Thermodynamic Engineer: Job Description and Education Requirements

Sep 29, 2019

A career as a thermodynamic engineer requires significant formal education. Learn about the degree requirements, job duties and career and salary info to see if this is the right career for you.

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A thermodynamic engineer often works in an office, manufacturing plant or laboratory, and oversees the planning and production of various products or machinery to ensure they are safe, cost-effective and of acceptable quality. They employ concepts in thermodynamics when they are designing and developing equipment or products, which can be quite complex, such as a solar energy system.

Essential Information

Thermodynamic engineers apply theories of heat and energy transfer to create practical solutions to technical problems. They're responsible for the design, development and testing of products and machinery. This includes providing project time and cost estimates, supervising product manufacturing and evaluating the product for factors like quality, safety and cost. Engineers usually work in offices, labs or industrial plants, but often visit manufacturing sites to monitor production. They typically work 40 hours per week, but may work longer hours when deadlines approach. A bachelor's degree in a related field such as chemical or mechanical engineering is required since most programs do not offer degrees expressly in thermodynamics. Advanced degrees are necessary for higher-level professional positions.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in chemical or mechanical engineering; master's and doctoral degrees allow for professional advancement
Projected Job Growth (2016-2026)* 5-9% (for solar energy systems engineers)
Median Salary (2018)* $96,980 (for solar energy systems engineers)

Source: *O*Net OnLine

Career Information

As reported by O*Net OnLine, solar energy systems engineers, who employ thermodynamics in the design and analysis of solar and energy efficient systems, could see as faster-than-average employment growth during the 2016-2026 decade. The projected growth rate for these engineers is expected to be between 5 and 9% during that time. O*Net reports that these engineers earned a median annual salary of $95,900 in 2018.

Thermodynamic Engineer Education Requirements

While colleges and universities generally don't offer undergraduate degrees focused specifically in thermodynamics, most offer bachelor's degree programs in related concentrations, such as chemical or mechanical engineering. A bachelor's degree may be adequate for beginning a career in engineering, but advanced positions in thermodymanics often require a graduate degree with a concentration in thermodynamics, thermofluids or a related field. Students typically must hold a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering to gain admission into graduate-level programs in thermodynamics.

Certificate Programs

Graduate-level certificate programs are typically designed for professional engineers who need a solid foundation in the practical applications of thermofluids. Prior coursework requirements may include mathematics, heat transfer and basic thermodynamics. These programs are generally 16 credit-hours and feature coursework in statistical and equilibrium thermodynamics, gas dynamics and fluid mechanics.

Master's Degree Programs

A master's degree program in thermodynamics may include courses such as heat transfer, fluid dynamics, energy conversion, combustion and engineering instrumentation. Students may be required to also take core classes in mechanical engineering and applied mathematics. Most master's degree programs take around two years to complete, and some schools offer combination master's and Ph.D. programs in this field.

Ph.D. Programs

Doctoral programs in thermodynamics are designed for engineers who are interested in academia and research. These programs typically require bachelor's and master's degrees in engineering and applicants may be required to take a series of oral and written comprehension examinations. Ph.D. students will spend a large amount of time performing laboratory research in thermoscience areas, such as heat transfer, combustion and energy dynamics.

Entry-level positions in this industry typically require a bachelor's degree in a discipline such as mechanical or chemical engineering; however, in order to advance to a higher position within the field of thermodynamic engineering, a master's or doctoral degree is needed because thermodynamics is not taught as a concentration in undergraduate studies.

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