How to become a Design Engineer. Read through our comprehensive job guide to learn more about this career.
What does a Design Engineer do?
Design engineers research and develop ideas for new products and the systems used to make them. They also work to improve the performance and efficiency of existing products.
As a design engineer you could work in a variety of industries, ranging from electronics to synthetic textiles, on projects as diverse as the redesign of a mobile phone to the construction of motorcycle parts from carbon fibre materials.
Your exact duties would depend on the project but could include:
- research – using mathematical modelling to work out whether new developments and innovations would work and be cost effective
- design – turning research ideas into technical plans for prototypes using computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-assisted engineering (CAE) software
- testing – collecting and analysing data from tests on prototypes
- modifying designs and re-testing – this process can go through several stages before a product is ready for manufacture or installation
- reporting – writing or presenting regular progress reports for project managers and clients.
You might look at a range of features when developing ideas for a new product, such as:
- usability and safety
- strength and reliability
- the ‘look’ and ‘feel’
- efficiency and cost.
You would also have to take into account the environmental impact of new products, the manufacturing processes used to make them and how they would be safely disposed of once their working life was over.
You would normally work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday.
Most of your time would be computer-based, working in a design or drawing office, with occasional travel to meet clients.
How much does a Design Engineer earn?
Salary and pay information:
- Starting salaries are between £24,000 and £27,000 a year.
- Experienced engineers can earn between £29,000 and £43,000.
- Senior design engineers can earn over £54,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
You would normally need a foundation degree, BTEC HNC/HND or degree to become a design engineer. You could choose from a range of subjects, including:
- engineering product design
- industrial design
- computer-aided design engineering
- engineering design and manufacture
- materials science.
Mechanical, electrical and civil engineering may also be acceptable to employers.
Contact the Institution of Engineering Designers (IED) and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) for more details of accredited courses, as well as links to engineering careers information.
You can also find information about engineering careers on SEMTA’s websites. The Engineering Training Council (Northern Ireland) also has careers information and a course database for colleges in that area.
Training and Development
Once you start working you would usually train on the job alongside more experienced staff, possibly as part of a graduate traineeship.
You should continue to update your skills and knowledge throughout your career through a programme of continuing professional development (CPD). The IED offers a programme of CPD for its members. You can find more details about the benefits of IED membership on the IED website.
- Institution of Engineering Designers
You could also help your career development by working towards incorporated or chartered status. To do this, you should register with your professional industry body and apply to the Engineering Council. See the Engineering Council website for more details.
- Engineering Council
As an incorporated engineer, you would specialise in the day-to-day management of engineering operations. At chartered level, you would have a more strategic role, planning, researching and developing new ideas, and streamlining management methods.
Skills and Knowledge
- strong problem-solving skills
- a creative approach for generating new ideas
- a sound knowledge of computer assisted design (CAD) software
- an excellent grasp of engineering and design principles
- excellent communication skills
- an understanding of manufacturing processes and construction methods
- good teamworking skills
- an appreciation of wider business demands
- an awareness of the environmental impact of design ideas.
You can find opportunities across many industries, including:
- construction, construction engineering and building services
- electronics and consumer goods manufacturing
- shipbuilding, aerospace, railways and motor vehicles
- power generation.
With experience you could become a project manager, strategic planner or consultant design engineer.