Responsibilities of a Chief Engineer

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a chief engineer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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Just as a chief engineer can have many different working environments, such as an outdoor construction site, an office, or a production factory, they have many responsibilities as well. These often include duties related to the procurement of project resources, the development of plans for the various phases of a project, and overseeing the manufacturing process. A chief engineer also requires strong leadership skills, as they are responsible for assigning engineers with specific tasks, as well as handling any disputes that might arise between team members.

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Essential Information

Chief engineers take part in creating practical solutions for an improved standard of living. Their specific plans and designs are then executed in tangible materials.

The chief engineer is responsible for the technical supervision of the development, production or operation of an engineering project for a multinational corporation, a major company or a government institution. The chief engineer's presence is expected both in the office and on location. He/she may work outdoors, on a factory floor or near the construction site.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in engineering
Other Requirements Excellent problem-solving skills
Projected Job Growth 2% for architectural and engineering managers from 2014-2024*
Median Salary (2015) $132,800 annually*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

General Responsibilities

As a team leader, the chief engineer works with other managerial staff to ensure project completion in an efficient manner. He/she oversees each phase of the installation, equipment maintenance or product development so that the team meets company specifications and complies with federal and state regulations.

Specific duties may vary widely, according to the type of job and the field of engineering. Most assignments, however, would require that a chief engineer:

  • determines the goals of the company or organization
  • devises plans for each phase of the project
  • identifies and procures the resources needed
  • recruits engineering staff
  • performs quality control checks, ensuring the safety and effectiveness or reliability of the system or product
  • evaluates the costs within a specific time frame.
  • supervises the installation of the equipment or the manufacturing process of a product
  • negotiates with team members to generate ideas and clarify specifications
  • delegates tasks as necessary to engineering team
  • resolves disputes between team members


Chief engineers play an integral role in the overall success of a project. The position entails a four year degree in an engineering specialty required by the company, a minimum of four years of experience in a supervisory role, preferably managing a team of ten or more engineers and an outstanding record of successful projects. They must also demonstrate a thorough knowledge of industry codes. A master's degree in engineering is usually preferred.

Additional Qualifications

Chief engineers must show evidence of excellent problem solving skills as well as keen analytical abilities. They must have strong leadership qualities, as well as excellent communication skills. They should be able to negotiate with team members.

The resumes of these professionals should reflect an understanding of new technologies and cutting edge methods in the field. It is vital that chief engineers constantly update their education. For example, chemical engineers should be ready to demonstrate familiarity with nanotechnology principles.

Certain civil engineering or other public oriented jobs may require state licensure. Defense contractors will mandate that the engineering staff submit to a security clearance.

Job Salary and Related Information

Potential earnings for chief engineers are relatively high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), engineering managers earned an annual median salary of $132,800, as reported in May of 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also predicted a 2% increase in job opportunities for architectural and engineering managers during the 2014-2024 decade, which is slower than average compared to all occupations.

Chief engineers must have at least a bachelor's degree in an engineering program that is specifically related to a particular company's needs; however, a master's degree might be preferred by many employers. Supervisory or management experience is likewise needed for individuals in this role. Superb problem-solving skills is also important for a chief engineer to have.

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