Automotive engineer

car designer vehicle engineer

Career outlook for automotive engineer

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would design, test and build the cars of the future to make them more reliable, fuel-efficient and stylish.

You could work on a variety of vehicles including domestic cars, racing cars, motorbikes and coaches, buses, trucks and tractors.

You'd make the vehicle more cost-effective and reduce its impact on the environment. You'd make it safer for drivers and passengers and come up with exciting new designs for the way it looks.

You might work on:

  • Body, chassis and engine systems
  • Electrical and electronic instruments and control systems
  • Thermodynamics, aerodynamics and fluid mechanics
  • Fuel technology and emissions

There are several stages to the motor manufacturing process.

If you focused on design you would do research and use computer-aided design (CAD) software to produce detailed plans for vehicles.

In the development stage you would:

  • Build prototypes
  • Test prototypes and models
  • Use computer simulations and physical models to assess the components' performance and safety

If you worked in production you would

  • Redesign machine tools, equipment and processes to make new parts
  • Check the costs
  • Keep track of the production schedules
  • Control the quality of the products

As a senior engineer, you would manage projects, supervise technical teams, write reports and negotiate with clients.

Working conditions


You would normally work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, but as a production engineer, you may have to work shifts.


You could be based in an office, at a research facility or at a manufacturing plant.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Cooperating
  • Working with technology
  • Designing
  • Resourceful
  • Problem solving
  • Working with numbers
  • Researching
  • Managing resources
  • Making decisions
  • Analysing

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.

Foundation Apprenticeships

Choosing a Foundation Apprenticeship as one of your subjects in S5 and S6 can help you get a head start with this type of job.

You'll get an SCQF level 6 qualification (the same level as a Higher) plus valuable work placement experience and skills you can't learn in a classroom.

Interested? Find out what's on offer at your school on


A Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7), Higher National Diploma (SCQF level 8), degree (SCQF level 9/10) or postgraduate qualification (SCQF level 11) preferably in: 

  • Mechanical, Electronic or Electrical engineering
  • Manufacturing engineering
  • Design engineering
  • Automotive engineering.

 There are currently no Automotive Engineering degree courses in Scotland, however several UK universities offer these courses.

You can enter Mechanical Engineering Higher National Certificate (SCQF level 7) or Higher National Diploma courses (SCQF level 8) with National 4/5 qualifications and one to two Highers, this can supports entry to a Mechanical Engineering degree.

Entry to an Mechanical, Electronic or electrical , Manufacturing, design or automotive engineering degree (SCQF level 9/10) requires National 5 qualifications, Highers at BBBB or above with Advanced Highers preferred.

To enter a postgraduate qualification (SCQF level 11) you require a relevant degree.

Alternatively relevant work-based experience and qualifications such as a Scottish Vocational Qualification in Automotive Manufacturing (SVQ Level 3) may allow you to qualify for this job. 

Useful subjects

  • Science subjects in particular physics (required by many course and employers)
  • Technologies subjects (required by many course and employers)
  • Maths (required by many course and employers)
  • English (required by many course and employers)
  • Engineering science
  • Design & manufacturing

You will also need

Once in the job you normally start out on a structured company training scheme, which could last between one and two years.  


Helpful to have

Qualifications and experience that show understanding of the industry such as Skills for Work Engineering Skills (SCQF level 5) could also be useful.

Employers value work experience so finding courses with work placements or an internship, or working for a year in industry can be especially useful.

It could benefit your career if you worked towards incorporated or chartered status. To do this, you would register with your relevant industry body and apply to the Engineering Council.

You could also improve your career prospects through continuing professional development (CPD). The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) offers CPD courses that allow you to develop the specific skills and knowledge required by the automotive industry.