Automotive engineer: job description
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.
You can find out more about automotive engineering by reading our automotive industry sector overview, written by an experienced automotive engineer.
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
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. There are also lots of opportunities with smaller engineering employers. You can find help on finding and applying for jobs with smaller engineering companies here.
- For help with applying for engineering jobs, take a look at our engineering CV and covering letter tips and our advice on filling out online applications
- Find out how much money you could earn as an engineer by reading our engineering salary round-up
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. Some employers will ask for a 2.1 degree but others will accept candidates with a 2.2 degree. Take a look at our list of engineering employers that accept 2.2 degrees.
A postgraduate qualification may be necessary for some posts. A list of accredited courses is available on the Engineering Council’s website and you can read our article on engineering postgraduate options to explore your options.
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.
To become an automotive engineer, you will need:
- effective technical and problem-solving skills
- commercial awareness
- good attention to detail
- interpersonal and communication skills
- presentation skills
- the ability to work as part of a team
Read our article on the skills engineering employers look for for more information and then find out how you can prove you possess these competencies at engineering assessment centres.