What Is Automotive Engineering? Definition and Career Tips

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 22 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Automotive engineering is a branch of mechanical engineering and an important component of the automobile industry. Automotive engineers design new vehicles and ensure that existing vehicles are up to prescribed safety and efficiency standards. This field of engineering is research intensive and requires educated professionals in automotive engineering specialities. In this article, we discuss what automotive engineering is, what these engineers do and what skills they need and outline the steps to pursue this career path.

What is automotive engineering?

Automotive engineering is a branch of vehicle engineering that focuses on the application, design and manufacture of various types of automobiles. This field of engineering involves the direct application of mathematics and physics concepts in the design and production of vehicles. Engineering disciplines that are relevant in this field include safety engineering, vehicle electronics, quality control, fuel economy and emissions.

Related: What Is Quality Control? A Complete Guide

What do automotive engineers do?

Automotive engineers, sometimes referred to as automobile engineers, work with other professionals to enhance the technical performance, aesthetics and software components of vehicles. Common responsibilities of an automotive engineer include designing and testing various components of vehicles, including fuel technologies and safety systems. Some automotive engineers also work in the after-sale care of vehicles, making repairs and inspections. They can work on both the interior and exterior components of vehicles. Common duties of an automotive engineer include:

  • preparing design specifications

  • researching, developing and producing new vehicles or vehicle subsystems

  • using computerised models to determine the behaviour and efficiency of a vehicle

  • investigating instances of product failure

  • preparing cost estimates for current or new vehicles

  • assessing the safety and environmental aspects of an automotive project

  • creating plans and drawings for new vehicle products

Automobile engineers may choose to specialise in a specific sector of this field, such as fluid mechanics, aerodynamics or control systems. The production of an automobile often involves a team of automotive engineers who each specialise in a particular section of vehicular engineering. The work of these engineers is often broken down into three components: design, research and development (R&D) and production.

What skills do automotive engineers require?

If you are interested in becoming an automotive engineer, you may consider developing the following skills:

  • Technical knowledge: Automotive engineers require good practical as well as theoretical knowledge of manufacturing processes and mechanical systems. They may have to design products, do lab experiments and complete internships during their study.

  • Mathematical skills: Good mathematical skills may also be necessary for an automotive engineer, as they have to calculate the power, stress, strength and other aspects of machines. Along with this, they may also have a well-rounded understanding of fundamental aspects of automotive engineering.

  • Computer skills: Since most engineers work with computers, they benefit from computer literacy. They use computer and software programs to design, manufacture and test vehicles and their components.

  • Analytical skills: An automotive engineer may require good analytical skills to figure out how different parts of a vehicle work in sync with each other. They also analyse data and form logical conclusions, which may then be used to make decisions related to manufacturing or design.

  • Problem-solving skills: Automotive engineers require good problem-solving skills. They may encounter different issues during the production and manufacturing process of vehicles. They may have to plan effectively, identify problems and find solutions quickly.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions and Examples

How to become an automotive engineer

Follow these steps to become an automotive engineer:

1. Graduate from a higher secondary school

To become an automotive engineer, you have to pass higher secondary school with a focus on science subjects like physics, chemistry and maths. After graduating, you can appear for various national and state-level entrance exams to gain admission into engineering colleges. The most prominent entrance exam is the JEE (Joint Entrance Exam). You may require a 50% aggregate score in your board examinations to be eligible to pursue an engineering degree from a reputed institute.

2. Pursue a bachelor's degree

You can pursue an undergraduate engineering degree to develop a good understanding of the fundamental concepts of automotive engineering. The most common degrees include BTech (Bachelor of Technology) in automobile engineering, BTech in automotive design engineering, BTech in mechanical engineering and BE (Bachelor of Engineering) in automobile engineering. A bachelor's degree is the most basic qualification to start a career in this industry.

Related: Which Is the Best Branch in Engineering?

3. Pursue a master's degree

After completing your undergraduate degree, you can pursue a postgraduate course in automobile engineering. To join for a master's course, you may require a BTech or BE in a related stream from a recognised university. Most universities require candidates to clear the GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) exam for MTech (Master of Technology) or ME (Master of Engineering) admissions. Some popular MTech courses are:

  • MTech in automobile engineering

  • MTech in automotive engineering and manufacturing

  • ME in automobile engineering

Related: How To Share Your Education Background

4. Get certified

Additionally, you can also pursue certifications to help you update your knowledge and skills along with changes in the industry. There are a number of colleges that offer good certification programmes and diploma courses. These programmes can be an enriching experience for professionals with work experience as well as a graduate without experience. Some popular certification courses are:

  • Certificate course in automobile engineering

  • Certificate course in automobile repair and driving

  • Diploma in automobile engineering

  • Postgraduate diploma in automobile engineering

Related: How To List Certifications on a Resume (With Examples)

5. Apply for jobs

After completing a degree and gaining hands-on experience, you are eligible for entry-level automotive engineer positions. Most companies provide extensive training programmes for newly hired employees. You can start your career in an entry-level position where you may work under experienced professionals. Once you have gained the necessary experience, skills and expertise, you can apply for higher-level jobs in the field.

Related: How To Write a Job Application Letter: Sample Included

Is automotive engineering a good career?

Automotive engineering is a very lucrative career path with abundant opportunities. Automotive engineers can work in specialised areas like the design of vehicles and the enforcement of safety protocols for transport. With the rapid development and expansion of the automobile industry, this career path is apt for creative professionals who enjoy a fast-paced and dynamic work environment. Job prospects in this field are immense, as there are opportunities in the private and public sectors. If you love working on vehicles and enjoy creative problem-solving, this line of work may be a good fit for you.

What is the difference between automobile and automotive engineering?

While the terms "automobile" and "automotive" are often used interchangeably, they are not entirely the same. Automobile refers to four-wheeled vehicles used for transport while automotive relates to all motor vehicles. Hence, automobile engineers may work specifically on the design and manufacture of cars, whereas automotive engineers deal with all vehicles, including public transport. Both of these branches are sub-branch of vehicle engineering.

Related careers

If you are interested in the job role of an automotive engineer, you may also consider the following career options:

Automotive engineering technician

These professionals assist automotive engineers by conducting tests on vehicles, inspecting manufactured automobiles, collecting data and designing prototypes. They may test automobile parts and analyse them for efficiency and effectiveness. This position is ideal for individuals who are entering the field and are looking to gain hands-on experience in the industry.

Automotive design engineer

This type of engineer is primarily involved in improving or designing the functional aspects of a motor vehicle. They may require an understanding of both the aesthetic qualities of a vehicle and the materials and engineering components needed to design it. They curate designs to improve the visual appeal of vehicles and work in collaboration with automobile engineers.

Related: What Is a Design Engineer? A Comprehensive Career Guide

Automobile designer

An automobile designer is a professional who performs research and designs new vehicles. These individuals focus on creating new car designs that incorporate the latest safety and operational technologies. They ensure that designs meet mandated regulations and offer consumers a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing product. They may design all road vehicles including cars, trucks, motorcycles and buses.

Manufacturing engineers

Manufacturing engineers are responsible for creating and assembling the parts of automobiles. They also oversee the design, layout and specifications of various automobile components. They also ensure that appropriate safety measures are put in place during the manufacturing process.

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