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- 1 What is Automotive Engineering?
- 2 Automotive Engineering Degree
- 3 Automotive Engineering Schools
- 4 How Do I Become an Automotive Engineer?
- 5 Educational Requirements for Automotive Engineers
- 6 Employment Information & Automotive Engineering Careers
- 7 Automotive Engineer Job Titles
- 8 Job Duties of an Automotive Engineer
- 9 Automotive Engineering Salary
What is Automotive Engineering?
Automotive engineering is a branch of mechanical engineering that prepares students with the skills, knowledge, and understanding to construct, repair, and modify systems & mechanical devices related to automobiles. In a broad sense, automotive engineers blend the technical aspects of engineering with technological advancements to enhance vehicle safety, performance, design, and fabrication. Automotive engineers work to implement new technologies, utilize more efficient designs, and ensure vehicles being designed are free of defects. Engineers must be able to use CAD to draw diagrams, have a strong background in math and physics, understand automotive mechanics, and able to follow schematics as part of the engineering process.
Automotive Engineering Degree
The length of time it takes to earn a college degree in automotive engineering or automotive technology depends on the degree type you select along with the number of classes you take at a given time. For example, a certificate in automotive engineering online or on-campus will take students less than one year to complete based on full-time enrollment. However, students may invest two to three-years to earn a certificate if one or two classes are taken at a time on a part-time basis.
The associate degree in automotive engineering is designed to be a 2-year program while the bachelor’s degree program is a four-year program. Deciding upon an associate degree or bachelor degree should take into consideration your career goals coupled with the regional employment demands. For example, if the majority of entry-level jobs in your region require a bachelor's degree, it may be best to spend the time and resources to earn a bachelor's degree in automotive engineering.
Automotive Engineering Schools
A handful of specialized college programs in automotive engineering and automotive engineering technology exist. They key to finding a great automotive engineering program for you includes establishing your priorities, career objectives, attributes, skills and investment of time before selecting a school. We recommend reading these books: The Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process and How to Reduce the Cost of College.
After establishing your priority list, find accredited schools offering automotive engineering or automotive technology programs on this resource page and simply request information from those schools listed below. In addition, you can leverage our automated matching portal to find schools utilizing specific criteria that you find important that include geographic location, degree type, and school type.
How Do I Become an Automotive Engineer?
To compete for jobs as an automotive engineer, you will need to earn a degree or certificate from an accredited college or university. The program you select will depend on the program viable in your market coupled with your career objectives. Meaning, if you are eager to learn the trade and move into a management position as quickly as possible a bachelor’s degree would make the most sense. An outline of the types of automotive engineering programs are listed below to help you understand your options in the field.
Automotive Engineering Certificate Program
A certificate in automotive engineering online or in class can be earned in less than a year based on full-time matriculation. Certificate programs are constructed to provide the fundamentals of automotive engineering and generally lead to entry-level positions in the automotive field. A set of typical classes in a certificate program include the fundamentals of: braking systems, electrical systems, automotive technology, electronics, engine repair, engine performance, steering, emissions, and suspension systems.
Associate Degree in Automotive Engineering
An associate degree in automotive engineering is a 2-year program that combines general education courses like English composition, international philosophy, and human psychology with core automotive engineering classes. Classes typically found in an associate degree program in the automotive technology department may include similar classes to the certificate program with an emphasis on greater details around each system, assembly, and technological component.
Bachelor’s Degree in Automotive Engineering
A bachelor’s degree in automotive technology or automotive engineering is a 4-year program that provides yet greater access to automotive technology classes along with liberal arts classes to help students think differently about the world around them. Core classes in automotive technology will typically includes classes such as: electrical systems, engine performance, vehicle electronics, chassis systems, engine management, powertrain technologies, diagnostics, data management, engineering statistics, engineering computation, CAD, metallurgy, manufacturing processes, CNC, automotive labs, and a professional internship.
Educational Requirements for Automotive Engineers
Individuals enrolled in a program for automotive engineering technology will learn about the various sciences involved in the development of such systems. Programs in automotive engineering technology are limited in availability and as a result most individuals interested in pursuing the field often choose mechanical engineering programs that offer a similar education in the sciences. Students may then add additional courses to one's curriculum relevant to the area of automobiles in order to gear their education toward automotive engineering. Regardless of the type of program, science and mathematics will play a quintessential role in one's ability to properly perform the tasks required.
A curriculum in automotive engineering may include an array of core classes aimed at preparing students for the challenging work in the automotive industry. Research gathered from top ranked automotive engineering colleges such as Michigan Tech, Cornell, and Texas A&M reveal an overlap in the following types of courses:
- Calculus, Mathematics, & Statistical Analysis
- Automotive Technology and Systems
- Fluid Power
- Quality Management & Manufacturing Cost
- Safety Engineering
- Fuel Economy & Emissions
- Powertrains, Drivelines, and Power Distribution
- Automated Design
- Climate Control
- Project Management
- Automotive Systems
- Industrial Safety
- Automotive durability, fit & finish
- Automotive Electronics & Software Integration
- Vehicle Performance & Vehicle Dynamics
- Applied Systems Integration
- Composite Materials
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Employment Information & Automotive Engineering Careers
Individuals working in automotive engineering technology will find themselves working on all parts of development of vehicles. Individuals will develop engines, electrical systems, chassis and more. Engineers who enter the industry will work under experienced professionals, typically assigned to specific areas in order to obtain practical experience in the various aspects of production and design. Additionally, such engineers will be responsible for the testing and implementation of designs and develop procedures to maintain finished products.
Careers in automotive engineering technology are limited and the market for jobs is expected to shrink. This is due to the increased production due to automation and technical testing and design through advancements in computer technology. As a result, jobs are competitive, though qualified and talented individuals are in continued demand. Students who pursue mechanical engineering rather than automotive engineering technology may have more career options outside of the automotive industry.
Automotive Engineer Job Titles
As you think about a career in automotive technology, you will need to get familiar with the vernacular and job titles often found in the field. Below you will find a list of common job titles for an automotive engineer to help you get familiar with the titles when performing a job search after graduation.
- Director, Product Safety
- Product Engineer
- Chief Engineer
- Electro-Mechanical Technician
- Development System Efficiency Manager
- Senior Project Engineer
- Mechanical Engineer
- Operation Technician
- Technical Services Manager
- Electrical Engineer
- Dimensional Integration Engineer
- Director of Engineering, Quality & Program Management
- Senior Engineering Team Leader
- Industrial Engineer
- Technical Specialist
Job Duties of an Automotive Engineer
The top job responsibilities of an automotive engineer depend greatly on the job itself, the company you work for, the organization type, geographic location, and products being manufactured. As such, we have listed the top 5 job duties of an automotive engineer to give you a better understand of general work activities an automotive technology engineer will do around the shop or office.
- Performing failure, variation, or root cause analyses on a variety of automotive systems
- Directing and managing system-level automotive testing
- Developing engineering specifications or cost estimates for automotive design concepts
- Conducting a detailed automotive design review
- Providing technical direction to other engineers or engineering support personnel
Automotive Engineering Salary
The average salary for an automotive engineer is approximately $84,190 per year. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) estimates an 8% job growth rate for automotive engineers in the coming decade which translates to some 102,500 job openings during that time frame. Individuals with managerial experience may be considered for team leader positions or division heads, increasing earning potential greatly within a corporate environment.
Individuals interested in automotive engineering technology may also be interested in mechanical engineering degrees, mechanical technology technician, industrial engineering technology, or aeronautical and aerospace engineering technology.