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Automotive engineer: job description

Automotive engineer: job description

Automotive engineers work as part of a team responsible for vehicle design, development, manufacture and testing.
You will need a degree in a subject such as automotive, mechanical or electrical engineering, physics, computing or materials science.

What does an automotive engineer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Automotive engineers are involved in the design, manufacture, distribution, marketing, sales and after-sales care of cars (including racing cars), motorbikes and other commercial vehicles. Engineers will work on the aesthetics and technical performance of these vehicles and, increasingly, the electronics and software involved with modern vehicles.

Responsibilities of the job typically include:

  • assessing project requirements
  • agreeing and negotiating project budgets, timescales and specifications with clients and managers
  • developing and implementing test procedures
  • building prototypes of components to carry out tests on
  • organising and carrying out tests, eg to check whether engines will work in different conditions, such as high temperatures
  • interpreting and analysing results and data
  • sourcing vehicle components and selecting the best materials to use
  • providing technical advice and answering queries from clients
  • using specialist computer modelling software to produce designs
  • making improvements to vehicles in response to customer feedback
  • investigating and solving problems, eg mechanical failures
  • working closely with suppliers
  • writing reports and documentation
  • giving presentations
  • undertaking relevant research
  • supervising junior staff.

Typical employers of automotive engineers

While most automotive engineers are employed by vehicle manufacturers, other employers include:
  • Tyre manufacturers
  • Specialist vehicle design companies
  • Research/test laboratories
  • Motor sport teams
  • Oil and fuel companies
  • Suppliers
  • Self-employment via consultancy and contract work is possible for individuals with several years’ relevant experience.

    Vacancies are advertised online, by careers services and recruitment agencies, in newspapers and in relevant publications including TARGETjobs Engineering, Automotive Engineer, The Engineer, Engineering and Professional Engineering and their online equivalents. Applications should be made early in the academic year, especially those to larger employers.

    Qualification and training required

    There are routes into the profession for both graduates and school leavers. Graduates will need a degree in a relevant subject such as automotive, mechanical or electrical engineering, production and manufacturing engineering, engineering design or physics. A postgraduate qualification may be necessary for some posts. A list of accredited courses is available on the Engineering Council’s website.

    Entry into the profession is also possible through an apprenticeship. Vehicle technician apprenticeships are available at intermediate or advanced level, and you can choose to specialise in light or heavy vehicles. Some advanced and higher apprenticeships in automotive engineering are available at larger automotive companies. To find out more about getting into engineering via a school leaver route, visit the engineering section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.

    Achieving chartered (CEng) status with the Engineering Council can help to demonstrate your professionalism and commitment to your field. To become chartered, you will need an accredited bachelors degree in engineering or technology, plus an appropriate masters degree (MEng) or doctorate (EngD) accredited by a professional engineering institution such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).You will also be eligible with an integrated MSc. To find out more, take a look at our guide to chartership.

    Key skills for automotive engineers

    To become an automotive engineer, you will need:

  • effective technical and problem-solving skills
  • commercial awareness
  • good attention to detail
  • creativity
  • interpersonal and communication skills
  • presentation skills
  • the ability to work as part of a team
  • Next: search graduate jobs and internships

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