Become a Project Design Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a product design engineer. Research the education and training requirements, as well as the work experience needed for starting a career as a product design engineer.

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Should I Become A Project Design Engineer?

The job of a design engineer is to take the ideas of other people and turn them into a set of real plans that can actually be executed. A project design engineer may plan and oversee an interstate highway intersection, a skyscraper, an environmental treatment plant or thousands of other devices or building projects. He (or she) makes basic plans, collects resources, and may oversee various subcontractors. This job may require expertise in civil, environmental, mechanical, electrical or many other engineering specialties.

Career Requirements

Degree Level A minimum of a bachelor's degree in engineering.
Degree Field Any one of the engineering specialties (mechanical, civil, structural, etc); may require business courses.
Experience Practice as a working engineer is almost always needed before becoming a project design engineer and overseeing others.
Licensure and Certification State licensure as an engineer is required.
Key Skills Strong math background, expertise in a field of engineering, writing and verbal skills to communicate with others, business management skills.
Salary $82,060 per year (Median salary for Civil Engineers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (May, 2014)

Step 1: Obtain an Engineering Degree

An individual applying for an entry-level position as an engineer usually needs at least a bachelor's degree in engineering. Engineers specializing in one particular area of the field may obtain training in other specialties to improve job opportunities. For example, an individual specializing in electronics engineering might also obtain some training in mechanical engineering.

An engineering degree program includes courses in mathematics, physical science, design, life science and social science, as well as topics specific to engineering. Students also might pursue graduate programs specializing in one branch of engineering.

Step 2: Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering Examination

To offer engineering services directly to the public, engineers must obtain a state license. Passing the Fundamentals of Engineering examination is the first step to obtaining an license. Graduates of engineering degree programs qualify to take the first examination. Though engineers are not yet licensed at this stage, those who successfully pass the exam qualify to gain professional experience and continue the process of licensure.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

To qualify for a state license and the second part of the professional engineer's examination, individuals must obtain experience in the field. Relevant work experience is performed in the field of engineering under the direction and supervision of a qualified engineer. A state licensing board evaluates the candidate's work experience to determine eligibility for licensure as a professional.

Step 4: Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination

Engineers who successfully pass the Fundamentals of Engineering examination and gain acceptable and relevant work experience qualify for the Principles and Practice of Engineering examination. Candidates who pass the second part of the licensure examination qualify for a state license to practice as a professional engineer. The state may require the professional to complete continuing education courses to maintain his or her engineering license.

Step 5: Advance Your Career by Completing Certification

Obtain Project Management Training. The project design engineer is both a management and an engineering expert. Management training provides the professional engineer with instruction in planning, scheduling, monitoring and reporting in all phases of a design project. A training program can teach the engineer the skills to lead a team, delegate work assignments and evaluate the progress and results of a project.

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