, with increased emphasis on encouraging career progression. The following list offers a sample of minimum payments; how much individual staff will earn will depend upon their skills, experience, responsibilities and the hours that they work.

Newly qualified nurse: £17K.
Staff nurse: £20K.
Ward Sister: £27K.
Modern Matron: £26.6K – £34.9K.
Dietician: £18.9K – £20.4K.
Staff Doctors: £29.8K – £56.7K.
Consultants (Full time): £55.6K – £72.5K.
Primary Care Development Manager (PCT): £18.7K – £23.7K.
Clinical Site Manager: £23K – £27K.
Deputy Head of Supplies (procurement) NHS Trust: £30K.
Drama / Music / Art Therapist: £18K – £20K.
Senior Drama / Music / Art Therapist: £19K – £29.4K.

(Figures published by NHS Careers and British Medical Association.)
Since April 2002, many NHS employees have benefited from revised Cost of Living Supplements for those living in more costly parts of the UK. Eligible nurses in London and the South East, for instance, can claim an additional payment of 4% of their basic salary.

Employers also offer: a minimum four weeks annual leave, increasing with length of service; paid sick leave, increasing with length of service; occupational health and counselling services; and a range of other employment benefits. To encourage as diverse and skilled a workforce as possible, the NHS also increasingly offers flexible working patterns and other resources (such as affordable nursery provision, childminding networks, holiday play schemes; and after-school / breakfast clubs) for staff with family or care commitments that make the normal 9 – 5 pattern difficult; there is scope for part-time working, job sharing and term-time working, as well as evening and weekend work, and special leave policies for those caring for elderly or disabled relatives.


NHS Careers
Tel: 0845 606 0655

Nursing and Midwifery Admissions Service
Tel: 0870 112 2206

NHS Education in Scotland
Tel: 0131 226 7371

Health Professionals Wales
Tel: 029 2026 1400

Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council for Nursing and Midwifery
Tel: 028 9023 8152

u-i helpline: 08000 150 850

Oil Industry

It brings together cutting edge engineering technology and some of the most challenging environments on Earth – and if you have the right skills it could offer you a lucrative career. Civvy Street takes a look at jobs in the UKÕs offshore oil and gas industry.

Smokers of the world – smile! Smoking in enclosed public spaces may have been banned in Scotland, with the rest of the UK set to follow within the next year, but thereÕs one unexpected exception to the legislation. Bizarre as it might seem – what with all those flammable substances nearby – you can still enjoy a fag in any designated smoking areas on the numerous oil rigs standing in UK waters.

According to the UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA), the UK is the ninth largest producer of oil in the world, has been a net oil exporter (in terms of volume) for more than 20 years (a situation expected to continue until 2010) and in 2005, was also able to meet 93% of its overall gas needs.

Although the biggest and most easily developed oil fields around the UK have already been found, and are recognised as being ‘past their peak’ in terms of the number of barrels of oil and gas extracted on a daily basis, this doesn’t mean that the industry no longer offers career prospects. The equivalent of 35 billion barrels of oil and gas have been removed from beneath the North Sea since 1970, but it is estimated that there are still reserves of between 16 and 27 billion barrels to be recovered from both existing and new, smaller fields. Chris Ball, Manager of the RigTrain training centre at Bridge of Don, insists that “The North Sea is very much a viable area for launching a career,” and, according to the UKOOA’s Elizabeth Glover, the region is also aiming to become an industry Centre of Excellence: “Worldwide the oil and gas industry is really taking off. So the North Sea is positioning itself as a major centre of learning, of skills and experience, for the years after the oil and gas has been fully recovered.”

According to the most recent estimates, the UK offshore oil and gas industry will provide employment for 380,000 people during 2006 (up 20,000 from 2004), including some 19,000 working offshore.

Though this latter figure is significantly down on the 1990 production peak of 36,000, career opportunities remain good thanks largely to a growing skills shortage. Already, according to statistics from the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), the average age of oil industry workers – including those working offshore – is edging close to 50, meaning that nearly half of the workforce could potentially be retiring within the next ten years. As a result, the industry is looking for new staff with particular skills. “There are specific areas,” according to Elizabeth Glover. “Technicians (electrical, mechanical and instrument); riggers, the people who lift things and basically move things around; scaffolders; and then the drilling foremen.”

