As an automotive engineer, you could work on any stage of the motor manufacturing process, from initial vehicle design right through to final production.
You'll also have overall responsibility for managing projects, supervising technical teams, writing reports and negotiating with clients.
So, what will I actually be doing?
Your exact duties would fall into design, development or production.
In design, you'll use your draughting skills and computer-aided design software, turning ideas into blueprints for development and testing. You weigh up issues such as reliability and safety, whether production would be cost-effective, potential environmental impact and the 'look'.
In development, you'll build and test prototypes. You'll use a combination of computer simulations and physical tests to assess strengths, weaknesses, performance and safety. For example, you might test the aerodynamics in a wind tunnel.
In production, you'll plan the production run. You may redesign machine tools, equipment and processes to make new parts. You'll also monitor costs and production schedules, and oversee quality control.
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The nitty gritty
Normally you'll work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, although you may have to work shifts as a production engineer.
You could be based in an office, research facility or manufacturing plant.
You could work for vehicle manufacturing companies, design firms, parts suppliers and engineering consultancies. The main centres of production are in the midlands, north-west, north-east and south-east.
With experience, you could progress to senior engineer, project team management, general management and consultancy.
Money, money, money
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
Starting salaries are between £20,000 and £26,000 a year.
Experienced engineers earn between £28,000 and £39,000.
Senior engineers can earn around £50,000 a year.
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The good points...
Perfect if you're crazy about cars, there's lots of opportunities to work on different stages of the manufacturing process so you're bound to find something to suit you.
The UK is a world centre of excellence in the motorsport engineering industry, so it's a well respected job.
Plus as you'll soon discover, once you get to senior level, the pay isn't bad either
...and the bad
Sadly you can't just turn up on the day with no experience and expect to get the job, you'll usually need experience as an engineering technician first.
Is there study involved?
You could study for a qualification such as a foundation degree, BTEC HNC/HND or degree, then join a firm's graduate training scheme straight from college or university. The most relevant subjects are mechanical engineering, electrical or electronic engineering, production engineering and manufacturing engineering.
For colleges and universities offering foundation degrees, HNDs and degrees, visit the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).Check with the colleges for exact entry requirements.
You could also visit the SEMTA, Institute of the Motor Industry and Auto Industry websites for information about careers, qualifications and training.
You could improve your skills with short professional development courses. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers offers ones that allow you to build up specific skills and knowledge.
You could help your career development by working towards incorporated or chartered engineer status. Register with your professional industry body and apply to the Engineering Council.
As an incorporated engineer, you would specialise in the day-to-day management of engineering operations. At chartered level, you would have a more strategic role, planning, researching and developing new ideas, and streamlining management methods.
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
To succeed in automotive engineering you'll need:
- A strong interest in motor vehicle engineering and design
- A creative approach to problem solving
- Excellent mathematical and IT skills
- The ability to analyse and interpret data
- Excellent technical knowledge
- Good communication and presentation skills
- The ability to prioritise and plan effectively
- The ability to work within cost constraints and to deadlines
- A commitment to keep up to date with new technology
- The ability to work as part of a team and take responsibility.
Can't stand cars and bored by technology? This job isn't for you