How to Become an Automotive Designer: Degree & Course Requirements

Oct 25, 2019

Automotive designers carefully shape and plan the designs for cars, trucks, and other types of motorized vehicles in order to maximize comfort, increase aerodynamics, and provide aesthetic appeal. Keep reading to learn about car design degrees, automotive design courses, and more.

What Do Automotive Designers Do?

Automotive designers are a type of industrial designer who specialize in development on automotive vehicles, including cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles or off-road vehicles. They often have further specialties, such as designing interiors or exteriors. Automotive designers usually work in teams and may be required to sculpt scale models of their designs out of clay and create 3D models with special software. Designers must work closely alongside engineering teams to ensure their designs are capable of accommodating the features and components intended for inclusion. Striking a balance between functionality, aesthetics, comfort, and cost is a key responsibility of automotive designers, and designs may go through dozens of revisions before receiving final approval.

Car Designer Education Requirements

A bachelor's degree in industrial design or transport design is typically required to begin work as an automobile designer. When selecting an automotive design school, it is recommended to look for universities accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). While earning an automotive design degree, a student should focus on producing a portfolio of work through their classes, which can then be used to apply for jobs in car design after graduation. Although a formal education in design is usually required, an individual's success at finding a position in the field will most heavily rely on the quality of their portfolio.

Master's degrees in industrial design and transportation design also exist. These degree programs do not always require a related undergraduate degree, but applicants without one will need to demonstrate that they already possess some ability in the area of design. A master's degree may be beneficial when attempting to advance to higher positions, such as chief designer for a team, and can help an applicant stand out in the highly competitive field of design.

Car Design Major Courses

Aside from general education courses, there are many common classes that students interested in auto designing are likely to take. Some of these courses include:

  • 3D/Digital modeling
  • Imaging and visualization
  • History and Principles of design
  • Drawing for industrial designers
  • Power systems

Students will be expected to take courses in mathematics and physics as well, to better understand concepts like aerodynamics and the forces that motor vehicles will have to endure. Many programs also include at least one course each semester dedicated to studio time, where students will have access to materials and equipment needed to create the designs they are working on. Major evaluations are common in these types of programs, so experts in the field recommend getting in plenty of hands-on studio time.

Auto Designer Salary and Career Info

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the expected job growth in the field of industrial design over the period from 2016 to 2026 is 4%, which is lower than the national average of 7%. Some of this slow growth can be attributed to the decline in manufacturing jobs within the US overall, and BLS suggests that those seeking employment in this field will do best if they possess skills in modern computer-aided design techniques. The median annual income for industrial designers overall is $66,590, which includes auto designers.

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