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Automotive Design Engineer: Career Information and Requirements

Sep 24, 2019

Automotive design engineers require little formal education. Learn about the education, job duties and required skills to see if this is the right career for you.

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If you spent your childhood lying on the floor drawing pictures of cars, then becoming an automotive design engineer might be your dream come true. Start by earning a bachelor's degree, and build a portfolio of work during your time as a student to be considered for employment in this field.

Essential Information

Automotive design engineers create or improve motor vehicle bodies, parts and accessories. Designers are expected to complete a bachelor's degree program in industrial design or a related field, such as mechanical engineering.

Careers Industrial Designer Mechanical Engineer Electrical Engineer
Required Education Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 3% 4% 5%
Mean Annual Salary (2018)* $71,430 $92,800 $101,600

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Automotive Design Engineers

Automotive design includes industrial designers, mechanical engineers and electrical engineers, who collectively develop or improve motor vehicle structures, accessories, engines and related systems. Commercial and industrial design jobs were projected to increase by 3% from 2018-2028, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). Meanwhile, data from the BLS indicates that mechanical engineers may experience a 4% growth rate, and electrical engineers should see 5% growth over the same period. The BLS reported that the mean salary for commercial and industrial designers working in motor vehicle manufacturing was $92,560 in May 2018. Mechanical engineers working in machinery manufacturing industry earned a mean salary of $84,240 in 2018. Electrical engineers were paid a mean salary of $101,600 that year, based on data from the BLS.

Requirements to Become an Automotive Design Engineer

Automotive design engineers combine creative aesthetics with a practical understanding of engineering. Designers often interact with mechanical and industrial engineers to create designs feasible for production, and have knowledge of raw materials, engineering techniques and production processes. Automotive design engineers draw by hand and utilize computer design software.

They are expected to complete at least a bachelor's degree program. Relevant fields include mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, industrial design and automotive design. Coursework includes design principles, sketching, 3D modeling, design presentation and computer-assisted design. Art and industrial design history and engineering technology courses can provide a beneficial foundation. Employers expect to see a portfolio of a designer's work, which can be developed over the course of a degree program.

Automotive design engineering is a combination of art and science; a strong aesthetic sense is needed, as well as a solid grounding in the engineering and materials involved in building cars and their component parts. You can build both sets of skills through a bachelor's degree program while amassing a set of sketches and designs to help prove yourself to employers. Industrial designers and mechanical and electrical engineers, all jobs related to automotive design engineering, can expect to see slower than average growth in jobs through the 2018-2028 decade.

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