Car design engineer

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Robert James works for a legendary British sports car manufacturer. Robert carries out design and development work on the recently launched sports car.

What sort of projects do you work on?

I have been involved in projects such as the design of the dashboard and the side impact systems, which includes attending crash tests. I am responsible for the transition of parts from the development stage into production, so I train factory workers on the building procedures and quality control.

Do you have a typical day?

I arrive at the factory at around 8.30am. We have a morning break at 10am, lunch at 12.30pm and a short break at 3.30pm before finishing at around 5.30pm. My day is usually split between working on the computer and practical work such as measuring components or fitting development parts onto the test cars.

Do you ever work overtime?

I am contracted to work 34 hours a week on a flexitime basis. However, I regularly work longer hours. We receive time off in lieu for any overtime worked.

Who do you work with?

I work in a small development team of four people, including the production development manager. I also work closely with people throughout the company.

What equipment do you use?

I use a powerful computer with a computer aided-design (CAD) package and other standard Microsoft Office tools. However, it is essential to have practical as well as academic knowledge, so I also do hands-on work using my tool kit and measuring equipment. We occasionally use a co-ordinate measuring machine (CMM) for extra accuracy on complicated components.

What was your route into this job as a vehicle engineer?

I was interested in cars and engineering from a young age. After my A levels, I took a year out gaining some valuable practical skills. I then went to study automotive engineering at the University of Central England. I applied for the job at Morgan on a KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) which is a great way of starting in an industry that normally recruits very experienced engineers.

How is your training organised?

As a KTP associate I am contracted to four one-week training courses in different management areas. I am given a training budget and allowed to manage my own training in areas such as CAD development and design skills.

What do you like best about your job?

There is a lot of variety in my work. I also have opportunities to travel – I watched the Morgan Aero 8 racing at Le Mans. Sometimes I get the opportunity to drive the development cars, which is great!

Are there disadvantages?

Due to the traditional way Morgan cars have always been built, there are often restrictions in design options, which can be a challenge.

What are the skills and qualities needed to be a car design engineer?

Skills in using CAD software are essential. You also need a good understanding of the systems and mechanics used in modern automobiles.

Robert's route to his car design engineer

  • A levels in maths, physics and design communication.
  • Degree in Automotive Engineering.
  • Joined Morgan Motor Company on KTP scheme.

Robert'sdesign engineer tips

  • Gain as much experience as possible.
  • Keep up to date with the latest tools and software being used in the industry.

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Salary of a car design engineer

  • A trainee design engineer can earn around £20,000, rising to £50,000 for experienced senior or incorporated engineers.

Qualifications and skills needed to become a car design engineer

  • Most design engineers are engineering graduates – particularly in subjects such as mechanical engineering, automotive engineering or engineering design.
  • The Institution of Engineering Designers' website lists accredited courses (degree courses) and careers information.
  • Knowledge Transfer Partnerships give graduates (as well as those with qualifications such as HNCs/HNDs, NVQs at Level 4 or Foundation degrees) the chance to manage projects within companies and take advantage of training and professional development opportunities.
  • Graduate apprenticeships in engineering may be available for young people in England.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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