How to Become a Product Design Engineer (With Average Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated August 18, 2022 | Published September 29, 2021

Updated August 18, 2022

Published September 29, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you love design and have a passion for a unique engineering career, a career in product design engineering might be an ideal path for you. Product design engineers create new products and improve existing products to ensure consumer satisfaction. Understanding the steps involved to get into this career is essential. In this article, we discuss what product design engineers do and how to become a product design engineer and share the key skills, average salary, and work environment for this profession.

How to become a product design engineer

Here are the steps you can take to get into this career:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

Product designers need a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a relevant field. Most product designers have a degree in mechanical engineering, product design, manufacturing engineering, production technology, or any other related field. Depending on what industry you want to work in, choose a major that's related to your career interests. For instance, if you are looking to enter software designing, a degree in software engineering might be ideal for you. Irrespective of your degree, go for courses that expose you to product design and manufacturing, such as:

  • computer-aided design

  • material science

  • manufacturing design

  • applied mechanics

  • product development management

  • thermodynamics

  • machine design

  • total quality management

To ensure you get into the right course, study the prospectus carefully, as the course title may vary across institutions. Speaking to a career advisor or an experienced design engineer might also be helpful in making the right choice of institution and course.

Related: Top 8 Skills for Every Mechanical Engineer

2. Consider advancing your education

While a bachelor's degree can enable you to secure entry-level positions, you may consider advancing your education. For instance, you can pursue a master's degree in product design or any relevant field to gain more skills and specialized knowledge. A master's degree gives you a competitive advantage when applying for product design positions. You also become eligible for higher positions in management, which increases your earning potential.

3. Improve your hard skills

Product design is an evolving field, largely dictated by consumer demands and advancements in technology. It's essential to continually improve your hard skills to stay competitive for upcoming jobs. You can achieve this by attending product design boot camps. Boot camps provide a quick way of gaining technical skills and filling knowledge gaps. You also connect and learn from other designers, which is crucial for your career development. While some boot camps might be expensive for someone who is only starting their career, it's advisable to explore scholarship opportunities to help you offset the cost.

Related: Types of Hard Skills for a Resume and How to Include Them

4. Look for internship and apprenticeship

Apply for internship and apprenticeship to enable you to gain real-work experience. You can look for internships in companies specializing in your product line. Make the most of these opportunities by learning from experienced product engineers and taking part in various projects the company may be running. Make sure you leave a good impression at the end of your internship, as some employers give priority to their former interns when job openings become available.

Related: Apprenticeship vs. Internship: What’s the Difference?

5. Apply for work

With your skills, education, and considerable experience, apply to jobs for which you qualify. Prepare your resume and cover letter highlighting your valuable skills and qualifications. If you're applying for an entry-level job, emphasize your readiness to learn. Entry-level positions provide you with an excellent opportunity of gaining work experience and boost your resume. You also gain insight into the day-to-day activities of product design and development, such as the collaboration aspect with other professionals. As you gain more experience, you can target higher-paying jobs.

Related: What To Expect from Software Engineer Interview Questions

6. Get a license

Product design engineers can work without a license, but a licensed engineer has to take responsibility for their work. You are required to be licensed to become a legitimate product engineer. Every province has a licensing body for engineers. Apply for a license from the engineering regulatory body where you intend to work. The licensure requirements vary from province to province, so it's prudent to find out what these requirements are in order to prepare adequately.

7. Maintain licensure

Produce engineers are required to remain competent to maintain their license. The code of ethics requires engineers to keep themselves informed and strive to improve the body of knowledge guiding their practice. The provincial engineering regulatory bodies offer continuing professional development that members need to undertake to keep their licenses.

Related: What Is an Engineer in Training? A Complete Guide

What does product design engineering entail?

Product design engineering is the process of researching new ideas and developing products fit for use by the end user. Product designers are involved in every step of the manufacturing process. They collaborate with other professionals in the manufacturing process to ensure that products meet the needs of the consumer. They also work to improve existing products to ensure they continually meet consumer expectations. Here are the typical duties and responsibilities of this profession:

  • determining product design requirements after consulting with clients

  • researching who and how a particular product is to be used

  • sketching ideas for a new product using computer software

  • developing product prototypes to establish their usability and areas of improvement

  • determining the manufacturing requirements of a product, such as materials needed

  • identifying qualified vendors to provide the right quantity and quality of materials

  • determining the total cost of production of a product

  • evaluating ways of reducing the cost of production

  • ensuring product quality according to company guidelines and industry standards

  • collaborating with the marketing team to get the new product into the market

  • collecting customer and client feedback on the new product

  • incorporating the feedback into future product design

Depending on where they work, product designers may also have administrative responsibilities where they perform roles such as hiring, budgeting, and supervising inexperienced designers.

Key skills for product design engineers

Product engineers require the right balance of technical and soft skills. Here are the key skills product design engineers require to excel in their careers:

  • Attention to detail: The success of product development is determined by the degree to which the development team is attentive to detail. Product designers need to be detail-oriented to ensure products meet the expected standards.

  • Listening skills: Product engineers need good listening skills in order to capture clients' product specifications. Listening skills also enable them to capture correct customer feedback, which is crucial for designing better products.

  • Customer focus: Products are required to provide an effective solution to a customer's problem.

  • Teamwork: Product engineers regularly collaborate with other professionals in the product development process to design, brainstorm, and create products. They need a team-oriented attitude to effectively work with others for successful product development.

  • Interpersonal skills: Product engineers require excellent interpersonal skills to work with distinct personalities on the product development team. Interpersonal skills also enable product engineers to relate well with clients, vendors, and logisticians.

  • Problem-solving skills: The product development process might run into difficulties, such as a shortage of materials or financing issues. Product design engineers with superb problem-solving skills can surmount these challenges so the process can continue successfully.

  • Computer skills: Most of the designs are created by computer software, such as computer-aided design (CAD) software. Product engineers with a good command of computer and software skills are likely to excel in their work.

  • Creativity: Product engineers require a high degree of creative skills to enable them to develop effective solutions to customer problems. It also requires them to apply their creativity to identify the most suitable and cost-effective materials for a particular product.

  • Business acumen: Product engineers design products for the market, so they need a good sense of business acumen to get a return on company investment. A good understanding of customer behaviour, market dynamics, and first-mover advantages is essential.

  • Knowledge of materials: Product engineers work with different materials in the production process. Knowledge of how materials react to heat, cold, or to a process such as corrosion is essential to enable them to select the best material for their products.

Related: The Most Important Engineer Skills for Your Resume

Average salary of a product design engineer

The national average salary of a product engineer is $75,636 per year. Product engineers working in Ontario earn a higher salary than those in other regions. Your salary can likely increase as you gain more work experience. To increase your earning potential, you can target the higher-paying industries and locations. Undertaking continuing professional development also puts you in a better position to earn more.

Work environment

Product engineers work in different environments depending on the industry. Typically, they work 40 hours per week, but may be required to work overtime to meet project deadlines. Their work is typically on-site at manufacturing sites or in offices working on designs and meeting clients. Here are some prospective employers who hire product design engineers:

  • manufacturing plants

  • industrial goods

  • consumer goods

  • computer and software companies

  • aeronautical industry

  • power generation and distribution

  • scientific research organizations

  • educational institutions

  • health care industry

  • mobile devices and electronic makers

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location.

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