How to Become an Automotive Engineer

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Today’s cars have come a long way from Henry Ford’s first mass-produced models. Automotive engineers are involved in the entire process, from design, research and development to production. It will take some time and education to become an automotive engineer.

Get an Early Start

  • Aspiring engineers often begin preparing for their careers in high school. Like all engineering disciplines, automotive engineering requires strong math and computer skills. Courses in algebra, geometry, trigonometry and physics can help lay the groundwork for your college education and future career. Engineers use computer modeling in the design process, so courses in this field also are helpful. Some high schools offer additional courses that might help you prepare, such as shop classes, physics or even engineering concepts.

A Degree and an Internship

  • You’ll need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to become an automotive engineer, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. A master’s degree is more likely to increase your chances of employment or career advancement. One piece of advice from the Society of Automotive Engineers International: Choose an accredited school. You might begin your education in either mechanical or automotive engineering, as automotive engineering is a subdiscipline of mechanical engineering. Summer internships can help you gain practical knowledge.

Get a License

  • Once you have that college degree in hand, start working on licensure. If you offer your services to the public, you must have a license in all states, according to the BLS. You can take the first exam -- Fundamentals of Engineering -- just prior to or immediately after graduation. Once you pass the exam, you become an engineer in training, or engineer intern. After you have four years of relevant experience, you can sit for the second exam -- Principles and Practice of Engineering -- to become fully licensed.

Certification Can Improve Your Chances

  • Certification is another way to demonstrate knowledge and competence. Certifications are available in a variety of specialties, such as management, project management, plant engineering and vehicle electrification. Organizations such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and SAE International offer these certifications. Although certification is not required to practice as an engineer, it can improve your opportunities, a major benefit given that the BLS projects a growth rate of only 5 percent for mechanical engineers from 2012 to 2022. The average growth rate for all occupations is projected to be 11 percent.

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