How to Become an Automotive Engineer

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Automotive engineering is a type of vehicle engineering that manufactures a variety of motor vehicles and their systems using electrical, mechanical, electronic, safety, and software engineering principles. Automotive engineers are highly trained professionals that perform a variety of automotive engineering tasks.

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What does an automotive engineer do?

Automotive engineers work on a variety of motor vehicles such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, commercial vehicles, and recreational vehicles. They assist in the design, development, improvement, and modification of a variety of operating systems. They are also concerned with the effective functioning of safety systems. Automotive engineers develop and organize testing procedures and analyze and interpret data. They also conduct research, create visual presentations, and use computer-aided design software (CAD). Most automotive engineers specialize in a specific area such as aerodynamics and thermodynamics. Some focus on creating design models and others concentrate on parts fabrication.

What kind of training does an automotive engineer need?

Automotive engineers typically need at least a bachelor degree in automotive engineering technology. Some automotive engineers have completed a graduate degree. Prospective automotive engineers typically complete courses in automotive design, vehicle development, vehicle mechanical systems, vehicle electronic systems, and vehicle hydraulic systems. They also typically participate in hands-on training experiences. Most automotive engineering programs require students to complete an internship before graduation. Many aspiring automotive engineers complete internships or part-time jobs at automotive companies to gain practical experience and establish valuable contacts. Most employers require automotive engineers to gain professional certification. The Society of Automotive Engineers is an organization that offers certification examinations. Automotive engineers typically complete regular continuing education to maintain their certifications, keep their skills up date, and stay abreast with advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as an automotive engineer?

Employment of automotive engineers is expected to grow about as fast as average for all professions, increasing 7% from 2008 to 2018 (1). The growing population and increase in the automotive engineering industry will drive job growth.

Job prospects should be good especially for automotive engineers with extensive experience. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace automotive engineers that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do automotive engineers make?

As of February 2010, the average annual salary for automotive engineers with 1 to 4 years experience is between $49,403 and $63,774. Those with 5 to 9 years experience earn average annual salaries between $54,334 and $76,481 (2).

A career as an automotive engineer is an excellent choice for people with a strong interest in automotive engineering technology and performing a variety of tasks. Automotive engineers must have a solid understanding of engineering principles. Mechanical aptitude, detail orientation, critical thinking, and good problem solving skills are necessary characteristics. Automotive engineers must be willing to take risks and be able to apply new technologies. They must have excellent communication and the ability to work as part of a team.

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