What Is a Reliability Engineer? (With Skills and Duties)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published May 1, 2022

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.

Manufacturers regularly analyze their manufacturing processes to find methods to minimize costs. Reliability engineers offer knowledge that allows firms to avoid and understand the implications of equipment failure. Learning what a reliability engineer is can help you decide if you want to pursue it as a career path. In this article, we answer the question "What is a reliability engineer?", discuss their responsibilities, highlight how to become one, discuss the difference between reliability and maintenance engineers, and discuss their essential skills.

What is a reliability engineer?

If you're interested in the software industry, you may have encountered the question "What is a reliability engineer?". The term reliability engineer was once a more generalized job title that referred to the oversight of infrastructure and processes related to a product's development, regardless of the product.

This role emerged to manage the processes involved with computer websites, networks, and software development. A site reliability engineer is similar to a DevOps engineer, in that each manages existing operations, with a site reliability engineer taking more of an immersive approach to quality assurance for otherwise automated systems, also developing software to improve user experience. In this way, site reliability engineering is the bridge between software development and information technology.

Related: What Is Project Management Engineering? (With FAQs)

What does a site reliability engineer do?

Depending on the company, a site reliability engineer may have some crossover with other tech departments, sometimes functioning as a programmer and at other times, as more of a systems analyst. With that crossover in mind, some common responsibilities for a site reliability engineer include:

  • Building software to facilitate (or automate) daily operations: A site reliability engineering professional aims to automate as much human labour as possible. The site reliability engineer (SRE) therefore creates, maintains and updates software to help the IT department run smoothly and with little room for human error.

  • Implementing and documenting IT support services: A site reliability engineer works not only to correct system issues as they arise but also to keep a record of issues and resolutions in addition to documenting practices along the way. The SRE's goal is to note which processes are working or need resolution and also to record what may need attention to further streamline processes.

  • Identifying and fixing support escalation challenges: A site reliability engineer houses a lot of knowledge related to IT issues and solutions, which allows them to address escalated issues while also working to prevent future ones.

  • Following up on resolved incident reports: Again, a site reliability engineer not only works to fix issues but also circles back to address the results later. They take a holistic approach to debugging, gathering information that can help to further streamline processes.

  • Collaborating with software developers: A site reliability engineer focuses on efficiency and solutions, working closely with software developers to ensure other aspects of performance, such as security and maintainability.

How to become a reliability engineer

If you're interested in pursuing a career as a reliability engineer, you can take the following steps:

1. Earn an engineering degree

Organizations require candidates for reliability engineer positions to hold a bachelor's degree in engineering. If possible, you may choose to specialize in mechanical or industrial engineering. Your undergraduate engineering education equips you with the mathematical, technical, and design abilities necessary for reliability engineers to assess and improve manufacturing processes. While a master's degree in reliability engineering is possible, most employers do not require it.

2. Gain professional experience

Typical requirements for reliability engineer roles are a modest quantity of work experience. You can start acquiring professional experience during or immediately following college by doing an engineering internship. Alternatively, seek engineering opportunities that can expose you to your target sector and give you systems analysis skills.

Related: 8 Engineering Specializations (With Salaries and Duties)

3. Pursue license

Earning a licence demonstrates to prospective employers that you are confident in your professional talents and credentials. Each province has somewhat varying requirements for licensure, but all involve passing a few examinations that the regulating organization administers. Your province sets the standards for continuing education, such as attending workshops or seminars, that you are to meet to maintain your licence.

4. Examine available reliability engineer positions

Any business that makes significant investments in equipment acquisition, maintenance, and repair may require the skills of a reliability engineer. When researching job listings, you are most likely to come across three distinct types of reliability engineer positions:

  • Manufacturing plant reliability engineer: Manufacturing plant reliability experts conduct audits of organizations' equipment maintenance and production processes to decrease the risk of system failure-related downtime.

  • Reliability design engineer: Engineers that specialize in reliability design take the customer's perspective into account to guarantee that the items an organization offer are durable and unlikely to fail. They detect potential difficulties via testing and failure modes and effects analysis, and then build the solutions that clients may require.

  • Site reliability engineer: Engineers that specialize in site dependability assist businesses in integrating and automating different production systems into a cohesive process. They rely on skills in software development to build more resilient manufacturing systems.

What's the difference between reliability engineers and maintenance engineers?

Collaboration between reliability engineers and maintenance engineers is critical to ensure that equipment functions smoothly and to resolve system disturbances. But reliability engineers plan for the whole life of a piece of equipment and prioritize issue avoidance. Maintenance engineers are experts in resolving faults promptly and restoring gear to full performance. Both roles are continually in communication with each other, exchanging data that results in enhanced maintenance protocols and fewer system failures.

Examples of engineering skills

An engineer's success requires a varied set of talents. The following is a list of some of the most sought-after abilities by employers, along with examples of how to highlight them in your resume:

1. Problem-solving

A solid ability to solve problems may be one of the most critical qualities an engineer can possess. A significant portion of an engineer's work is to analyze a situation, identify issues, and then provide remedies. Employers may want to see that you can overcome challenges in the course of your regular job.

Example: Excellent at recognizing problems that result in unusable production machines, investigating likely causes, and creating a solution to quickly restore the machine to operation.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

2. Computer science

Whatever branch of engineering you work in, you are almost certain to be expected to utilize computers to perform your job efficiently. Programming skills are important in a wide variety of engineering areas and are attractive to prospective employers.

Example: Applied computer modelling tools to create simulations of structural designs and load capacities prior to finalizing project blueprints.

3. Industry skills

It's vital for a hiring specialist to be able to identify whether you are qualified to function as an engineer in the field for which you are applying. If you lack direct experience in the sector, determine which of your talents are most applicable and emphasize them in previous engineering employment.

Example: Performed inspections on contractors' current construction projects to ensure that everyone used all materials and procedures according to the design requirements and that all work was of sufficient quality for safe construction.

4. Pressure management

Because engineering tasks can be demanding, it's necessary for a candidate to be dependable under pressure. By emphasizing your capacity to perform under duress, you may make yourself more attractive to prospective employers.

Example: Managed a team of engineers developing a new prototype model on an expedited timeframe to have the test model available in time for demo at a major convention that we couldn't postpone, resulting in fantastic press reviews following the debut presentation.

5. Teamwork

It's rare for an engineer to work alone on a project without the assistance of teammates or outside expertise. Teamwork talents are critical for ensuring that you can work together with others to achieve success as a unit and perform to your combined maximum capacity.

Example: Collaborated with a team of five engineers to create a new body design, enhance aerodynamics, and boost overall fuel efficiency.

6. Creativity

Frequently, when attempting to solve an engineering challenge, you may lack direct experience with a similar problem or need. In these instances, a creative mind may combine earlier experiences in unique ways to generate a solution. Creativity is a vital skill that most employers may look for in your resume.

Example: Built a customized guide for use with a table saw to enable the carpentry crew to manufacture essential pieces of timber more efficiently, considerably lowering building time for each task.

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