Career Guide

Design Engineer

Ben Maples  · Nov 10th 2022

A design engineer is a highly-advanced and creative role. It is a role that challenges your scientific and engineering understanding and gives you a platform to flex your creative muscles.

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Design engineers build on a wide range of disciplines to be successful in their roles. They tend to work with more intricate and technical products than your average designer.

As a design engineer, you must build on your understanding of many disciplines. These disciplines, be it scientific, design or knowledge of engineering, are invaluable to the role. Design engineering is a rapidly growing area of expertise and one of the country’s most popular.

Design Engineer Career Guide

What is a design engineer?

A design engineer uses engineering and design principles to create products and systems. A design engineer has an advanced understanding of engineering disciplines, including civil, mechanical, electrical and chemical, but also has a keen eye for design.

Design engineers tend to work on very high-end products and services. They are often called in to work on large-scale engineering projects as their understanding of engineering physics can prove invaluable to architects and project managers.

It is very unlikely that you will be able to apply for any design engineer jobs without a degree of some kind.

A design engineer will often liaise with other departments where needed. A design engineer may liaise with marketing departments who have conducted user testing to design products that are well-suited to the customer’s needs.


The responsibilities of a design engineer will differ depending on who you are working for. The most common responsibilities of a design engineer are:

  • Carry out detailed industry and scientific research.
  • Carry out user and product testing.
  • Complete detailed reports and presentations for clients.
  • Liaise with architects, designers and finance departments.
  • Present scientific analysis and findings so the general reader can understand.
  • Speak to clients.
  • Use CAD, CAM and CAN systems to design and visualise projects.
  • Use new software and programmes to design products.

These responsibilities may change as you grow in your role. For instance, if you move into a senior management role, you may be asked to manage budgets and teams of staff and to liaise with different department heads.


The salary for a design engineer can be potentially lucrative. Your salary will largely depend on where and who you work for. London-based companies tend to have a higher salary to offer applicants than those outside the city.

The starting design engineer salary is generally around £22,000[1].. Those working in London have been known to generate a higher salary, closer to £27,000, but this will depend on your education and experience.

Once you have more experience, design engineers can earn between £35,000 and £55,000[2].. For a chartered engineer, the salary can be between the £60,000 and £75,000 mark[3]..

It is also possible to look into freelance or consulting work. This work can pay very lucratively but will also depend on your experience and the amount of work you can generate.

Design Engineer Career


It is very unlikely that you will be able to apply for any design engineer jobs without a degree of some kind. A degree is not necessarily a requirement for some companies, but given that you will be working with highly-complex scientific and engineering principles, it is recommended that you study for one.

The best subjects to study for a design engineer are:

A postgraduate course is a very welcome asset when applying too. Those with an undergraduate degree in a design-related course and a science-based postgraduate degree, or vice-versa, will find work much easier to come by.

Those who do not want to study for a degree can find alternate routes. These routes will not be as attractive to employers as those who have an undergraduate or postgraduate degree; however, studying for a higher national diploma (HND) or foundation degree is a viable alternative.

Training and development

Training and development will likely be handled by the company you work for. Despite this, you are still responsible for finding relevant courses that will help you to expand your skill set.

Work experience is not essential to this role but is desired. Some engineering courses also include a placement year or will have access to summer internship plans.

A lot of design engineers need to undertake industry qualifications. You will be expected to carry out continuing professional development (CPD) and initial professional development (IPD) and will need to undertake a Professional Review when you have enough experience and have submitted your qualifications to your IPD provider.

Registering with a professional organisation is highly recommended in this industry. Organisations such as the Engineering Council, the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), the Institute of Engineering Designers and/or the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) are highly useful for design engineers, as they give you access to lectures, design engineer apprenticeships, CPD courses, networking events and more.

Many design engineers look into becoming either chartered engineers (CEng) or incorporated engineers (IEng). For this, you will need to have at least a BSc or a BEng undergraduate degree.


A design engineer needs several skills to be successful in their role. You will also need management skills as you rise into more senior roles.

The most common skills needed to become a design engineer are:

  • Advanced analytical skills.
  • Advanced technical knowledge.
  • An ability to work with others.
  • Excellent CAD skills.
  • Excellent IT skills.
  • Excellent communication skills.
  • Excellent numeracy skills.
  • Fantastic problem-solving skills.
  • Good negotiation skills.
  • Good time-management skills.
  • Self-motivation.
  • The ability to work on your own.

These skills can be further honed through training and development. Training and development will also teach you new skills essential to the profession.

Design Engineer

Work experience

Work experience is not essential to this role but is desired. Some engineering courses also include a placement year or will have access to summer internship plans.

Finding work experience is a useful way of forging industry contacts as well. These contacts can prove useful when you have graduated and are looking for a job.

It is also possible to find experience in other ways too. Some companies have been known to offer “insight days” to show people how the industry works. Alternatively, you can register with the ICE, IET or IMechE and see what jobs, engineering design apprenticeships or placements they have listed there.

Career prospects

The career prospects for a design engineer can be highly lucrative. There is no fixed path for designers, however, there is a wide range of jobs that you can look into.

A design engineer uses engineering and design principles to create products and systems.

Rising into senior roles is the most common. Managing a team of other designers or architects can prove to be a good way of rising through a company. Many successful chartered or senior design engineers can also move into board positions after years of service and experience.

It is also possible to move into other work areas. Depending on what level of engineering or science you have under your belt, you can also look into work as an architect, a software design engineer, a mechanical engineer, a product designer, or even moving into the world of teaching.

Consultancy roles can be another potential avenue to explore. This is generally recommended when you have experience in the industry and have built up an array of contacts.


  • [1]Average Design Engineer Salary in United Kingdom — Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  • [2]What is the average salary for Design Engineer jobs? — Retrieved 10 November 2022.
  • [3]What is the average salary for Chartered Engineer jobs? — Retrieved 10 November 2022.

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