Employment is spread across the UK; while some 100,000 skilled jobs are based in and off the coast of Scotland (with a high concentration around Aberdeen, the ‘Oil Capital of Europe’), more than one in five jobs is located in the south-east of England, while other notable locations are the north of England and East Anglia. Many North Sea workers choose not to live near Aberdeen, preferring to commute northwards to join the regular helicopter flights out to the rigs. After all, in the North Sea, you can expect to work either two/three weeks on, two/three weeks off (depending on employer). No wonder some offshore workers prefer the inconvenience of additional travel when they can enjoy the good weather and low cost of living in the likes of Spain or Malta rather than stay in the UK!

Typical large oilfield platforms will be home to around 100 personnel at any one time; discipline and safety, as with everything else on these remote outposts, is a team effort. Many people speak of there being a ‘family feeling’ amongst those on board, including the cooks, medical staff and engineers who keep both platform and people in A1 condition. So, if you’re looking for a working environment that can offer a genuine equivalent to the discipline, camaraderie and common goals you enjoyed in the Armed Forces – plus the opportunity to ‘rise through the ranks’ – then working offshore could be what youÕre looking for.

It can be physically tough; much of the offshore work directly connected with drilling is, of course, dirty and noisy and it’s also important to remember that weather conditions in the North Sea – particularly in winter – are far from pleasant. As many jobs on oil and gas installations are outdoors, most jobs will in some way be affected by low temperatures, up to gale-force winds, and heavy rain or snow. Despite the best waterproof and warm clothing available, you’ll need to accept that you will get cold and wet sooner rather than later.

If you are already trained as an engineer, electrician, plumber, mechanic, crane operator or fitter – to name just a few jobs – then you’ll have a very good chance of finding work either as a qualified technician or trained craftsperson. You will be expected to have A-level/AS or equivalent qualifications for a technician role or GCSEs for entry at craft level. However, it is also possible to be taken on as a ‘roustabout’ (an unskilled offshore worker) or ‘roughneck’ (someone who carries out drilling under supervision) if you can show your willingness to work hard and the reliability, discipline and focus gained during your time in uniform.

It’s also worth remembering that the companies operating drilling rigs and other offshore installations (including accommodation structures and support vessels) are amongst the largest civilian employers of divers, who work on the maintenance of underwater structures. Following on from this, anyone with practical experience of diver support – particularly through the decompression process – will be attractive to potential employers in the industry.

Cogent – the Sector Skills Council for Chemicals, Nuclear, Oil and Gas, Petroleum and Polymers – is currently finalising new standards, qualifications and training for the oil and gas industry. These will reflect the continually evolving needs of the industry, and in particular its increased focus on safety procedures.

Whatever your existing skills, it’s worth considering basic rig crew courses, which cover not only fire, emergency and survival training but also basic drilling operations and the skills needed by roustabouts and roughnecks.

A new website – – has been created to act as a gateway into the industry. “That can be your first port of call,” Elizabeth Glover says. “You can go and have a look at available jobs and do an online test to match your skills against a number of set industry profiles. Depending on what you might be suited to, you’ll then be directed towards companies that are currently recruiting. It’s new – we launched it mid-June – so it’s very much a template upon which we’re going to build.”

Earlier this year, the industry’s main training organization OPITO (Offshore Petroleum Industry Training Organization) launched its Accelerate Programme to aid people with useful experience to enter the sector. “OPITO have developed this to quickly get people into roles where they’ve had some experience,” says Elizabeth Glover. “The programme tops up what they’ve done to date; it gauges what sort of ‘top up’ they need and provides them with the appropriate training. For anyone who is fresh to working offshore, that includes the key factor of safety.”

The UK’s offshore oil and gas industry can definitely offer a worthwhile career with good prospects, particularly ideal for those with engineering or people-management experience, but also for anyone willing to work hard and enjoy the rewards it can bring.


Cogent (Sector Skills Council)
01925 575 200

01224 787 800

OPITO Accelerate programme

UK Offshore Operators Association
020 7802 2400

Oil Careers Website

Society of Petroleum Engineers
020 7299 3300