Certified Reliability Engineer Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about a certified reliability engineer's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career in reliability engineering.
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Pros and Cons of a Certified Reliability Engineering Career

Reliability engineers use their knowledge of engineering and the manufacturing process to help companies develop the best possible products, which can range from aircraft communication systems to medical equipment. Check out the pros and cons of being a certified reliability engineer to see if it's the right career for you.

Pros of Being a Certified Reliability Engineer
High salary range ($62,000-$118,000 in July 2015)*
Jobs available in a variety of industries (chemical manufacturing, defense, pharmaceuticals)*
Can help improve the quality of consumer products**
Opportunity to assume a leadership position over a team of engineers**

Cons of Being a Certified Reliability Engineer
Many years of relevant work experience required for certification***
May work long hours (mechanical engineers often work 60 hours per week)****
Extensive industry-specific knowledge often required for employment**
Requires advanced skills in mathematics and statistics***

Sources: *Payscale.com, **June 2012 Monster.com job advertisements, ***American Society for Quality, ****U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

As a reliability engineer, you could work with design and production teams in various industries, including government, chemical manufacturing, aerospace and machinery manufacturing. The goal of reliability engineers is to increase the dependability of engineered products or systems by using a variety of analytical techniques. Reliability engineers use computer engineering equipment to conduct failure analysis on product designs, which allows engineers to determine the probability of performance failures and identify the causes.

These engineers also perform stress tests on new products to find design weaknesses, thus reducing the risk of failures. After performing a variety of tests and analyzing the results, reliability engineers make recommendations for design or manufacturing changes that might improve production costs and quality. Your other job duties as a reliability engineer can include training team members in reliability engineering and determining which equipment and employees to use in the production process.

Salary and Job Outlook Info

According to PayScale.com, most certified reliability engineers made about $62,000-$118,000 as of July 2015. Salaries for engineers vary depending on several factors, such as your specific industry. For example, the American Society for Quality (ASQ) used data gathered from Quality Progress Magazine's 2014 survey to determine that certified reliability engineers in the defense industry generally earned more than those working for companies that manufactured industrial machinery.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that mechanical and materials engineering positions were expected to grow 5% and 1%, respectively, from 2012-2022, which was slower than the average for other occupations (www.bls.gov). The most recent data from the BLS found that this sluggish growth is in part due to companies' increased use of temporary workers for short-term engineering projects.

What Are the Requirements?

The ASQ offers the Certified Reliability Engineer (CRE) credential to engineers who show extensive knowledge in the maintainability and reliability of manufactured products (asq.org). Although the ASQ certifies engineers who don't have college degrees, most employers only hire applicants with at least bachelor's degrees in mechanical, electrical or aeronautical engineering. To become certified, you need eight years of related work experience (with three years spent in a decision-making capacity), but if you have a bachelor's degree, only four years of experience are required. Certification can be given after you pass a 4-hour written exam that covers topics including probability and statistics, reliability testing, management and data collection.

Needed Skills

In addition to having the work experience and knowledge required for certification, you'll need a range of interpersonal and technical skills. Based on June 2012 job postings from Monster.com, general qualifications for reliability engineers include:

  • Innovative thinking
  • Ability to multitask in a fast-paced environment
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Ability to communicate effectively with customers and team members on projects
  • Management skills

What Employers Are Looking for

Job listings for certified reliability engineers typically request applicants with bachelor's degrees in various engineering fields and related work experience. Although not all the following job advertisements require certification, these postings can give you an idea of other requirements employers may request.

  • A well-known electronics company in Massachusetts seeks a certified reliability engineer to improve the quality of new medical equipment. Candidates must have a bachelor's degree in engineering and at least five years of experience working with reliability tools. Other qualifications include Six Sigma certification and experience assembling circuit boards.
  • A Kentucky chemical manufacturing company wants candidates who hold a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and have spent at least five years working as a reliability engineer. Experience repairing turbines, ANSI and API pumps, gears, air compressors and mechanical seals is preferred. Other requested qualifications include knowledge of the National Electrical Code and the federal environment, health and safety regulations.
  • A company in Texas that manufactures military and commercial helicopters is advertising for candidates with 12 years of related work experience and a bachelor's degree in mechanical, electrical or aeronautical engineering. Ideal applicants should be proficient in Microsoft Office and have customer service skills.
  • A New York corporation is looking for an engineer to work with military and commercial electronic communication and sensor systems. The job requirements include four years of work experience and the ability to receive a secret clearance from the U.S. Department of Defense. A bachelor's degree in the engineering field is accepted, but a master's degree is preferred.

How Can I Stand out?

Reliability engineers can stand out in the job market by keeping their knowledge and skills up to date. By joining organizations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals, you might gain opportunities to attend educational conferences and share knowledge with other professionals in the field of engineering. Other benefits include networking opportunities and access to online publications, membership directories and job boards.

Additionally, you can set yourself apart from other applicants by mastering certain advanced technical skills related to reliability or mechanical engineering. Employers may prefer certified reliability engineers who have the following qualifications:

  • Familiarity with the Six Sigma management strategy
  • Ability to perform root cause failure analysis
  • Familiarity with reliability tests, including Highly Accelerated Stress Testing
  • Fluency with computer-aided design software
  • Familiarity with fault tree analysis
  • Knowledge of hydraulics, avionics and propulsion

Other Careers to Consider

Mechanical Engineering Technician

If you're interested in engineering, but a reliability engineer career doesn't sound like the right fit for you, consider becoming a mechanical engineering technician. In this role, you can help mechanical engineers perform their daily tasks by setting up product testing equipment, drawing designs for new parts, recording test results and reviewing blueprints before construction. These technicians usually can find work with an associate's degree in mechanical engineering technology from a community college or technical school. Since the education requirements are fewer than those for reliability engineers, technicians made lower median annual salaries of about $51,000, as reported by the BLS in May 2011.

Architectural and Engineering Manager

If you're looking for a leadership role within the engineering world, you can supervise reliability engineers and other members of an engineering team by becoming an architectural and engineering manager. You'll be responsible for coordinating with suppliers and contractors, determining the equipment needs and budget for a project, hiring staff and making plans to ensure that goals are met. These managers need at least bachelor's degrees, although many have master's degrees in fields such as engineering management, along with several years of experience. According to the BLS, architectural and engineering managers earned higher salaries than reliability engineers, bringing in a median wage of just over $122,000 in May 2011.

Mechanical Drafter

If you wish to start a career in engineering and planning, but don't want to earn a bachelor's degree, you might become a mechanical drafter. Working under the supervision of engineers, mechanical drafters electronically create drawings that show aspects of machinery, such as dimensions, needed for construction. You'll need to earn an associate's degree in mechanical drafting technology, which requires courses in physics, engineering materials, computer-aided drafting and machine processes. The BLS reported that the median annual salary for mechanical drafters was approximately $49,000 in May 2011.

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