Manufacturing Design Engineer
Manufacturing design engineering is a branch of mechanical engineering that studies product, process, and manufacturing design and management. Engineers in this field develop and improve manufacturing processes and product designs. They also test assembly designs and look for ways to improve efficiency, as well as review the final product to ensure it complies with customer and government standards. These professionals generally use computer-aided design (or CAD) software to create, modify and test prototypes of products and processes, including computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines. Travel to work sites might be required, and many engineers work weekly overtime. This position is team-oriented.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's for entry-level positions|
|Degree Fields||Mechanical engineering or related field|
|Licensure and Certification||Some positions may require licensure; voluntary professional certification is available|
|Experience||Varies; at least four years of experience is required for licensure|
|Key Skills||Creativity, listening and problem-solving skills; ability to use industry-specific software, such as those used for CAD, industrial control and project management; familiarity with related tools, like calipers and micrometers; understanding of engineering science techniques, production processes, and blueprints|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$83,590 (for all mechanical engineers)|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online.
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Students enrolling in a four-to-five-year engineering program generally begin with prerequisite courses, such as chemistry and advanced mathematics. Once students are accepted into the major, they may begin taking specialized courses in design optimization, control systems, and manufacturing management.
Some manufacturing and design undergraduate programs may offer a technical option. These interdisciplinary programs are intended to prepare students for professional positions, such as design engineer supervisor, manufacturing system design engineer and product design engineer. Core classes include computer-aided engineering, product design optimization, reliability engineering, scientific problem solving, and fundamentals of project management.
Engineering students may also choose to take introduction to CAD courses in order to become familiarized with the design process. Topics may range from analyzing production systems to simulating alterations in manufacturing design. Some programs may offer students an opportunity to create an engineering portfolio, including developing and presenting a product prototype.
When planning for a successful career as a manufacturing design engineer, it can be important to attend an accredited program. Even though some employers may not require graduation from an Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredited program, it may assist with becoming a licensed professional engineer.
Students may also consider a certificate program. Some institutions offer programs that culminate in a Certificate in Engineering Design (or a CED). In general, these are interdisciplinary programs open to all majors and are intended to provide the hands-on experience needed to complete a design portfolio.
Step 2: Advanced Design Software
Manufacturing design engineers may also be expected to be proficient in CAD and other design software. Engineers use these programs to develop, review and test their designs for quality standards, manufacturing capability and system reliability. Some employers may call for applicants to have experience with specific design software, such as AutoCAD or SolidEdge. Other employers may require candidates to have working knowledge of CNC programming and usage. Prospective engineers may develop this experience through entry-level positions, such as a drafter or mechanical engineering technician.
When looking at various engineering positions, make sure to review position-specific guidelines. It's important, for example, that engineers review the licensure guidelines. In all states, mechanical engineers who provide services to the public must be licensed. Licensing applicants usually need to have graduated from an ABET-accredited program and pass a state exam. Approximately four years of direct experience is also required.
Aspiring workers in this field can also obtain certification. Organizations like the National Inspection, Testing and Certification Corporation and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers provide options for voluntary professional certification. This may assist with maintaining competitiveness and increasing opportunities for advancement.
Step 3: Find a Job
Manufacturing design engineers can work in a variety of fields, such as architecture, computer services, development, and business management. In addition to working in engineering services and the federal government, these engineers may also work in research or manufacturing. While architectural engineering and similar areas employ have the highest employment numbers for these engineers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they also work in the aerospace, electro-medical, and navigational areas.
Step 4: Earn a Graduate Degree
There are a number of master's degree programs available in manufacturing and design, and earning a graduate degree can sometimes pave the way for additional career opportunities. Master's programs delve into topics such as control systems, process design, and automation. Some may offer students the option of completing a thesis, research, or design project incorporating computer technology, or other current advancements, into a specific manufacturing process. Joint degree programs in engineering and business administration are also available.
When considering a career as a manufacturing design engineer, be prepared to earn a minimum of a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, some additional certifications for design software, and a state license if working for the public. These engineering professionals create, develop, and improve manufacturing processes and products through the use of computer aided design and engineering software and equipment.