How to Become an Automotive Engineer

Automotive Engineer Key Stats
Avg. Salary / year $96,930
Avg. Pay / hour $46.60
Education 4+ Years
Job Outlook 4%

Automotive Engineers are professionals who are involved in the designing and creation of the latest technologies for automobiles.

This industry is a growing profession due to the recent demand in reducing the consumption of oil and gas.

The recent rise in gas and oil prices has prompted consumers to conserve and reduce the consumption to save on transportation costs.

This has led the automotive industry to respond to this interest by creating various types of vehicles such as: hybrid, electric and clean diesel cars, to keep up with the demand brought on by consumers.

Education Requirements to Become an Automotive Engineer

Individuals who want to become an Automotive Engineer will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from an accredited program in order to seek an entry level position.

Mechanical Engineering is the broad category that Automotive Engineers fall under.

In addition to securing an undergraduate degree, individuals must also seek a license to work in this profession.

Depending on the postsecondary institution an individual enrolls in, they may focus on the specialized Automotive Engineering or Mechanical Engineering in order to become an Automotive Engineer.

Individuals will need to contact their college or university to determine whether they offer the specialized Automotive Engineering degree; otherwise, individuals may complete an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering in order to become an Automotive Engineer.

A degree in Mechanical Engineering will allow students to prepare for their field of choice by requiring classes such as:

  • Mathematics
  • Life and Physical Science
  • Basic Engineering
  • Design courses

An undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering will focus less on theory and more on the engineering principles and their practical application of these principles.

The majority of students complete this degree in 4 years, but there’s been a recent trend in completing this program in 4 to 5 years.

In addition, many colleges and universities now offer accredited 5 year programs that allow individuals to earn a bachelors and a master’s degree in engineering.

This type of program may also be a cooperative program in which students will gain practical work experience while completing classroom work.

The final step to become an Automotive Engineer is to seek a license from a professional institution such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Licensure is required in the continental United States and Washington DC for Engineers who provide their service directly to the public.

Individuals may visit ASME for more information on certification and requirements.

Automotive Engineer Job Description

Many Automotive Engineers work for large automobile organizations such as: BMW, Toyota, General Motors, Honda or Volkswagen.

These professionals are experienced in designing the systems of automobiles and the important components and mechanisms to making them run.

These professionals assure they are meeting designing requirements that fall under budgeting constraints but that also conform to safety and quality needs.

Automotive Engineers primarily rely on sophisticated computer systems to create and test automobile designs.

These professionals may also work as part of a team dedicated to the design and manufacturing of automobiles.

Like other Mechanical Engineers, Automotive Engineers are also experienced in seeking flaws or possible limitations in a design and take the steps to problem solve and strategize a design that conforms to those limitations.

Engineers will also design and create prototypes of automobiles or auto parts and test them to assure they function properly.

Some Automotive Engineers will also be responsible for managing the manufacturing of automobiles.

Automotive Engineer Salary and Career Path

According to 2012 figures, Mechanical Engineers, which include the Automotive Engineering profession, can expect to earn an annual median income of approximately $80,580.

The approximate income for professionals who work in the Transportation equipment manufacturing industry earned a median income of $83,540 in 2012.

The overall growth for the Mechanical Engineering profession is expected to increase by 5 percent through the year 2022; this growth is considered slower than average.

However, the exact growth will depend on which Mechanical Engineering industry a professional works in.

Job opportunities in the Transportation equipment manufacturing industry are expected to increase because of the advancements in design for hybrid, electric or clean diesel automobiles.

Individuals pursuing a career as an Automotive Engineer have many possibilities to look forward to in this profession.

With recent trends, Mechanical Engineers will be at the forefront of creating the most advanced automotive technologies to help satisfy consumer demand.

BLSThe below information is based on the 2021 BLS national averages.

  • Annually
  • Monthly
  • Hourly

National Average Salary


Average Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
District of Columbia$113,840
New Hampshire$98,140
New Jersey$96,410
New Mexico$120,040
New York$97,040
North Carolina$88,610
North Dakota$85,490
Rhode Island$101,320
South Carolina$87,260
South Dakota$83,420
West Virginia$94,220
Puerto Rico$69,800

The top earning state in the field is New Mexico, where the average salary is $120,040.

These are the top 5 earning states in the field:

New Mexico - $120,040
Louisiana - $119,380
District of Columbia - $113,840
California - $113,130
Alaska - $111,850
* Salary information based on the May 2021 Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) Survey for Mechanical Engineers, OCC Code 17-2141, BLS.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do automotive engineers do?

Automotive engineers design new motor vehicles and components and modify existing products.

In their work, automotive engineers use a variety of mechanical, electrical, electronic and software engineering methods.

They are involved in a wide range of activities related to the construction, manufacturing, and testing of motor vehicles, components, and related equipment.

When designing a new product automotive engineers must take into account both the aesthetics and the technical performance of the motor vehicle.

Automotive engineers need not only math and science knowledge but also creativity, commercial awareness, and interpersonal skills.

Those who supervise a team of technicians and engineers also need leadership and communication skills.

How much does an automotive engineer make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for engineers working in the transportation equipment manufacturing field was $88,460 as of May 2018.

Salaries may vary depending on the level of experience, the employer and the industry.

Engineers who have a supervisory position may earn more than the rest.

How much does it cost to become an automotive engineer?

Automotive engineers need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical, electrical, automotive engineering or a related field.

Some programs also offer students the possibility of participating in internships during college.

Bachelor’s degree programs in automotive engineering technology cost, on average, around $30,000 a year, but tuition costs vary widely, depending on the school and the program you choose.

A year of college can cost out-of-state students anywhere between $24,000 a year to almost $40,000 a year.

Some positions may also require a postgraduate degree.

Total tuition costs for master’s degree programs in engineering can be anywhere between $30,000 and $120,000 depending on the program and the university you choose.

What is the demand for automotive engineers?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for mechanical engineers, in general, is expected to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028.

Engineers working in the automotive manufacturing industry are expected to continue to be in demand.

More automotive engineers will be needed to improve the range and performance of hybrid and electric cars.

Engineers who learn how to use virtual simulations in the design, development and testing stage of the manufacturing process should have the best job prospects.

How long does it take to become an automotive engineer?

Automotive engineers need a bachelor’s degree which usually can be obtained in approximately four years.

If you want to pursue a career in automotive manufacturing, you should start preparing for this field in high school, by taking math and science classes.

A bachelor’s degree is usually enough for entry-level employment but some positions may also require a master’s degree or a Ph.D.

Getting your master’s degree can take around 2 years, while the Ph.D. can be obtained in approximately 3-5 years.

Jamie Willis
Career Specialist at BecomeopediaHi, my name is Jamie Willis, and I have been helping students find their perfect internships and education paths for the last ten years. It is a passion of mine, and there really is nothing better than seeing students of mine succeed with further studies.

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