A job profile of an automotive engineer

August 11, 2020

Wondering if a career as an automotive engineer could be right for you? In this guide, we’re sharing industry insight that allows us to help automotive engineers to start and develop their careers. We’re going to explore the ins and outs of this role, how you can expect your career to progress and even how much you can expect to earn.

As a specialist automotive engineering recruitment agency, we have a finger on the pulse and the insider scoop to give you a competitive edge. Read on to learn more about this exciting career path.

What is an automotive engineer?

An automotive engineer is involved in many different stages of the design, build and maintenance of cars, motorbikes and some commercial vehicles. An automotive engineer might be involved in testing safety features on a family vehicle or help update racing vehicles to make them lighter, stronger and faster. And with the world set to embrace the change to energy-efficient electric vehicles, there’s never been a more exciting time to join the automotive industry as an engineer.

What qualifications do you need?

There are a few core qualifications you will need to become an automotive engineer, but if you can land an apprenticeship, these might not be as important. Engineers are typically design thinkers, problem-solves and they have a natural aptitude for STEM subjects. 

You will have good high school marks in maths, physics and design technology. You may go on to study these subjects at college before completing an engineering degree at university. Some will take their education further, gaining a masters degree in automotive engineering to further strengthen their knowledge and understanding. 

What additional skills do you need?

This isn’t purely a design-based role. You will also need some additional soft skills to strengthen your application. Automotive engineers are strong communicators with good commercial awareness. You might be required to explain complicated concepts to non-engineering stakeholders. And you might also be required to adhere to strict budgets and timescales when completing projects. 

You will also need strong interpersonal skills to ensure you can work well with others. Getting work experience in an automotive engineering firm early in your career will help you to recognise the skills you need to work on.

Responsibilities of an automotive designer

Your role might include the following responsibilities and requirements:

  • Using computer-aided design software to create designs and modifications for new vehicles.
  • Understand the different materials available and be able to make a reasoned choice for manufacturing
  • Build prototypes for testing and modifications
  • Understand customer demands and be able to respond to these needs in your design work
  • Supervise and inspect manufacturing work in a factory or plant setting
  • Explore mechanical failures to prevent future incidents
  • Manage project budgets and timelines
  • Inspect and test drive new vehicles

Where will you typically be working?

Your job might take place in different locations. You could be in an office in front of a computer designing new concepts one day and supervising manufacturing in a factory the next day. If you enjoy variety in your day-to-day life and don’t want to feel that you are always chained to a desk, this can be a great career choice. You will often work typical office hours, but shift work may be expected when working on large projects with strict deadlines.

How can this role progress?

Many employers offer in-house training schemes so you could join a company with little experience and work your way up. You could also make the most of these training schemes to learn new skills and specialise in a specific area. For example, you might feel more connected to high-performance sports vehicles rather than the family vehicle market. Working with an organisation like Nolan Technical Recruitment Agency could help to connect you with a niche role in your chosen field. 

It is not uncommon for automotive engineers to build up their skills and experience and then switch to consulting. This would give you far more freedom to make your own hours and increase your earnings. It would also allow you to focus on the areas of automotive engineering that interest you the most. 

How much money can you expect to make?

A typical entry-level salary for an automotive engineering graduate would be around £20,000. This can quickly increase following a successful probation period and additional training. Within the first three years, you could expect to be earning up to £28,000. Once you achieve chartered status your earnings could increase to between £30,000 and £45,000 per year. 

A professional at the height of their career could be earning up to £60,000. This may be even more for consultancy work, but you would then be responsible for your own tax, NI and pension contributions.

Automotive engineers are often offered very attractive perks, including a vehicle allowance, health insurance and pension contributions. Some employers will also offer performance-based bonuses which can help to boost your income.

Nolan Recruitment is a Specialist Engineering Recruitment Agency. One of the UK's best Engineering & Technical Recruiter

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