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Design engineers create drafts and designs of products, using their knowledge of design and manufacturing processes to develop functional products. They review specifications and liaise with clients to develop product designs, developing prototypes for testing, and creating blueprints and schematics for products. Most design engineers work full-time in an office, although overtime may be required during deadlines or when working to tight schedules. This job is well-suited to people who enjoy using their creativity to design, are good problem-solvers, and have a passion for keeping up to date with the latest industry trends and developments.

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Design Engineer Duties and Responsibilities

Design engineers may take on a variety of duties and responsibilities, depending on the organization they work for. Based on job listings we analyzed, a design engineer’s duties typically involve:

Designing Components for Products

Design engineers use computer-based tools and programs to design components for products or create these components by hand, to meet the brief set by the client. They create documents, which detail the specifications for each product.

Creating Prototypes

Design engineers follow plans to develop product and model prototypes that can be tested in a variety of situations. From these tests, they can make recommendations to improve the design and efficiency of the item and perform demonstrations for the approval of clients.

Conducting Analysis

Using internal tools, design engineers analyze designs to make sure they meet the necessary requirements and specifications. These analyses are used to evaluate whether a product is safe or practical in its current design.

Writing Technical Documentation

After products have been analyzed and tested, design engineers create technical reports to summarize their findings and to highlight ways to improve the project or particular components.

Carrying Out Quality Control Procedures

Design engineers carry out quality control procedures to identify production or performance problems and to find ways to minimize costs where possible. They design control systems to ensure that products meet the necessary quality standards.

Design Engineer Skills and Qualifications

Design engineers have creativity and ingenuity, strong communication skills, and enjoy finding solutions to problems. Typically, employers require a bachelor’s degree in an engineering-related subject, as well as the following abilities:

  • Critical thinking skills - design engineers use logic and reasoning to identify solutions and create systems to solve problems and improve efficiency
  • Writing skills - to prepare documents for other engineers or colleagues in other departments
  • Math abilities - to apply calculus, trigonometry, and advanced mathematical principles in their day-to-day duties
  • Initiative - when issues arise, design engineers troubleshoot and take a self-motivated approach to solving problems
  • Teamwork - design engineers generally work with a team of several members, including mechanical engineers, so the ability to work well with colleagues and remain professional is beneficial to creating a successful team environment

Tools of the Trade

Design engineers regularly use these tools, and applicants should have a strong understanding of how to use them effectively:

Design software (CAD, CAN and CAM)

Word processing and database programs (Microsoft Office)

Design Engineer Education and Training

The minimum requirement to become a design engineer is a bachelor’s degree, usually in industrial engineering or an engineering-related subject. Employers often prefer applicants who have practical experience, so cooperative-education engineering programs at universities may be advantageous. Students looking to work as a design engineer should take courses in mathematics and sciences. Programs in industrial engineering should be accredited by ABET, and new engineers are often also required to pass a written licensing exam to demonstrate their understanding of engineering fundamentals.

Design Engineer Salary and Outlook

The median annual salary for design engineers is $84,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Design engineers in the 10th percentile earn around $54,000 a year, while the highest-paid earn around $129,000 annually. Bonus schemes and profit sharing opportunities can reach up to $10,000 of a design engineer’s salary. Most companies provide health benefits, including medical and dental coverage, as part of their benefits package. The BLS predicts that the growth rate for this sector will grow by 10 percent through 2026.

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Helpful Resources

We’ve collected some of the best resources to help you learn more about a career as a design engineer:

Mechanical Design Engineers

This LinkedIn group has over 201,000 members who discuss everything from manufacturing processes to job opportunities and legal issues related to design.

GrabCAD Blog

The GrabCAD blog is packed with useful news and ideas related to CAD, as well as whitepapers, tutorials, and webinars to help readers develop their knowledge of AutoCAD.

Product Design for Engineers

This book provides guidance and advice to help readers develop the key skills they'll need in a career in design engineering. From stepbystep guidance to helpful illustrations, it highlights everything needed to learn the fundamentals of product design engineering.

AutoCAD 2018 for Beginners

This book is ideal for anyone looking to gain a strong understanding of AutoCAD, a useful tool for design engineers. This book covers a wide variety of topics, from preparing drawings to using modifying tools.

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