Should I Become a Sales Engineer?
Sales engineers perform many of the same duties as other salespeople, but they're differentiated by their technical understanding of a complex and detailed product and their ability to explain its functions to customers. Many of these professionals have experience as traditional engineers prior to transitioning to the sales force. While many sales engineers present the product and close sales themselves, some may have the opportunity to work in collaboration with a traditional sales team. This allows the sales engineer to focus his or her strengths on the scientific or technical aspects of the product being sold while the sales team focuses on pitching and selling.
Sales engineers work under pressure daily, as most typically earn their income based off of sales commissions as well as job performance. Depending on the sales setting, evening and weekend work may be required; some sales jobs require traveling, which means sales workers may be away from home for days or weeks at a time.
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Engineering or a comparable scientific discipline|
|Experience||Firsthand experience is required for licensure and career advancement; training is often provided on the job|
|Licensure||A Professional Engineer license is required by some employers|
|Key Skills||Problem-solving, salesmanship and communication skills; technical skills such as advanced knowledge of the products being sold and ability to assist customers with any technical problems|
|Salary (2014)||$96,340 annually (median salary for all sales engineers)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
According to the BLS, many jobs for sales engineers require a bachelor's degree in engineering. Students might look to programs that are approved by ABET, formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. According to ABET, accreditation may be required or preferred by licensing boards, employers or graduate schools.
Engineering programs contain required classes in math and science, as well as foundational engineering and general education courses. Upper-division coursework varies by discipline and can range from classes in thermodynamics to biomedical instrumentation. As students advance, they can take on more specialized courses and complete hands-on design projects or lab assignments.
- Participate in extracurricular opportunities. In a bachelor's degree program, students might complete cooperative internships to gain work experience and make professional contacts. Students also might join a sales engineering or general engineering club at their college for networking opportunities, career advice and academic assistance.
- Consider a certificate program. Some schools give engineering students the opportunity to earn a sales engineer certificate on top of their bachelor's degree. Certificate programs might cover topics like strategic sales, technical writing and effective communication methods.
Step 2: Gain Sales Experience
After obtaining their engineering degree, it is important for new graduates to gain firsthand sales experience. This experience will allow them to advance to a sales engineer position as well as prepare them for licensure. New workers may be given the opportunity to work with a more experienced sales representative who can help them learn the procedures and nuances of pitching a product to a customer and closing a sale.
Step 3: Consider Licensure
Some employers require their sales engineers to be professionally licensed. Applicants typically need to gain work experience and pass two exams that are administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. The Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam must be taken first, usually while a student is still in school. It contains 180 multiple choice questions and takes eight hours to complete. The Professional Engineering (PE) exam is completed after an engineer has been working for at least four years. Both exams cover different engineering specialties.
Step 4: Continue Your Education
The BLS suggests that sales engineers typically must continue their education to stay current with changing trends and products in their field. Additionally, re-training may be required as old technology becomes obsolete. If a worker receives PE licensure, he or she must also pursue training to renew this credential.
- Know your product. The most successful sales engineers are those who have the strongest understanding of the products being sold. Workers often can prove more valuable by suggesting improvements to products for better sales.