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Be a Reliability Engineer: Duties, Outlook and Requirements

Find out how to become a reliability engineer. Research the education requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in engineering.

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Should I Become a Reliability Engineer?

Reliability engineers utilize principles of math, science and engineering to make industrial manufacturing and production processes and products more efficient and dependable. A reliability engineer's primary job is to test current processes and note any failures. They also look for ways to cut costs while maintaining reliable products and production methods, such as adjusting materials, equipment and employees used in the production process.

Reliability engineers might work in an office, but they're just as likely to be out in the field, making observations directly, so travel is sometimes required in this job. These professionals might find work with a broad array of companies, such as aerospace product and parts manufacturers, architectural and engineering firms, and management companies.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree required, some employers prefer a graduate degree
Degree Field Mechanical, Electrical or other engineering
Licensure Licensure as a Professional Engineer required
Experience 2-5+ years of experience required for many positions
Computer Skills Software such as ReliaSoft Weibull++ 6, C++, Auto CAD
Key Skills Math skills, creativity, problem solving skills
Salary (2015) $83,500 per year (Median salary for reliability engineers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerBuilder.com (December 2012), O*Net OnLine, Payscale.com (July 2015)

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering

Bachelor's programs emphasize manufacturing, design principles and computer-aided design. These programs also include advanced math and science requirements like calculus, physics and differential equations.

Success Tips:

  • Consider an advanced degree. Some employers may prefer candidates who hold a master's degree. There are graduate degree programs available in reliability engineering at some universities or one could pursue advanced education in mechanical engineering or a related area. These programs generally last 2 years and may require the completion of a research project or thesis.
  • Consider an internship. While in school, engineering students may consider completing an internship to gain practical experience. Internships often take place in the summer and allow students to work full-time under the supervision of practicing engineers.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

The job listings cited also required a minimum of 2-5 years of related experience. The BLS noted that many engineers begin their careers under the supervision of more experienced colleagues before advancing with experience and taking on greater responsibilities. Additionally, the BLS noted that industrial engineers may eventually take managerial positions at their company, since much of their job relates to management.

Step 3: Attain a License

Many engineers become licensed. While requirements vary by state, licensure typically includes completing an ABET-accredited engineering program, obtaining 4 years of work experience and passing a state examination. College students close to graduation may take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam. Individuals who pass this exam are referred to as engineers-in-training (EITs).

Once an EIT has accumulated 4 years of documented work experience, they may take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Successful completion of this exam results in the Professional Engineer (PE) designation.

Success Tip:

  • Obtain professional certification. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) offers voluntary professional certifications, such as the Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE) designation. Individuals must meet specific educational and professional requirements to sit for the CRE exam. Certification requirements may include 8 years of engineering practice or postgraduate study in lieu of experience.

Step 4: Continue Earning an Education

PEs must meet continuing education standards to maintain their license in most states. The specific requirements vary by state but continuing education credits may be earned through various activities, including attending seminars or completing workshops. Renewal typically occurs on an annual or biannual basis. Some professional certifications may require continuing education as well.

Step 5: Become a Technical Specialist

According to the BLS, it is possible for industrial engineers to find advancement opportunities as technical specialists. With this position they would be leading teams of technicians or engineers, helping to plan and coordinate.

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