R&D engineer: job description

Last updated: 21 Jun 2023, 15:42

Discover what a research and development engineer does, how much they earn, who they can work for and how to become one.

Man working with scheme on paper at a table to represent research and development engineering

R&D engineer : What does an R&D engineer do? | R&D engineer salaries | Typical employers of R&D engineers | How to become an R&D engineer: training and qualifications needed | Key skills for R&D engineers

What does an R&D engineer do?

A research and development (R&D) engineer creates new, and refines existing, products and technologies through a process of researching, designing, experimenting and testing. Their typical duties include:

  • creating and developing new products to meet consumer needs
  • contributing towards the planning, execution and monitoring of testing a product
  • redesigning and refining existing products
  • meeting with other departments to discuss product concepts
  • carrying out market research to analyse similar products and their functions
  • understanding the marketing requirements for a product
  • testing prototypes for functionality and longevity
  • creating engineering plans for new products
  • leading projects.

Depending on the employer, an R&D engineer may oversee the entire development of a project, or they may work on just one aspect of the research and development process – building a prototype, for example. Job titles can also vary between employers: one organisation’s ‘R&D engineer’ may be another’s ‘verification engineer’ and another’s ‘R&D electrical engineer’, for instance.

R&D engineer salaries

Based on individual job listings we’ve looked at, the typical salary for graduate R&D engineers is between £24,000 and £30,000 per year and reaches £60,000 or above for more experienced R&D engineers. These figures vary depending on field of work, location and professional qualifications.

Read our graduate engineering salary round up to learn more about starting salaries, engineering employers and salary progression.

Typical employers of R&D engineers

  • Sports brands.
  • Tech companies.
  • Large manufacturers.
  • Fast-moving consumer goods companies.
  • Science-based research companies, such as pharmaceutical companies.

How to become an R&D engineer: training and qualifications needed

There are ways to become an R&D engineer as both a school leaver and a university graduate.

For R&D engineering graduate jobs, most employers require a bachelors degree in a relevant engineering discipline to which you are applying − some of which include:

  • mechanical
  • chemical
  • electrical
  • aerospace.

However, some employers require, or at least prefer, you to have a masters or a doctorate. To learn more about your postgraduate options, see our engineering postgraduate study article where we break down the difference between an MSc, PhD and EngD and where this can take your career. We also detail the technical skills, qualifications and knowledge needed for engineering jobs in our how to get a graduate engineering job article.

Relevant work experience (for example, an engineering placement in R&D or another engineering role within your chosen industry) is highly valued. Employers often use internships and placements to recruit graduates – these can help you gain skills that are relevant to graduate positions. Find out more about your engineering work experience options with advice on sandwich placements, summer internships and more.

If you are a school leaver, you can complete an engineering apprenticeship either in R&D or in another field, with a view to moving into R&D later in your career. Find out more about how apprenticeships work on our school leaver website targetapprenticeships .

When working as an R&D engineer, you will have the option to gain a professional qualification − technician, incorporated or chartered status – with the engineering professional body that is most aligned to your discipline, such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) or the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE). It is not compulsory, but not doing so may hamper your career progression: employers often require their more senior R&D engineers to be chartered.

For more in-depth advice on professional qualifications, take a look at our article on becoming a chartered or incorporated engineer after starting a graduate job .

Search targetjobs for graduate engineering jobs. You can also find vacancies via careers services, the websites of engineering professional bodies and on individual employer websites.

Key skills for R&D engineers

  • Ability to learn and adapt.
  • Innovative thinking.
  • Collaboration, communication and teamwork skills.
  • Analytical and critical thinking.
  • Problem solving.
  • Programming skills (experience with CAD or C++, for example).
  • Detail-oriented.
  • Respect and understanding for procedures and standards.
  • Time management.
  • Organisation.
  • Leadership skills.

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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