Car Design College Degree Program Overviews

While the curriculum of a car design program will vary by program and school, some of the common classes address topics like design materials, marketing, leadership and electronics. There are numerous design, research and manufacturing careers available to graduates with an undergraduate or graduate degree in car design.

Essential Information

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.

  • Program Levels in Car Design: Bachelor's degree in automotive engineering technology, transportation design, industrial technology with a vehicle design emphasis or mechanical engineering with an automotive engineering emphasis; master's degree in automotive engineering; Ph.D. in automotive engineering.
  • Prerequisites: A high school diploma or its equivalent is required for a bachelor's degree; a bachelor's degree is required for a master's degree or Ph.D.
  • Online Availability: Online programs are available.
  • Program Length: A bachelor's degree takes four years; a master's degree takes two years; a Ph.D. generally takes three or four years.

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.

Doctoral 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 mean annual salary for mechanical engineers in motor vehicle manufacturing in May 2014 was $78,340 ( In the same period, electrical engineers, including professionals who design automotive electrical systems, earned a mean annual salary of $95,780.

The BLS also reporta that mechanical engineers overall can expect to see employment growth of five percent, while electrical engineers are expected to see an employment growth of four percent, from 2012-2022. In June of 2015, noted that most professionals working in automotive engineering earned from $40,760 - $102,637 before commission, profit sharing and bonuses.

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