If you’re looking for a rewarding career that allows you to conceptualise and create new products you might want to consider working as a design engineer. Despite the name, you don’t necessarily need a university degree to work as one and most positions offer a healthy work/life balance. 

what is a design engineer?

To sum it up in a sentence, a design engineer researches, designs and tests ideas for new products and systems. They are also involved in the development and management of projects in a variety of sectors including construction, automobiles, machinery and software.

how to become a design engineer?

To work as a design engineer, you need to have either a degree, a Higher National Diploma (HND) or a Higher National Certificate (HNC). The degree/diploma/certificate should involve:

  • Engineering product design

  • Industrial design

  • Computer-aided design

 Other kinds of civil or mechanical engineering focused subjects are also useful in obtaining qualifications to be a design engineer.

how much does a design engineer make?

Like almost all roles, a design engineer’s salary will vary depending on how much experience you have and where the role is based. On average, the starting salary for a design engineer position is £20,000 - £25,000. This will depend on the position and location, some participants in graduate programs can earn upwards of £27,000 in London. 

If a design engineer has a few years of experience and is incorporated, they can earn a salary anywhere between £30,000 - £40,000. Chartered engineers can earn a salary of up to £50,000, and a manager or consultant can earn over £50,000. Again, this depends on the industry and location.

what does a design engineer do?

One of the most appealing aspects of this kind of job is the versatility of the skills required. You could find yourself working in a variety of industries from product design with FMCGs or synthetic textiles or even the redesign of automobile parts.

Day-to-day duties will vary depending on your chosen industry but they are likely to include: 

  • Research, a lot of what design engineers do will revolve around research. That’s research with regards to consumer behaviour and interests to research using complex mathematical modelling to work through developments and innovations.

  • Design, you’ll then want to turn your researched ideas into plans for a prototype. Most design work will be done with either CAD (computer-aided design) or CAE (computer-assisted engineering) software
    Testing, modification and reporting on all your prototypes and design ideas 

  • Design engineers can also spend a lot of time dealing with customers and listening to their wants and needs as well as their feedback. So, appropriate dress wear and strong communication skills are a plus. 

typical employers.

  • Engineering firms

  • Biomedical companies

  • Design firms

  • Consumer goods

  • Manufacturing companies

  • Oil and Gas industries

  • Transport and highway industries

  • Government institutions

  • Aerospace and automotive industries

work/life balance.

Design engineers in the UK can enjoy a relatively comfortable work/life balance with most engineers working 37 to 40 hours Monday to Friday. Most of that time will be spent on drawings and designs and meeting with clients. Some employers even offer flexible working.

career progression.

Working as a design engineer will allow you to work in a variety of industries with different skills and challenges. In order to progress in this field, you’ll need to work towards becoming a chartered or incorporated engineer and registering with an industry body.

The design engineer sector has a lot of opportunities available for those who want a hands-on career and see themselves having an impact on the design of products. Explore the career hub to learn more about the roles available and how best to approach finding your dream job.