Process Engineer Vs. Manufacturing Engineer

This article explores the subtle distinction between the focus of process engineers and mechanical engineers. Read on to compare their income levels, training and typical duties.

Comparing Process Engineers to Manufacturing Engineers

Process and manufacturing engineers are required to have a comparable level of education and typically work in similar environments. Process engineers enjoy a slightly higher annual salary; the job prospects in both career fields are comparable.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2017)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)**
Process Engineers Bachelor's degree $71,459 6% (engineers, all other)
Manufacturing Engineers Bachelor's degree $66,649 6% (engineers, all other)

Sources: *PayScale; **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Process Engineers vs. Manufacturing Engineers

Process and manufacturing engineers both play key roles in determining how things are made. Process engineers may work in a wide range of fields, including working with biochemical goods or chemicals and as part of their duties they may create safety protocols, including directions on how to handle dangerous materials. In their work they may concentrate on identifying ways to change the production process itself or they may concentrate on ways to improve the materials used in production in order to improve products or reduce costs. Manufacturing engineers can be involved in all stages of producing goods and are responsible for determining what equipment will be used and the specific method that will be followed to produce particular items. They also train staff to follow established production methods. They play a role in ensuring the production equipment is maintained and they also evaluate new types of equipment and methods that can be implemented to improve the production process.

Process Engineers

Process engineers concentrate on determining the best way to produce specific products. The training requirements may vary in this field, since different products may require different areas of specialization. Areas of study include a biochemistry engineering degree or a degree in materials science and engineering. Those interested in advancing to management may be required to have a Professional Engineer (PE) license. It's common for these professionals to be employed in manufacturing and they may primarily work in offices or laboratories, although they may also visit factories or production facilities.

Job responsibilities of a process engineer include:

  • Creating safety guidelines
  • Performing a cost-benefit analysis of proposed process changes
  • Determining appropriate training options for staff
  • Analyzing the materials used and how effective they are
  • Researching other potential materials and methods for production
  • Providing recommendations about how to improve production methods

Manufacturing Engineers

Manufacturing engineers help determine how products are constructed. They need to have a degree in engineering, such as electrical engineering or manufacturing engineering. Mechanical skills can be an asset for these professionals since their duties involve understanding how different machines work. Almost all of these professionals work for manufacturing companies and it's common for them to spend time working in an office as well as in a factory. Mathematical skills are also important in this field. They may be required to have a master's degree and Professional Engineer (PE) license if they want to pursue advancement to a role as an architectural and engineering manager.

Job responsibilities of a manufacturing engineer include:

  • Creating the method for producing specific products
  • Teaching production staff how to perform specific tasks
  • Ensuring equipment is maintained
  • Writing reports
  • Analyzing issues to determine how to correct them
  • Determining how to reduce production costs

Related Careers

Individuals considering a career as a process engineer may also be interested in exploring the work that biological engineers do, since they can also play a role in production. Another career option for those considering a future as a manufacturing engineer is to consider being an industrial engineer, since they also work in manufacturing.


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