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Design Engineer: Employment Info & Requirements

The world requires people who can devise, build and create cutting-edge products, and design engineers do just that. Keep reading to find out about the training, salary and employment outlook for design engineers.

Career Definition

Design engineers help to conceive and create everything from the latest iPhone to offshore drilling components. The title of design engineer is often tacked on to a narrower specialty, so these professionals might be called everything from a mechanical design engineer to an electrical design engineer or a civil/structure design engineer or even a human factor design engineer.

How to Become a Design Engineer

Required Education

Although there is no specific design engineering degree listed by the National Center for Education Statistics (www.nces.ed.gov), individuals who graduate with a degree in one of the main branches of engineering - such as mechanical, electrical, civil or computer - can make career choices that focus on design. Possible degrees include a Bachelor of Engineering, a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, a Master's in Engineering, a Master of Science in Engineering, and a Doctor of Engineering. Hopeful design engineers can expect to take classes in calculus, physics, chemistry, writing, computer science and communication in addition to their engineering courses.

Skills Required

A strong background in math and science is a must for any design engineer; in addition, experience in computers is also a requirement for any job in the field. A streak of creativity is a plus for design engineers; crafting innovative components to new products requires an inventive mind. Design engineers must also be comfortable speaking before large groups and writing memos, both of which are routine industry tasks.

Career and Economic Outlook

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.gov, does not list data for design engineers specifically, the broader field of mechanical engineering can expect to see a slower than average 5% increase in employment between 2012 and 2022, while materials engineers should expect little, if any, growth during that decade. Mechanical engineers design and test mechanical devices, while materials engineers develop and process materials for use in creating products. As of May 2012, the median annual salary for mechanical engineers was $80,580 while materials engineers brought in a median of $85,150 per year.

Alternate Career Options

Mechanical Engineering Technician

These technicians assist mechanical engineers in designing, testing and manufacturing mechanical devices, with an associate's degree background in mechanical engineering technology, preceded by a strong math and science high school education. The BLS predicted slower than average employment growth of 5%, from 2012-2022, and reported an annual median wage of $51,980 in 2012.

Drafter

Specialized training in drafting may be gained through an associate's degree or a technical certificate program, to learn the skills for using software to convert engineers' and architects' designs into plans and technical drawings. Little or no change was expected in the number of available drafters' positions, in general, during the 2012-2022 decade; however the growth for electrical and electronics drafters was predicted to be about average, at 10%. Overall, drafters earned an annual median salary of $49,630 in 2012, with electrical and electronics drafters earning the top wages, per the BLS.

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