How to Become a Development Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a development engineer. Research the education requirements, training information, and experience required for starting a career in development engineering.

Should I Become a Development Engineer?

Development engineering is applied to many fields, such as chemical engineering and production development. Engineers in this field plan, design and test new products or processes by using tools or software specific to their area of expertise.

Like many engineers, development engineers usually work in an office or laboratory but might spend time at manufacturing or production facilities, assessing process or product requirements. This could lead to opportunities for international travel. Though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual salary for many engineers in May 2012 was well above average, job growth for these professionals varies. For example, job opportunities for chemical engineers are expected to increase only 4% over the period between 2012 and 2022, which is slower than average.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree or higher is required for most positions
Degree Field Varies by position; electronics, aerospace, civil, chemical, mechanical, agricultural engineering or other related field
Experience Varies by position/employer; at least 1-2 years of experience is common
Licensure and Certification Licensure required for some positions; voluntary professional certification is available
Key Skills Excellent leadership, analytical, organization, communication, problem-solving and interpersonal skills are important, knowledge of Microsoft Word, Project and Excel, CAD/SolidWorks application programs may be preferred, familiarity with tools such as abrasion testers, filtration systems and high-capacity media drives
Salary (2016) $69,709 per year (Median salary for product development engineer)

Sources: ISEEK, U.S. Bureau of Statistics, PayScale.com, CareerBuilder.com job ads

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree program in an engineering field can help prepare students for a variety of careers in development engineering. Most development engineers focus on one area of study, such as software, chemical or materials engineering. Engineering programs are typically math and science-based with emphasis in their chosen field.

Success Tips

  • Join a co-op or internship program. Some schools offer co-op programs and internships that provide some of the hands-on experience needed for a career in development engineering.
  • Take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Each state offers a licensing program for students who are at the end of their engineering degree program. Passing this exam is the first step to becoming a professional engineer (PE), which may be required for some positions.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Most development engineering jobs require at least a year of experience, which can be earned through an internship, co-op or entry-level position working under the supervision of a professional engineer. Experienced development engineers usually supervise a team while creating and testing new products. Performing research, working with manufacturers and meeting product specifications are common job duties across all development engineering areas.

Step 3: Get Licensed

State licensing boards offer a professional engineering (PE) license that proves competency in a specific field of engineering. Some employers require it, and it's necessary for engineers that want to provide services to the public. The requirements vary by state, but typically include earning a degree from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)-accredited program and passing the FE exam. Four years of work experience under the supervision of a PE is usually needed to take the exam.

Step 4: Consider Earning Professional Certification in a Specialty Area

As with PE licensure, earning a certification from a professional association or product vendor can validate a development engineer's experience and specialized knowledge. For example, software development engineers can earn Java certifications from Oracle, and mechanical engineers can test for different product and process certifications from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). Specialized certification may increase opportunities for career advancement and professional growth.

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