Patent Engineer Career Growth

Feb 13, 2020

Patent engineers apply their technological or scientific expertise to the patent process. Career opportunities for patent engineers are examined here, including options in the patent, legal, and education fields.

Patent Engineer Career Opportunities

Patent engineers, also known as patent agents, have a thorough understanding of a scientific, engineering, or technological area, and they apply that knowledge to the complex patent application process for their employer or clients. They often have a bachelor's or master's degree in their field, and are licensed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Patent engineers looking for a career change have several options open to them, some of which require additional graduate education. Four possible careers within the government, legal, and education sectors are examined here, including their qualifications and common responsibilities.

Job Title Median Annual Salary Job Growth (2018-2028)** Qualifications
Patent Examiner $101,641 (2020)* 12% (paralegals and legal assistants) Bachelor's or master's degree in area of engineering or technology; meets all qualifications for federal employment
Patent Attorney $137,347 (2020)* 6% (all lawyers) Juris Doctor degree; state bar association license
Senior Law Partner $245,283 (2020)* 6% (all lawyers) Juris Doctor degree; state bar association license; several years of legal experience
Postsecondary Law Teacher $111,140 (2018)** 10% Juris Doctor or Doctorate in Legal Studies degree; active state bar association license; teaching experience

Source: *, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Career Information

Patent Examiner

A patent engineer can transition easily into the role of a patent examiner. Patent examiners work on the receiving end of the patent process by reviewing applications, researching technical and legal documentation, and collaborating with other patent experts to make sure applications meet all approval requirements. They are typically employed by U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The same skills and requirements for a patent engineer are qualifications for a patent examiner, including a bachelor's or master's degree in a technology-related field, or a combination of technological education and work experience. Patent engineers must also meet the qualifications for government employment.

Patent Attorney

With additional education, a patent engineer is in a strong position to move into the role of patent attorney. Patent attorneys provide the services of a patent engineer, completing technological research and drafting patent applications. However, patent attorneys can also provide their clients with legal advice and representation in the case of intellectual property disputes. The majority of patent attorneys work in law firms, though they may also find employment in the corporate or education sectors. In addition to an understanding of the engineering or technology field, requirements include a Juris Doctor (JD) degree and licensing with a state bar association.

Senior Law Partner

If choosing the patent attorney career path, a patent engineer may begin as an associate in a law firm with the aspiration to become a senior law partner. A senior law partner is a part-owner of their law firm. This role has an increase in both responsibilities and benefits within the firm. Senior law partners can be responsible for the supervision and management of legal teams, case management, client recruitment, and daily administration. Senior law partners have a JD degree, a state bar association license, and several years of successful legal expertise.

Postsecondary Law Teacher

Finally, additional education alongside their work experience can lead a patent engineer to the job of a postsecondary law teacher. Law teachers at the postsecondary level teach within colleges or universities. Job opportunities can range from part-time adjunct to full-time tenure-track positions. Postsecondary teachers are responsible for teaching, grading, and advising students. Some universities and colleges also require faculty to publish scholarly research in their field of study. Postsecondary employers might seek applicants with a JD degree or a doctorate in legal studies and may also require an active state bar association license. Applicants with teaching experience might have an advantage.

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