35-40 per week
£20,000 + per year
Automotive engineers design, develop, test and build domestic motor vehicles, racing cars and motorbikes. They also work on improving components like engines, electronics and aerodynamics.
If you are passionate about cars and want to put your practical skills to good use, this could be the perfect career for you.
You will need to have a strong interest in engineering and design. You will also need excellent maths and IT skills and the ability to work in a team.
Most employers will prefer you to have an engineering-related qualification. Previous experience in motor mechanics or engineering design could be an advantage when looking for work.
As an automotive engineer you may specialise in any stage of the motor manufacturing process, from the initial vehicle designs through to the final production stages.
You might work on:
- body, chassis and engine systems
- electrical and electronic instrumentation and control systems
- thermodynamics, aerodynamics and fluid mechanics
- fuel technology and emissions.
Your job would fall into one of three main areas - design, development and production:
- design – turning ideas into blueprints for development and testing, taking into account the reliability and safety, cost-effectiveness, environmental impact and look
- development – building and testing prototypes using computer simulations and physical models to assess components' strengths, weaknesses, performance and safety
- production – planning the production run, including redesigning machine tools, equipment and processes to make new parts, monitoring costs and production schedules, and overseeing quality control.
As a senior engineer, you would have responsibility for managing projects, supervising technical teams, writing reports and negotiating with clients.
Working hours and conditions
You would normally work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, but as a production engineer, you may have to work shifts.
You could be based in an office, at a research facility or at a manufacturing plant.
Starting salaries can be between £20,000 and £26,000 a year. Experienced engineers can earn from £25,000 to over £50,000 a year.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Automotive engineers need to have good technical ability. Most employers will prefer you to have a qualification like a foundation degree, HNC/HND or degree before accepting you onto their training schemes. Relevant subjects include:
- mechanical engineering
- electrical or electronic engineering
- design engineering
- manufacturing engineering
- automotive engineering.
You can search for courses on the UCAS website.
Employers value work experience so finding courses with work placements or an internship, or working for a year in industry can be especially useful.
You may also be able to get into this career by first starting as an apprentice engineering technician with a motor manufacturing or engineering design company. You could then continue your training through a higher apprenticeship in advanced manufacturing or by taking a higher education qualification.
Visit the apprenticeships website to find out more.
Some employers may offer the opportunity to train on a degree apprenticeship programme. This route allows you to work while you study part-time for a degree in automotive engineering. See the apprenticeships site or contact companies directly for details.
See Autocity, the Institute of the Motor Industry's (IMI) careers website, and Your Future in Automotive for more details about working as an automotive engineer.
Training and development
Once employed, you would normally start out on a structured company training scheme, which could last between one and two years.
You could also improve your career prospects through continuing professional development (CPD). The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) offers CPD courses that allow you to develop the specific skills and knowledge required by the automotive industry. See the IMechE website for more details.
It could benefit your career if you worked towards incorporated or chartered status. To do this, you would register with your relevant industry body and apply to the Engineering Council. See the Engineering Council website for more details.
Skills, interests and qualities
To become an automotive engineer, you will need:
- a strong interest in motor vehicle engineering and design
- a creative approach to solving problems
- excellent maths and IT skills
- the ability to analyse and interpret data
- excellent technical knowledge
- good communication and presentation skills
- the ability to prioritise and plan well
- the ability to work to budgets and deadlines
- a commitment to keeping up to date with new technology
- the ability to work as part of a team and take responsibility.
Tel: 0845 643 9001
Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Tel: 020 7222 7899
Institute of the Motor Industry
Tel: 01992 511 521
Your Future In Automotive
Tel: 020 3206 0400
Employers include vehicle manufacturing companies, design firms, parts suppliers and engineering consultancies. The UK is also a world centre of excellence in the motorsport engineering industry.
With experience, you could progress to senior engineer roles, project team management, general management and consultancy.
You may find the following useful for vacancies and general reading:
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