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How to Become a Development Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap
Learn how to become a development engineer. Research the education requirements,
training information and experience required for starting a career in developme
nt engineering.
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Do I Want to Be a Development Engineer?
Development engineering is applied to many fields, such as chemical engineering
and production development. Engineers in this field plan, design and test new pr
oducts or processes by using tools or software specific to their area of experti
Like many engineers, development engineers usually work in an office or laborato
ry but might spend time at manufacturing or production facilities, assessing pro
cess or product requirements. This could lead to opportunities for international
travel. Though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median annual sa
lary for many engineers in May 2012 was well above average, job growth for these
professionals varies. For example, job opportunities for chemical engineers are
expected to increase only 4% over the period between 2012 and 2022, which is sl
ower than average.
Job Requirements
Most development engineers have a bachelor's degree or higher in an engineering
field, such as electrical, aerospace, chemical or mechanical engineering. Some j
obs require engineers to receive a professional engineering (PE) license to perf
orm their work. The following table contains the most common requirements for be
coming a development engineer:
Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree is required for most positions*
Degree Field Varies by position; electronics, aerospace, civil, chemical, mec
hanical, agricultural engineering or other related field*
Experience Varies by position/employer; at least 1-2 years of experience is
Licensure and Certification Licensure required for some positions; voluntary
professional certification is available*
Key Skills Excellent leadership, analytical, organization, communication, p
roblem-solving and interpersonal skills are important**
Computer Skills Varies; knowledge of Microsoft Word, Project and Excel, CAD/Soli
dWorks application programs may be preferred**
Technical Skills Varies by specialty; requires familiarity with tools suc
h as abrasion testers, filtration systems and high-capacity media drives*
Sources: *ISEEK, ** job ads (Nov. 2012).
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
A bachelor's degree program in an engineering field can help prepare students fo
r a variety of careers in development engineering. Most development engineers fo
cus on one area of study, such as software, chemical or materials engineering. E
ngineering programs are typically math and science-based with emphasis in their
chosen field.
Success Tips
Join a co-op or internship program. Some schools offer co-op programs and intern
ships that provide some of the hands-on experience needed for a career in develo
pment engineering.
Take the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam. Each state offers a licensing pr
ogram for students who are at the end of their engineering degree program. Passi
ng this exam is the first step to becoming a professional engineer (PE), which m
ay be required for some positions.
Step 2: Gain Work Experience
Most development engineering jobs require at least a year of experience, which c
an be earned through an internship, co-op or entry-level position working under
the supervision of a professional engineer. Experienced development engineers us
ually supervise a team while creating and testing new products. Performing resea
rch, working with manufacturers and meeting product specifications are common jo
b duties across all development engineering areas.
Step 3: Get Licensed
State licensing boards offer a professional engineering (PE) license that proves
competency in a specific field of engineering. Some employers require it, and i
t's necessary for engineers that want to provide services to the public. The req
uirements vary by state, but typically include earning a degree from an Accredit
ation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)-accredited program and passing
the FE exam. Four years of work experience under the supervision of a PE is usu
ally needed to take the exam.
Success Tip:
Consider earning professional certification in a specialty area. As with PE lice
nsure, earning a certification from a professional association or product vendor
can validate a development engineer's experience and specialized knowledge. For
example, software development engineers can earn Java certifications from Oracl
e, and mechanical engineers can test for different product and process certifica
tions from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).