Students at the bachelor's degree level learn the engineering principles needed for auto design and become proficient in skills such as computer-assisted drafting and visual design. An internship is typically a program requirement. To embark on a master's degree in the field, a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline is generally desired, and some programs may require undergraduate courses in automotive engineering structural mechanics and aerodynamics. At the graduate level, courses often cover management and auto production systems, as well as engineering principles.
Bachelor of Science in Vehicle Design
A bachelor's degree program in vehicle design provides students with an introduction to the processes, tools and materials used in automobile design. Students spend their first few years of study developing a background in the principles of industrial design, engineering, computer assisted drafting and visual design. Core courses in a bachelor's degree program in vehicle and automotive design provide students with an education in the fundamentals of design and engineering, while electives and supplementary courses focus on specialized design methods. Some examples of core course topics might include:
- Computer-aided design
- Engineering materials
- Vehicle design principles
- Computer programming fundamentals
- Economics of automotive manufacturing
- Automotive electronic systems
Master of Science in Automotive Engineering
Those who are interested in designing exterior and interior components of automobiles may consider enrolling in a master's degree program in automotive engineering. These programs are designed to further the technical competence and skills of automotive designers and engineers. Students in these programs learn about the advanced engineering processes that go into designing and manufacturing automobiles, while also studying management techniques and vehicle production systems. The courses included within a graduate degree program in automotive engineering are often divided into core systems engineering courses, management courses and engineering and design electives. Some possible course topics include:
- Vehicle systems design
- Fundamentals of combustion
- Automatic transmissions
- Quality control
- Operations management
Popular Career Options
Graduates are prepared for a variety of engineering and managerial positions in the automotive industry. Some specific career options for graduates might include:
- Automotive engineer
- Automotive designer
- Motor vehicle parts manufacturer
- Vehicle body and trailer manufacturer
- Project manager
Automotive designers can gain certification in the use of computer-aided design software such as AutoCAD by taking certification examinations online. Other professional organizations, including the Society of Automotive Engineers International (SAE) and the Chartered Society of Designers, offer professional certifications to vehicle designers.
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) groups statistics for automotive designers in with its figures for general industrial and commercial designers. The BLS reports that over 38,000 such designers were employed in the United States in 2014, and jobs are expected to increase by two percent from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). Commercial and industrial designers in general brought in a median salary of $67,130 per year as of May 2015, and those within the motor vehicle manufacturing industry earned a mean wage of $92,190 (www.bls.gov).
In order to pursue a career in auto design, students should seek a bachelor's degree in the field, where they will learn about engineering materials, automotive electronic systems, and other relevant topics. For more advanced training in the vehicle production process, a master's program may be beneficial and prepare students for careers as automotive engineers, designers, or similar positions.