Design engineer: job description
A career as a design engineer is all about transforming ideas into real products. It offers the chance to combine creativity with engineering expertise.
Design engineers study, research and develop ideas for new products and the systems used to make them. They also modify existing products or processes to increase efficiency or improve performance. They work on almost every consumer product imaginable for large-scale production, from telephones and medical equipment to kitchen appliances and car engines.
Design engineers are not only concerned with making products that look good and are easy and safe to use: they are also concerned with ensuring that the product can be made cost-effectively and efficiently. Typical tasks include:
- studying a design brief
- thinking of possible design solutions
- researching whether the design will work and be cost-effective
- assessing the usability, environmental impact and safety of a design
- using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-assisted engineering (CAE) software to create prototypes
- collecting and analysing data from tests on prototypes
- modifying designs and retesting them
- writing regular progress reports and presenting them to project managers and clients
With experience, your career can lead to senior design positions in larger organisations and then on to posts as creative director. Design engineers can also move into management roles such as project management and new business development.
- Design consultancy firms
- Large manufacturing companies
- Biomedical companies
- Engineering companies
- Consumer goods manufacturers
There are routes into a design engineering career for both university graduates and school leavers. Graduates will need a degree in a relevant engineering discipline such as design engineering, electronics engineering, industrial design, mechanical engineering and product design engineering. 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
The fastest route to gaining chartered status is to take an accredited MEng degree, followed by at least four years’ vocational training with an accredited employer. To find out more, take a look at our guide to chartership.
Relevant experience can be helpful; many employers offer final-year project work, sponsorship, vacation work and industrial placements, which can provide valuable contacts and a useful insight into the profession. Take a look at our list of engineering employers who offer industrial placements and summer internships.
To find out more about how you can get into this career via a school leaver route (eg an apprenticeship or school leaver training programme) see the engineering section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.
- Strong maths and IT skills
- A creative flair and design ability
- Good visual and spatial awareness
- Attention to detail
- Problem solving
- Written and oral communication
- Commercial awareness
- Excellent project management skills
- Time management and organisational skills
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.