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Depending on the field of engineering, a chief engineer possesses different responsibilities. Overall, the engineer has responsibility for overseeing administrative functions such as safety and budgeting and for supervising personnel. This job description describes typical duties regardless of the type of engineering field.
In a large organization, a chief engineer oversees managers and supervisors. In a smaller organization, a chief engineer supervises a single team of professional engineers and technicians. Supervision requires understanding personnel administration and how to coordinate engineering teams to achieve business goals such as safety and quality assurance.
A chief engineer develops, plans and coordinates projects for the organization. After projects are approved by senior management, a chief engineer then assigns the roles in the project to appropriate staff members. This duty also includes making sure roles are completed on time and within the project budget.
In addition to supervising personnel, a chief engineer oversees policies, procedures, protocols and controls that govern operations. This type of professional consultation with all lower-level employees who develop standards ensures that routines and controls keeps the organization operating safely and effectively. This duty requires understanding how all parts in a complex work system function together. For example, in a public transit system, a chief engineer manages procedures of diverse functions, such as research and development, planning, transportation systems and maintenance.
In addition to project management, which is specific to time-limited jobs, a chief engineer sets goals and objectives--short-term and long-term--for regular staff. To plan for the achievement of these goals and objectives, a professional must develop a departmental budget and allocate employees, dollars, materials, equipment and other resources to day-to-day operations. As the chief manager of resources, a chief justifies all budget and resource allocation decisions to senior management. For example, he demonstrates how items in a budget align with goals and objectives.
A chief engineer oversees preparation of reports, such as statistical and data analysis reports, for all engineering processes. Because engineering deals with people, resources, and important business factors such as safety and quality, a chief engineer must automate the collection, analysis and publishing of these reports.
These reports may be used to respond to requests for information from inside the organization and from external agencies (for example, suppliers, contractors, public interest groups and government agencies). This reporting duty may also include professionally communicating information to parties in person, over the phone, via email and via postal correspondence.