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Career profile: Design engineer

Career profile: Design engineerGet the lowdown on what the job involves, what qualifications you need and how long it takes to train.

A what?

Before something is made, it needs to be designed. Design engineers work on anything from planes to smartphones. They are responsible for designing completely new products and re-thinking older ideas.

On the job

A day in the life of a design engineer depends on the product they are working on and what stage the design has got to. The products they work on will be vital to a range of industries including medicine, transport and music.

At the beginning of the project, the design engineer will be given a description or ‘brief’ of what is needed and they will have to create a design of the product, or improvement. While they’re doing this, they need to bear in mind things like how safe and strong it will be, how much it will cost and the environmental impact.

Most design work is done using computer-aided design (CAD) software. Once the initial design is completed, design engineers have to work with other engineers and craftspeople as their designs get tested and put into production, so they need to be good at getting along with a wide range of people.

How do I get there?

To become a design engineer, you need to do a degree in an engineering related subject at university or college – look out for courses in mechanical, civil, electrical engineering. Some places even have specific degrees such as ‘engineering product design’ and ‘engineering design and manufacture’.

Different universities ask for different grades to get onto their courses, so make sure you check with the institution you’re interested in. As a rough guideline though you normally need five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) and two A -levels/three Higher grades (for Scottish students), normally including maths and a science subject.

At many universities, people without a background in science and maths can take a one-year foundation course instead, so you can change your mind after school if you haven’t done quite the right subjects.

What are the future prospects?

Design engineers are very much in demand all over the country (and abroad!) in lots of different industries, so you would be in a good position to get a job. Once you get going on your career as a design engineer, you should hopefully earn a decent salary with wages ranging from £20,000 to £50,000 a year.

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