While car design itself is not a major, there are several programs at all three post-secondary educational levels that align closely to car design. At the undergraduate level, car design majors can be found within broader programs such as automotive engineering technology. Graduate students interested in car design typically study automotive engineering. Online programs & courses may be available.
Bachelor's Degrees Related to Car Design
A bachelor's degree in car design can be found in a variety of program majors, including automotive engineering technology, transportation design, industrial technology with a vehicle design emphasis and mechanical engineering with an automotive engineering emphasis. Along with manufacturing, materials and electronics, these programs include courses in car design.
At least a high school diploma or GED equivalent is required for admission. Students may also be required to complete prerequisite lower-level coursework or complete a minimum number of credit hours before they can enroll in the program.
Relevant program courses generally cover automotive systems and features in addition to design concepts. Course topics may include:
- Computer-aided design
- Manufacturing process
- Power systems
- Vehicle electronics
- Vehicle development
- Environmental and emission factors
Master's Degree in Automotive Engineering
A master's degree in automotive engineering allows students to focus on areas such as the design, marketing and manufacturing of vehicles, as well as on technological innovation within the automotive industry. Programs may be offered onsite or through distance education opportunities.
Individuals must typically possess a bachelor's degree for admission into these programs. A specific major may not be required, but relevant coursework or work experience in engineering may be preferred.
Graduate courses prepare students for a variety of professional responsibilities, including vehicle design, project management and product development. Coursework may include:
- Systems design
- Vehicle electronics
- Automotive marketing
- Product evaluation
- Quality assurance
Ph.D. in Automotive Engineering
Doctoral programs in automotive engineering allow students to perform research work in specific aspects of automotive engineering, such as technical and leadership roles. These programs may be completed in 3-4 years, either in part- or full-time formats. A dissertation may be required.
These programs typically require at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in engineering. For some programs, a master's degree program in a specific field, such as engineering or computer science, may be required.
Doctoral programs allow students to research an area of the automotive industry, with coursework centered around the chosen area of study. Subject areas may include:
- Automotive systems integration
- Industry management
- Control systems
- Environmental regulations
- Manufacturing logistics
Popular Career Options
Graduates may find employment working with automobiles, mass-transit systems, motorcycles and aircraft. Automotive designers may work with the interiors and exteriors of cars. They could find work at:
- Automotive-equipment manufacturers
- Car companies
- Product research facilities
- Manufacturing sites
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for mechanical engineers, including those in motor vehicle manufacturing, was $83,590 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). In the same period, electrical engineers, including professionals who design automotive electrical systems, earned a median annual salary of $93,010.
The BLS also reports that mechanical engineers overall can expect to see employment growth of five percent, while electrical engineers are expected to see little to no change in employment, from 2014-2024. In August 2016, PayScale.com noted that most professionals working in automotive engineering earned from $44,550-$98,915 before commission, profit sharing and bonuses.
Pursuing a career involving car design is possible with a degree related to automotive engineering. Programs at all degree levels allow for focused study on a variety of subjects within the automotive industry.