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Automotive engineers design cars and automobile systems for companies such as Toyota, Ford and BMW. They work on all physical aspects of the car, developing new technologies, improving fuel efficiency and generally making cars safer and more profitable. This career is ideal for creative individuals who love working on cars and have excellent science, math and problem-solving skills. Entry-level positions for automotive engineers require at least an undergraduate degree in engineering.
An automotive engineer’s career training begins with a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. This is generally the basic requirement for entry-level jobs in the career. While pursing their bachelor’s degree, students take classes in a range of fields, including physics, mathematics, design and computer science. Certain programs also require core courses in the humanities, in areas such as English or philosophy. The first two years typically consist of foundational classes in math and science, while the last two or three years consist of more engineering-specific courses. Aspiring automotive engineers should pursue a degree in mechanical engineering or a related engineering field.
After graduating from a bachelor’s in engineering program, engineers in all 50 states must obtain a Fundamentals of Engineering license by passing a rigorous exam. Engineers who complete this step become engineers in training, or EITs, or engineer interns, also known as EIs. EITs become eligible to take the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam after they've fulfilled the state requirement for work experience, which in most states is four years. Individuals who pass this exam receive a professional engineer, or PE, license for the state in which they reside.
Skills and Qualifications
The field of automotive engineering is extremely complex and requires a specific sort of mind and skills set. Automotive engineers must be creative, detail-oriented individuals with a knack for mathematics, physics and problem-solving. Because they often work in large design teams, automotive engineers should be good with people and able to cooperate well with others. Automotive engineers must also be extremely knowledgeable about cars, parts, engines and car safety laws.
Ongoing training is crucial for automotive engineers, especially those who wish to advance in the field. An advanced degree such as a master’s in engineering is usually required for those who want to pursue advanced research and development positions. Automotive engineers may pursue business degrees if they plan on moving into upper-level management positions. Others assume sales-oriented positions: The detailed technical knowledge of automobiles is useful when discussing a car with a potential buyer.