Design engineer

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Pauline Woods works as a senior engineer for a heavy product manufacturer of tracked and wheeled excavators. She has to check that all the different departments involved in producing new machinery products are working together efficiently.

What does your work involve?

When developing a brand new machine, we need to assess and calculate all the requirements. This can include the needs of the customers, dealers who sell the products, marketing, sales, design, research, development, manufacturing, assembly and service.

Good designs are not everything. For a business to be successful the costs must be right and the product must be marketable and available on time. I have to be aware of these conflicting demands and encourage each department to create the best product possible.

How important is maths in your work?

Maths is particularly important if you want to be an engineer. All engineers use maths to calculate the best size for a component to fit or if it is strong enough, for instance. We need to calculate how long it will take to make the product as well as the individual components. In fact, almost every step from design to production needs some form of maths.

What is your workplace like?

I work in an office right next to the very dynamic shop floor. Spending time out in the factory is useful in my role as it helps me to become familiar with the components and the methods of manufacture and assembly.

Why did you choose this career as a design engineer?

I have always been interested in how things work. I enjoyed maths, sciences and practical subjects like design communication at school, so a degree in engineering was an obvious choice.

Work experience in engineering firms allowed me to see what it might be like to work in a factory/office environment. And university open days gave me an idea of the sort of things I might be studying, all of which increased my enthusiasm.

What skills do you need?

As an engineer, I am interested in the way things work, how they are made and in developing clever ways to solve problems. I need to get on with people as I help all the departments concerned to work together effectively to make sure we can launch a top quality product on time and within budget.

What do you like about your job?

I like the wide variety within my job, and the dynamic environment within the company. Knowledge of our products from nuts and bolts to marketing strategies keeps me interested.

What challenges do you have in your work?

Mainly the deadlines and trying to keep everyone happy. Sometimes, you have to solve problems quickly as it affects progress further along the chain. However, there can be a great sense of satisfaction once a demanding goal has been achieved.

Pauline's route to her career as a design engineer

  • A levels in maths, physics, chemistryand general studies.
  • Degree in mechanical engineering, which included a year's placement.
  • Offered a permanent job.

Pauline's engineer tips

  • Engineering is a varied profession; there are chemical, electrical, structural, mechanical and civil engineers to name but a few. Talking to engineers or looking on the internet might help you find out which area would best suit you.
  • Try to do work experience, perhaps at a local company. It'll give you an idea of what goes on and you may pick up some good contacts to help you get a job later.

Design engineer related jobs

  • Architect
  • Civil engineer
  • Construction manager
  • Engineering construction craft worker
  • Materials scientist
  • Merchant Navy engineering officer
  • Production manager

Salary of a design engineer

  • Income for new graduates is about £19,000.
  • Experienced engineers with qualifications and professions association membership usually earn about £35,000.
  • Senior chartered engineers can earn more than £45,000.

Getting in

  • For a job as an engineer, you need either a four-year MEng degree, or a threeyear degree or HNC/HND in engineering plus further learning.
  • You usually need A levels/H grades (or equivalent) including maths and a science subject to enter courses.
  • After your degree or HNC/HND, you will be given further training while you work.
  • Foundation and Advanced Modern Apprenticeships may be available for some design engineering openings.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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