Design engineer

product design engineer

Career outlook for design engineer

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "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 research and develop ideas for new products and the systems used to make them. You’d improve the performance and efficiency of existing products.

You will need to understand engineering and design principles. You’d use your knowledge of the qualities of materials and of methods of construction and manufacturing to create products that a company can sell and make a profit.

You could work in a wide range of industries, from electronics to synthetic textiles. For example, you might work on the redesign of a mobile phone or work out how to construct motorbike parts from carbon fibre materials. Your role could vary depending on the project.

You would research the product or process. You’d use mathematical modelling to work out whether new ideas and innovations would work and are affordable.

Then you’d turn the research ideas into technical plans for prototypes. You'd use computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-assisted engineering (CAE) software to create the design.

Next you’d use prototypes to test the design. You’d collect and analyse data from the tests and use the findings to make the design better. Then you’d re-test. You might go though this process several times before a product is ready for manufacture or installation.

Throughout the development process you’d write progress reports or do presentations for the project managers and clients.

You’d look at a range of features when developing ideas for a new product, such as:

  • Usability and safety
  • Strength and reliability
  • Its 'look and feel’
  • Efficiency and cost
  • Maintenance and life span

You would also have to take into account the environmental impact of the product, how it would be manufactured and how to dispose of it safely when it’s no longer usable.

Working conditions


You would normally work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday.


Most of your time would be spent in front of a computer, working in a design or drawing office.


There would be occasional travel to meet clients.

UK employment status





Self employed


Create a qualification route

We've found some examples of the qualifications that could help you get this job.

Discover my route

Search course options

Thinking about your future? There are lots of courses available that could interest you. Use our course search to explore course options.

Find courses

Search job opportunities

If you're looking for your new career our job search can help you. Discover interesting opportunities and decide your next steps.

Find a job

Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Adaptability
  • Working with technology
  • Creative
  • Designing
  • Innovative
  • Evaluating
  • Problem solving
  • Working with numbers
  • Attention to detail
  • Analysing

Skills Explorer

Your skills can help you choose the career that's right for you. You can build your skills through work, study or activities you do in your spare time.

Our Skills Explorer tool will help you understand what skills you have and match them to jobs that might suit you.

Use the Skills Explorer tool

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


You normally need a degree (SCQF level 9/10) in subjects like product design engineering, mechanical design engineering and computer-aided design engineering.

Entry to a Product Design Engineering degree (SCQF level 9/10) usually requires National 5 qualifications and a minimum of four Highers at BBBC or above (for some courses a typical offer is Highers at AAABB to AAAAAA) or a relevant HNC/HND.  

For entry to a postgraduate MSc in Product Design Engineering (SCQF level 11) you will require a relevant honours degree. 

Useful subjects

Most courses require

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science subjects, in particular physics
  • Technologies subjects such as Engineering or Computing science.  

Creative and design technologies subjects such as Design and Manufacture or Graphic Communication may also be helpful.

Helpful to have

Qualifications and experience that demonstrate an understanding of creative design and production and of engineering such as Skills for Work in Creative & Digital (SCQF level 4) or Skills for Work Engineering Skills (SCQF level 4).