What Is Automobile Design Engineering?

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What Is Automobile Design Engineering?

What Is Automobile Design Engineering?

If you appreciate car design and love working with cars, you may find fulfillment in an automotive design engineering career. Car design engineers work on every part of a vehicle, including engine parts, accessories, exterior design and green technology. If you’re interested in becoming an automotive design engineer, it can help to know the details about this profession. In this article, we describe automotive design engineering, discuss what automotive design engineers do, describe the career path of a car design engineer and answer some frequently asked questions.

What is an automotive design engineer?

An automotive design engineer is a professional who works on wheeled vehicles, including buses, cars, motorcycles and off-road vehicles. Automotive design engineers are responsible for:

  • Cabin components: Designing and modifying steering wheels, consoles and seats

  • Exterior components: Creating a body design, doors, wheel wells and headlights

  • Engine parts: Creating more efficient engines and modifying parts

  • Accessories: Modify existing vehicle accessories and create new add-ons for vehicles

  • Artistic design: Create new models for major manufacturers or design unique concept cars

What does an automotive design engineer do?

Automotive design engineers typically work in an office environment, although they may occasionally travel to a testing or manufacturing facility.

A car design engineer’s typical job responsibilities are to:

  • Research, design and create wheeled vehicles and parts

  • Create vehicle drawings by hand

  • Use computer-aided drafting (CAD) software to create designs

  • Use software to create 3D renderings

  • Create and modify clay models using milling machines and by hand

  • Estimate project costs and design specifics

  • Research and estimate safety and environmental aspects of each project

  • Use computer models to predict how a design will react in a variety of conditions, such as high winds or velocity

  • Create testing procedures for designs

  • Plan the manufacturing process for a new vehicle or part

  • Investigate issues with vehicles and vehicle parts

  • Interpret technical data from testing

  • Create reports and presentations

  • Work with other engineers and designers as a team

  • May supervise other staff, including interns

How to become an automotive design engineer?

Here are the steps that you can follow to become an automotive design engineer:

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree: Bachelor’s degree programs in automotive design engineering are rare, since most four-year institutions place automotive engineering under mechanical engineering. A degree in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, industrial design and automotive design are viable options if you cannot find a program in automotive design engineering that suits your needs. Your undergraduate program should include coursework in 3D modeling, computer-assisted drawing (CAD), design principles and technical drawing. It is also helpful to have a background in art history, industrial design trends, color theory, sculpting and drawing.

  2. Participate in an internship: During your last year of undergraduate study, consider participating in an internship at a car manufacturer or design firm. An internship allows you to work with professionals in your field and build your professional portfolio. Most internships are unpaid but can lead to full-time work after graduation.

  3. Pass your engineering exams: You’ll take the Fundamentals of Engineering exam after you earn your bachelor’s degree. Passing this exam will give you the license to work as an engineer-in-training. After working for four years, you are eligible to take the Professional Engineering (PE) exam for your discipline.

What Is Automobile Design Engineering?

Frequently asked questions about automotive design engineering

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about automotive design engineering:

How can a high school student prepare for a degree program in automotive design engineering?

Working part-time at an auto body or car repair shop is a great way to learn about vehicle construction and mechanics. You should also practice your vehicle drawing as much as possible. Consider taking drawing or other art classes if necessary to improve your skills. Read automotive magazines and papers to stay current with design trends and technological advances in car manufacturing.

What soft skills do automotive design engineers use on the job?

In addition to their technical skills, automotive design engineers must have several soft skills to be successful. Important soft skills include:

  • Problem-solving: Automotive design engineers troubleshoot design issues and find creative solutions.

  • Time management: Design projects often have strict deadlines. Design engineers manage their time efficiently to complete all of their required tasks.

  • Attention to detail: Mindfulness of every detail involved in the design, manufacture and troubleshooting of a vehicle is important.

  • Teamwork: Most car design engineers work as part of a large team of engineers and designers. You may also need to consult with legal and marketing professionals.

  • Multitasking: Most car design engineers work on several projects simultaneously. Multitasking is a critical skill for successful automobile design engineers.

  • Working well under pressure: Automotive design engineers work under tight deadlines and often have to troubleshoot difficult technical problems.

What should I include in my automotive design portfolio?

During your degree program, build a work portfolio that you can present to potential employers. You may need to do this on your own or take a class in portfolio production. The optimal portfolio contains a mix of hand-drawn and CAD automotive designs and pictures of clay modeling projects you have completed.

Portfolio projects should be a mix of creative projects and projects that follow traditional designs. Your creative projects can include concept car designs or ones that incorporate emerging technologies. For your traditional pieces, consider creating designs that are consistent with the design principles and aesthetics used by large auto manufacturers.

Where do automotive design engineers work?

Most automotive design engineers work for major auto manufacturing companies. Working at one of the large automakers provides stable employment, a good salary and the opportunity to work with experienced designers and engineers. If you like working with alternative fuel engines or designing modern vehicles, consider employment at a smaller startup auto company. Your salary may be lower at a startup, but you will have the opportunity to work on cutting-edge technology and automotive design. If you prefer working on sports cars or high-end luxury cars, you may need to move overseas for your job.

How can I advance my career as an automotive design engineer?

Earning a master’s degree in automotive engineering, industrial design or industrial engineering can advance your career. A doctorate is required if you are interested in research or teaching on the collegiate level.

Joining a professional organization can help you network with other automotive design professionals. Available organizations for auto designing include the Automotive Design Organization, Industrial Designers Society of America, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Society of Automotive Engineers and Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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