Design engineer: job description

Last updated: 19 Jul 2023, 09:07

Design engineers create the models that form the basis of new products, buildings and infrastructure projects.

A circuit board that has been designed by a design engineer.

Design engineer : Salaries | Employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Design engineers research and develop designs for projects in a range of sectors, from construction to software, medical equipment and manufacturing. They also modify existing products or designs to increase efficiency or improve performance, and manage the process of turning their designs into reality.

Typical duties include :

  • working with clients and colleagues to develop a design brief
  • using mathematical knowledge and skills to design solutions
  • researching whether the design will work and be cost-effective
  • assessing and testing the usability, environmental impact and safety of a design
  • using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided engineering (CAE) software to create prototypes
  • collecting and analysing data from tests on prototypes
  • modifying designs and retesting them
  • managing the development process, including tracking progress and costs, and keeping clients informed.

Working hours are likely to be 9.00am to 5.00pm much of the time, while longer hours will be needed around project deadlines. You may need to travel to meet clients – but most communication will take place online.

Graduate salaries

The UK Government reports that starting salaries for graduate design engineers tend to be around £24,000. Earnings increase with experience, especially if you achieve chartership. See our engineering graduate salary roundup for more information.

Typical employers of design engineers

Design engineers can find employment at:

  • Design consultancy firms.
  • Defence organisations.
  • Construction companies.
  • Manufacturers.
  • Biomedical companies.
  • Engineering companies.
  • Consumer goods manufacturers.
  • Utilities organisations.

Jobs are advertised on targetjobs and via careers services and university departments. You’ll also see vacancies advertised on job sites run by specialist engineering publications and engineering professional bodies. For help with applying for engineering jobs and internships, take a look at our engineering CV and covering letter tips .

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into design engineering 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 for more information.

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, read our guide to chartership .

Relevant experience will be helpful; many employers offer final-year project work, sponsorship, vacation work and industrial placements, all of which can provide valuable contacts and a useful insight into the profession. Head to our list of engineering employers who offer industrial placements and summer internships .

Key skills for design engineers

To be a successful design engineer, you’ll need:

  • Strong maths skills
  • Technical skills, including experience using specialist software
  • A creative flair and design ability
  • Good visual and spatial awareness
  • Attention to detail
  • The ability to solve problems
  • Excellent written and oral communication
  • Commercial awareness
  • Project management skills
  • Time management and organisational skills.

Read our article on the skills engineering employers seek for more information and then find out how you can prove you possess these competencies at engineering assessment centres .

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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