design engineer careers

Design Engineer Jobs

Did you know?

Design engineers tend to keep their hands clean. They help to dream up new products and spend a lot of time using CAD (computer-aided design) to create amazing blueprints for things we’ll see in stores very soon. If you’d like to unleash your artistic side as well as your love of details, this could be your blueprint for an amazing career.

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Design engineer job trends

How much money can you make as a design engineer?

£22,000 – £55,000 (UK average)

Recent labour market information says you can earn £22,000 – £55,000 a year on average as a design engineer in the UK.

Your starting salary can vary because of factors like level of experience, training, or location. Your salary will increase over time as you build skills, knowledge and experience.

What entry qualifications and training do you need?

School, college and training

Many engineering jobs require some knowledge of science and being comfortable around maths.

In your GCSEs or the equivalent, aim to get passing grades of 9-4 (A*-C) in at least five GCSEs including English, maths and at least one science.  Other useful subjects include D&T, ICT, computing and engineering.

After GCSEs you can go on to take 2 to 3 A-levels in a topic related to science, maths or engineering. Instead of A-levels, you could choose to study a vocational course like a Tech-level in Engineering. From there, you could think about doing an HNC/HND or foundation degree in one of the following:

  • Engineering product design
  • Industrial design
  • Computer-aided design engineering.

School will give you a good foundation education in the engineering principles you might need to know. It will also help you to apply for further education such as a degree.

Courses and qualifications

Useful vocational qualifications include:

IB Diploma

  • Higher level maths
  • Physics
  • Chemistry (if you’re interested in biomedical and chemical engineering)

Tech-level qualifications:

  • Design engineering
  • Mechatronics
  • Power network engineering

The Institution of Design Engineers has information on courses.

The Engineering Council has a list of qualifications and courses.

Degrees and University

You will need to complete a foundation degree, HND or degree to get into design engineering. Many design engineers enter the profession as graduates.

Useful degrees, foundation degrees and HNDs to consider include

  • Engineering product design
  • Industrial design
  • Computer aided design engineering
  • Engineering design and manufacture
  • Materials science

Qualifications related to mechanical engineering, civil engineering and electrical engineering may also help you progress in your career.

UCAS has more information on degree courses and entry requirements.

You can apply for student finance to cover fees and living costs.

Some courses include a year in industry – or you could organise your own work placement in a company. You might also be able to join a company’s graduate trainee scheme if you have a degree in a relevant subject.

You can also take the apprenticeship route – or start as a technician and study part-time for an HND or foundation degree, leading to a degree in engineering.

Apprenticeships and training

With an apprenticeship (or advanced apprenticeship) you’ll have a paid job with an employer that includes structured training and learning. This training leads to an official qualification that’s recognised by employers as an industry standard.

You could apply for an advanced apprenticeship in:

  • Engineering
  • IT
  • Construction
  • Built Environment
  • Manufacturing

You can also seek out design engineering apprenticeships with organisations like Find an Apprenticeship.

Career progression

Design engineering gives you the chance to work in different industries like construction, engineering, electronics and renewable energy – so there’s a lot of variety in the work you can do.

If you become a Chartered Engineer you will find it easier to get project management roles or specialise in your chosen field. It can also help you strike out on your own and do consultancy work.

What experience do you need for design engineer jobs?

Work experience

It can help you decide if this is the right career for you if you have previously done work experience in an engineering environment, especially if design is involved.

Any work experience where you have demonstrated your engineering skills can help your application.

Examples of relevant work experience include:

  • Work shadowing (even if it’s just for a day)
  • Work placements in a company
  • Work placements on a degree course
  • Year in Industry work experience programme for pre-university/undergraduates

Volunteering and extra-curricular activities

Volunteering is an excellent way to build up your skills and CV while making connections with people and organisations who could help you in the future.

If you’re aged 21 or under, you could build experience and skills relevant to engineering by becoming an Industrial Cadet. You’ll join other students from local schools to take part in industry-based activities with a local employer. Visit for more info.

If you’re a Year 12 student, you can apply for a Nuffield Research Placement. Over 1,000 students a year get the chance to work with scientists, mathematicians and engineers from all kinds of universities and organisations.

If you’re still at school, you can work on your engineering skills outside of lessons to build your first CV. One way is to join a school STEM club.

What skills do you need for design engineer jobs?

What life and work skills do you need to be a great design engineer?

Useful skills to highlight and develop in this career include:

  • Good problem solving skills and an enquiring mind – think about how you prefer to solve problems. On your own, or in a team? Both approaches can work. You will often need to spot a problem, consider what tools and techniques might help, carry out a plan to fix the problem then test to see if your solution worked.
  • Good organisation skills – this will help you with your education and training, and also with helping you to make sure projects are done on time. Organisation will help you with researching new ideas and presenting your discoveries to others. It will also help you plan how to use software tricks like animation and 3D models to your designs.
  • Teamworking skills – you could work as part of an engineering team led by a senior engineer. As you progress in your career, you’ll also build leadership and project management skills.
  • Good communication skills – you will be able to present your work by email, over the phone, face to face in meetings, and even through presentations.
  • Good IT skills – engineering is using computers and digital technology more and more these days.

Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.

Start building these skills right now – sign up for free Young Professional training.

What does a design engineer do?

Design engineering isn’t just about what you know. It’s about what you can imagine! Design engineers work in 3D printing, design exhausts for fighter aircraft and redesign mobile phones.

Wherever your career journey takes you, here are some activities you’re sure to get experience in…

Some things you might be doing:

  • Researching new ideas and improvements
  • Using maths-based modelling to check how workable those new ideas are in real life
  • Using design software to create technical drawings and plans for new product prototypes
  • Testing prototypes to see how well they work and what might need improving
  • Tweaking designs as needed before the final product gets made
  • Reporting to clients and managers on how the design project is going


Your first steps into design engineer jobs

Design engineer jobs are advertised under different job titles.  To find jobs for young people in this role, search on job boards for opportunities with these words in the title:

  • Design engineering apprenticeship
  • Advanced apprenticeship – design engineering
  • Higher level mechatronic engineering apprenticeship
  • Graduate design engineer

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