Educational background

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Design engineers-educational background

The educational background of a typical design engineer working in the petrochemical or manufacturing industry in the United States can vary from having a Bachelor’s degree in engineering, to a Master’s or even those with a Ph.D. Aside from engineering subjects, general subjects such as Calculus, Physics, and Writing are also required in order to function well in a job. Real case of companies hiring design engineers also require the basic courses above as well as soft skills such as communication, team work and the relevant design experience.


Design engineers are usually involved in formulating initial concepts, doing design, developing prototypes and final models, as well as in the management of projects in various sectors such as construction, petrochemicals, manufacturing, chemical, and other types of industries.
There is actually no specific design engineering degree mandated by the National Center for Education Statistics. Students who have obtained a degree in one or more relevant branches of engineering can opt to concentrate on the design aspect of their work when choosing a career path.
Typical design engineers usually have one or more of the following degree levels: Bachelor of Engineering, a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, a Master's in Engineering, a Master of Science in Engineering, and a Doctor of Engineering. The most popular engineering branches that design engineers in either the petrochemical or manufacturing sector specialize in are in any of the following: chemical, mechanical, electrical, civil, industrial, and even computer-related degrees.
Within their chosen engineering fields, design engineers need to master subjects that include thermodynamics, machine design, manufacturing processes, engineering product design, Industrial design, computer-aided design, engineering design, materials science, and statistics, in addition to their core engineering courses. They are also required to study subjects such as Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, Writing, Computer science and communication for broader knowledge.
In studying all the courses above, design engineers are expected to acquire computer experience, develop an inventive mind, be functional in a group, have good communication skills, and other attributes that will make them attractive to their future employers.
Aside from the areas of studies mentioned above, employers can also consider graduates of other majors depending on specific requirements required for the role and overall candidate fit and experience.

DESIGN ENGINEER JOB CASE STUDY — Chevron Phillips Chemical Company

Chevron Phillips Chemical, is one of the petrochemical companies looking for a design engineer for their Houston, Texas site.
In their job posting for a design engineer, they have enumerated the various engineering knowledge areas required for the job. These areas include engineering, project engineering, manufacturing, piping, mechanical engineering, refinery, petrochemical, reliability engineering, continuous improvement, root cause analysis, AutoCad, inspection, factory, process safety, Microsoft office, Hazop, project management, Six Sigma, Matlab, and engineering management.


Altec industries, a company involved in electric, utility and telecommunications parts manufacturing, also needed to fill in their job vacancy for a manufacturing design job in Osceola, Indiana.
Aside from the usual Bachelor of Engineering degree, they also need the candidates to have an EIT registration as well as possess excellent communication skills, ability to work well in a group with limited supervision, and must be willing to travel.


A Senior Design and Manufacturing Engineer is also needed by Jabil Circuit, an electronics manufacturing company based in San Jose, California.
They also require applicants to possess a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering as well as a lengthy on the job training and experience as a design engineer.


Design engineers are normally required to graduate with engineering degrees before they can take on actual design jobs in the petrochemical or manufacturing industries. Real world companies such as the Chevron Phillips Chemical Company that need design engineers expect candidates to have the mandated engineering degrees, soft skills needed to function well in a corporate setting, and the applicable design experience.

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Design engineers-career path

The career path that a design engineer has to follow in order to switch or get promoted to higher positions in the manufacturing industry requires a lot of skills, qualification and additional knowledge depending on the projects. Although, a design engineer can start from the scratch and become a mechanical engineer, a project engineer, a project manager, a mechanical design engineer and also a civil, structural and principal engineer. Afterwards, he/she can become a senior to all of those.

Although, we were able to found existing information only for design engineers in manufacturing industry but not specifically, for a design engineer in the petrochemical industry. In fact, here you can find all the information required for the career path of a design engineer such as experience, educational background, skills and other qualities that compose a design engineer's successful career in manufacturing industry.

The career path of a design engineer

Design engineers are mostly involved in the front–end design of engineering projects and as such, they are not concentrated on the hardcore technical elements. They are in charge of designing completely new products and re-think the design of the old ones. A design engineer can begin his/her career with a technical position as a drafter or a designer, then after this he/she can shift to managerial position like senior project manager or program manager.

According to this article, a design engineer can become or get promoted to a mechanical engineer and then to a senior mechanical engineer, mechanical design engineer, design engineering manager and/or mechanical engineering manager. By becoming a project engineer, a design engineer can then shift to civil engineering, project manager (construction), structural engineering and/or senior mechanical engineer. Apart from that, a design engineer can also become a senior in structural engineering and a principal engineer too.

Typically, companies are in search of design engineers that have work experience in certain areas. The experience they are looking for may vary depending on the specific area they are working but mainly they are looking for experience on design work (for example, previously undertaking a complex surface in computer-aided design) and user experience. The latter is the key to a company if they're looking for someone who has previously demonstrated that he/she is a user in mind. In case, when a company requires a license, the experience of a design engineer should be at least 4 years.

In order to get more experience, a design engineer should get involved in as much work aspects of the company as he/she possibly can. But in case, someone is aspiring to be a design engineer in the future then they might start to design products on their free time as personal projects. This will show initiative but also, one can contribute in developing skills and detect one's advantages and disadvantages in designing.

Usually those who hire design engineers are organizations in many industries as, for example, building services companies, colleges and universities, construction companies, consumer goods design/manufacturing companies, engineering firms, research organizations. They also may be employed by self-employed and transportation manufacturers.

Regarding the levels of payment for a design engineer, according to this article, the average salary for a design engineer in US is $65,000 per year.

Educational background, qualifications and skills

Manufacturing design engineers are responsible for developing and improving manufacturing processes and products designs. According to this article, the career requirements for a manufacturing design engineer are a bachelor degree (for entry levels) in mechanical engineering or related fields and voluntary professional certifications. While some companies may also require for a design engineer to possess a license.

The path to become a successful design engineer is quite long and it requires a lot of skills and qualifications. As such, a design engineer should initially acquire a bachelor degree in civil, mechanical or electrical engineering. According to this article, a design engineer should also take classes in engineer product design, industrial design, computer aided design, engineering design and material science. Nevertheless, a good command of written and communication skills is an asset for a design engineer. The design engineer is also expected to have different type of skills in order to further advance and get promoted in a work environment. As such, a design engineer should demonstrate the ability to work, for example, with Computer-Aided Design software, while skills like good blend of creativity, practical skills and being a team player are also a plus.
According to this article, design engineers among others should possess strong problem solving skills, excellent knowledge of engineering, design principles, knowledge of the qualities of metals, understanding of manufacturing processes and construction methods and as well, awareness of the environmental impact of design ideas.


In conclusion, a design engineer's career path may start from the scratch and then evolve to a senior mechanical engineer. Although, on their way to the top, a design engineer passes through various positions. In order to advance in their career, they must have a strong educational background, additional qualifications received in voluntary basis and the ability to work in different softwares such as computer-assisted design.