Engineering Designer Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

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An engineering designer's median salary is around $74,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming an engineering designer is right for you.
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The Pros and Cons of an Engineering Design Career

An engineering designer, sometimes referred to as an industrial designer, applies theory and functional principles in his or her field to devise new industrial methods or products. If you want to learn about the pros and cons of a career as an engineering or industrial designer, just keep reading.

Pros of an Engineering Designer Career
Good salary relative to education ($73,862 for an intermediate design engineers as of January 2016)*
Freelance options available**
Flexibility with job locations**
Work with wide range of technologies**
Good opportunities for advancement**

Cons of an Engineering Designer Career
Long hours may include evenings and weekends**
Sluggish projected job growth (Two percent from 2014-2024)**
Potential for high levels of stress**
Competition from other designers**

Sources: *Salary.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Basic Career Information

Job Duties

Engineering and industrial designers work in a wide range of industries and their responsibilities are quite broad. Your work may involve everything from market research to product safety evaluation. Engineering designers also create models while examining which materials should be used for a product. They may also present designs to clients for approval. In general, you can be involved in just about every facet of the development and evaluation of a product while working as an engineering or industrial designer.

Many engineering and industrial designers use computers extensively in the course of their work. Computer-aided design (CAD) software makes it easy to keep track of changes that may be made as a design evolves. By using computer-aided industrial design (CAID) software, designers can create specific instructions that can be read by machines to build products.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for industrial designers is somewhat marginal. The BLS expects overall employment of industrial designers to increase by two percent from 2014-2024, slower than the average for all occupations. While consumer demand for new products and new product styles figures to remain strong, the manufacturing industry is expected to experience a decline that will impede growth for designers. In May 2014, the BLS reported a median annual salary of around $65,000 for industrial designers. In January 2016, Salary.com reported a median annual wage of almost $74,000 for intermediate-level design engineers.

Requirements

Most engineering or industrial design jobs require a bachelor's degree in a field related to engineering or architecture. Such programs usually feature courses in manufacturing methods, industrial materials and production processes. Training in CAD programs is also generally included. It's also important for prospective designers to keep an updated professional portfolio of their best design work.

Along with creativity and a keen eye for detail, you'll need to have well-developed communication skills to succeed as an engineering or industrial designer. You'll be expected to relay complex information to other members of a design team and to effectively demonstrate prototypes to clients. Designers also need to understand the technical aspects of how the products they design will work. This technical aptitude allows designers to innovate new uses and applications for the products they help to create.

What Are Employers Looking For?

If you're qualified to work as an engineering or industrial designer, you might find work in almost any industry. Most designers will focus on a particular product category. The following job postings from April 2012 offer a glimpse of what employers are looking for:

  • A large electronics corporation based in New York seeks an engineering designer to work on multiple projects. Responsibilities include developing complex 2D and 3D layouts, reviewing engineering drawings for constructability and ensuring that instructions are easily interpreted. The position requires an associate's degree in engineering and ten years of experience.
  • An Illinois company which manufactures vision inspection systems is looking for a mechanical designer. Making 3D models, evaluating cost impact, implementing equipment modifications and transmitting plans to production personnel are essential duties of the job. A degree in mechanical engineering is preferred for this position along with five to seven years of experience.
  • A lighting company with locations in New York and Vermont seeks a design engineer to develop prototypes and modify existing designs. The successful candidate will help the company design products based on marketing feedback and cost effectiveness. A bachelor's degree and experience with CAD software are preferred.

Standing Out in the Field

You'll likely face stiff competition for engineering design jobs, and you may even have to compete with other designers working in your company. If you'd like to set yourself apart from others in the field, you may want to consider an advanced degree in business. Having a degree like a Master of Business Administration (MBA) might help you to understand how to fit a new product or product design into an organization's overall business plan.

Another way to stand out from other prospective designers is to be proficient in a range of computer design applications. While AutoCAD is probably the most common program, being knowledgeable about other applications like Inventor or Solidworks can be helpful. You can also enhance your professional profile by maintaining up-to-date technical skills related to your industry. This technical aptitude can help you relate new designs to product trends.

Alternative Career Options

Architect

You might want to explore a career as an architect if you find designing larger structures more appealing. Architects generally need to complete a bachelor's degree, gain experience through an internship and pass the Architect Registration Exam. The BLS projects a faster than average job growth for architects of 24% from 2010-2020 and reports a median annual salary of around $73,000 as of May 2011.

Drafter

If the process of design itself is more interesting to you, a career as a drafter may be an intriguing option. Drafting involves converting the designs of engineers and architects into plans. You might find yourself planning the construction of a tiny microchip or a massive skyscraper while working as a professional drafter. Entry-level drafters usually need only an associate's degree, and the BLS reports a median salary of almost $48,000 for drafters as of May 2010. While this certainly indicates a good salary payoff relative to education requirements, the BLS projects slower than average job growth for drafters of just six percent from 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology
      • Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. The Art Institutes

    Program Options

    Associate's
      • Drafting Technology & Design (AS)
      • Drafting Technology & Design (AS)
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma: Drafting with AutoCAD
      • Career Diploma: Drafting with AutoCAD
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • PhD in Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
      • PhD-TIM - Engineering Management
    Master's
      • MSTIM - Engineering Magagement
      • MBA - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Systems Engineering
      • Master: Computer Engineering
      • MS - Computer Science - Software Engineering
    Bachelor's
      • BS - IT - Software Systems Engineering
  • Campus Locations:
    7. CDI College

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Diploma in Computer-Aided Design and Drafting Specialist
      • Diploma in Network Systems Engineer
  • Logan, UT

    Utah State University

  • Online Programs Available
    9. ECPI University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor's - Electronics Engineering Technology
    Associate's
      • Associate's - Electronics Engineering Technology

Featured Schools

Purdue University

  • Master of Science in Education in Learning Design and Technology

What is your highest level of education?

The Art Institutes

  • Drafting Technology & Design (AS)

What is your highest level of education?

Penn Foster Career School

  • Career Diploma: Drafting with AutoCAD

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Management of Engineering and Technology
  • MSTIM - Engineering Magagement
  • MBA - Management of Engineering and Technology

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Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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Colorado Technical University

  • MS - Systems Engineering
  • Master: Computer Engineering
  • BS - IT - Software Systems Engineering

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CDI College

  • Diploma in Computer-Aided Design and Drafting Specialist
  • Diploma in Network Systems Engineer

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