What is a Product Engineer?
A Product Engineer is a Mechanical Engineer who specializes in designing products and their corresponding manufacturing processes. They are also responsible for transitioning the product from design to manufacturing at scale. Virtually every industry that involves manufacturing products for sale employs Product Engineers. Their work environment is typically on-site at a manufacturing plant or in the corporate office working on designs and meeting with stakeholders.
The role of Product Engineer is a skilled, entry-level position. Most employers typically want candidates who possess at least a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. The next step up the career ladder for a Product Engineer is Senior Product Engineer, which entails supervising and mentoring a team of Product Engineers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that demand for Mechanical Engineers, which includes Product Engineers, is set to rise 5 percent through 2024.
Product Engineer Duties and Responsibilities
Designing products and the processes to manufacture them at scale involves several duties and responsibilities. We read through several Product Engineer job descriptions to compile this list of the most common Product Engineer tasks.
Manage the Design of Products and Processes
Designing products and their processes for manufacturing is where a Product Engineer spends a good portion of time. This involves using Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to build digital models of product concepts.
Create and Test Product Prototypes
Once a digital model of a product is created, the Product Engineer then creates and tests product prototypes. This requires complex problem solving skills, as the initial build of a prototype is rarely a smooth process.
Select Materials for Product Manufacturing
The Product Engineer is in charge of sourcing the materials necessary to build a prototype, and then scale that prototype in a cost-effective manner. This process involves working closely with Logisticians and Shipping Managers.
Collaborate with Product Development Teams
Speaking of collaboration, a Product Engineer has to collaborate with the Product Development team to turn concepts into reality. Good communication skills are required here, as debates between departments can get heated.
Ensure Manufacturing is up to Specifications and Safety Standards
Safety is one of the Product Engineer’s primary concerns. They must ensure product design meets any and all safety regulations, and that goes for the manufacturing process as well.
Product Engineer Skills
It is easy to assume that the role of Product Engineer is all about technical skills. While having a high degree of technical skill is important, being a Product Engineer also requires several soft skills. Product Engineers are almost always part of a team, so they may be able to thrive in a collaborative environment. Product Engineers also must be proficient multi-taskers to ensure all aspects of engineering a product are addressed. We analyzed several job descriptions to compile the following list of core skills required by most employers, as well as some advanced skills that will impress employers.
Core Skills: The following are core skills you should work on acquiring if you want to be a Product Engineer.
- Proficiency in CAD software
- Proficiency in CAM software
- Proficiency in mathematics
- Critical thinking skills
- Ability to multitask
- Ability to work in a team
- Decision making skills
- Analytical skills
Advanced Skills: Here are a few advanced skills listed as preferred by several employers.
- Expertise in CAD and CAM software
- Ability to explain complex technical concepts to non-technical team members
- Ability and desire to assume a leadership role
Tools of the Trade: Product Engineers use several tools while performing their duties and responsibilities. Here is a list of tools you should familiarize yourself with if you want a job as a Product Engineer
- Coordinate measuring machines
- Analytical software, such as Blue Ridge Numerics CFDesign
- Computer Aided Design (CAD) software, such as Bentley MicroStation
- Computer Aided Manufacturing software, such as
- CadCam Unigraphics
- Graphic illustrator software, such as Adobe Illustrator
Product Engineer Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics includes Product Engineers under the umbrella profession of Mechanical Engineers. The national median salary for Mechanical Engineers is $83,600. Those in the 10th percentile make less than $53,600, while those in the 90th percentile make more than $128,400. The three states with the highest median salaries are Alaska at $123,600; New Mexico at $102,000; and Delaware at $97,300.
Product Engineer Resources
Do you think a career as a Product Engineer is right for you? Check out the following additional resources to learn more about the field before making your decision.
On the Web
EDN.com – Electronics Design News got its start as a paper publication over 60 years ago. They have since become an extensive digital resource covering all things product design. They have enough archived articles and resources to keep you reading for days.
EETimes.com – This is another publication in the engineering space that covers almost every topic, which includes Product Engineering. it is a great resource for an aspiring Product Engineer.
DesignNews.com – Design News is a thriving hub for those in the Design Engineering community. In addition to articles that are updated daily, they have monthly webinars on various aspects of Product Design.
The American Society of Mechanical Engineers – This is one of the most prominent professional organizations for Mechanical Engineers. Although more of a general organization, there are plenty Product Engineers amongst their ranks.
IEEE Product Safety Engineering Society – The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers has a sub-organization that is all about Product Safety Engineering, which is a good topic for Product Engineers to be familiar with.
Reflections of a Product Engineer – Written by Lawrie McIntosh, this book is a professional Product Engineer’s ruminations on the philosophies of Product Engineering.
The Design of Everyday Things – Written by Donald A. Norman, this book discusses design principles using objects we use every day. It’s a great read for aspiring Product Engineers looking to gain an understanding of design philosophy.
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