What Does a Product Engineer Do? Role, Skills and Salary

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 21 September 2022

Published 11 October 2021

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.

If you're interested in using creativity in a manufacturing role, you might be interested in learning more about product engineers. A career in product engineering necessitates specialised technical knowledge, innovative thinking, specialised education and professional experience. Whether you're new to the industry or seeking a career transition, conducting enough research can assist you in preparing for a position in product engineering. In this article, we discuss what a product engineer does, what skills you need, how much can you earn in the role and how you can become one.

Related: What Is An Automation Engineer? (With Necessary Skills)

What does a product engineer do?

A product engineer is a mechanical engineering expert who develops goods and oversees their production process. Product engineers may work in nearly any sector that involves manufacturing. They generally work in manufacturing plants, where they oversee the production of a product. They can work in business settings. Product engineers play an important part in all stages of a product's development. Outlined below are some common daily duties outlining what a product engineer does:

  • generating innovative product concepts using domain expertise and acumen

  • collaborating closely with the development team to finalise product ideas

  • designing and conducting tests on product prototypes to modify and refine design flaws

  • assessing product prototypes to determine probable safety concerns and hazards

  • collaborating closely with logisticians and shipping managers to find the most cost-effective production methods and materials

  • creating products using computer-aided design (CAD) software

  • supervising the beginning of the production process to make sure efficiency and safety

  • continuously improving product design and quality

Related: What Does a Business Engineer Do? (With Necessary Skills)

What skills do you need to become a product engineer?

To fulfil their various work duties, product engineers require proficiency in a variety of skill areas. Here are some key product engineering skills:

Teamwork

Teamwork skills refer to a set of interconnected talents that enable you to collaborate with people in a variety of settings and projects in an organised, structured and empathic manner. As a product engineer, it's important that you're willing to cooperate with product development teams and other engineers to conceive, design and create products. Product engineers may efficiently accomplish their work tasks if they possess a team-oriented mindset.

Example: A product engineer discovers a flaw in a battery-powered fan prototype. They're unable to identify the flaw, so they confer with their team members. When one of the team members goes over the drawings, they find they underestimated the amount of the internal cables.

Related: What Is Teamwork? (Plus Skills and Examples of Teamwork)

Creative thinking

It's essential for product engineers to think creatively. Creative thinking entails the use of talents and soft skills to come up with innovative solutions. Product engineers use innovative thinking abilities to examine an issue from creative perspectives, utilising the appropriate tools to analyse it and build a strategy. The tasks of a product engineer entail the creation of prototypes and the development of novel remedies to problems. As such, it's critical that product engineers can think imaginatively to determine which materials would be ideal for the product's construction while keeping cost-effective methods that benefit the firm.

Example: A product engineer may design workplace desks that users can convert to standing positions with remote control. The remote control's construction indicates that more money is going to be spent on each product and the remote control is going to slow down the manufacturing time. They modify the prototype to incorporate an in-built control function that allows users to transform their desks by flicking a switch beneath it.

Related: Creative Skills in the Workplace

Interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communication refers to a person's capacity to change the way they communicate depending on the type of interaction. It involves the process through which individuals communicate information, sentiments and meaning using both verbal and nonverbal cues. It's essential for product engineers to hone their interpersonal communication skills since the role entails interacting not just with other technical experts but also with logisticians, shipping managers and corporate leaders who may not share their level of engineering expertise.

Example: A product engineer delivers a presentation at their corporate headquarters to gain permission from senior management for a prototype they produced. Instead of focusing on engineering and design, they concentrate on market value and how customers might profit from adopting it.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definition and Examples

Mathematics

Mathematical skills, especially calculus, linear algebra and statistics, are essential for product engineers. Mathematical abilities assist product engineers in determining the size of the prototype and the parts required for it to work properly. Product engineers also benefit from logical reasoning and critical thinking abilities.

Example: A product engineer utilises statistics to assess the successes or failures of a cordless vacuum cleaner.

Problem-solving abilities

A major part of your role as a product engineer involves assessing a condition, recognising issues and finally finding solutions. Thus, excellent problem-solving abilities are one of the most important talents of a product engineer. It's essential for a product engineer to be fast to detect issues and deal with barriers in their everyday work.

Example: A product engineer is quick to identify issues in a piece of defective machinery and can troubleshoot probable problems before they occur.

Related: Step by Step Guide: How to Write a Problem Statement

Technical knowledge

Technical abilities in engineering imply a solid education, certifications and prior experience in a related sector. This includes being technologically aware, being able to programme and doing structural analysis, all of which demonstrate your ability to produce exact calculations and offer safe and functional ideas. Another in-demand technical talent is data modelling, which entails compiling data and developing models that can subsequently be applied to actual tasks. Proficiency in prototype software is a crucial technical talent for product engineers. Before building the actual product, product engineers utilise prototype software packages to create blueprints and 3D pictures of prototypes.

Before applying for an engineering position, it's essential to examine the job description and determine whether you possess the requisite technical abilities. If not, you can pursue additional studies or perhaps attend a workshop to cultivate and hone your skills. Be mindful to apply for jobs that match your qualifications.

Example: Product engineers utilise computer-aided design (CAD) software to produce detailed pictures of prototypes and their components. They may also utilise computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software to provide instructions for CNC machines to cut, drill or assemble the product during production.

Related: What Are Technical Skills?

How much can you earn as a product engineer?

The national average salary for a product engineer is $4,290 per month. Be mindful that this figure is highly dependent on your level of education, professional experience and industry knowledge. It also varies greatly depending on your employer's organisation type and size.

Related: How To Become a Network Engineer

How to become a product engineer?

Before you can become a product engineer, it's critical that you first grasp the educational requirements and professional experiences that employers want in product engineering applicants. Outlined below are the typical steps you can follow to become a product engineer:

1. Obtain a bachelor's degree

The first step to working as a product engineer entails obtaining a bachelor's degree in a discipline such as product design engineering, quality engineering, mechanical engineering or general engineering. Such programmes usually take four years to complete. Before enrolling, consider extensively researching the majors offered by the institution or university you're thinking about attending.

2. Gather some professional experience in a related profession

If you want to hold the position of a product engineer, it's good to have a few years of experience in a comparable field. Consider positions like entry-level product engineer or quality control specialist. These jobs prepare you to assume the technical and managerial duties of a senior product engineer.

3. Acquire any industry credentials or certifications

Certifications are almost always voluntary for product engineers. However, certifications can demonstrate to employers that you're enthusiastic and knowledgeable about industry matters and technical knowledge. Industry certifications can also assist you in gaining expert knowledge in a particular field of product engineering, which can lead to enhanced work performance or promotion prospects.

4. Apply for product engineer roles

Once you've obtained the necessary education, professional experience and industry certifications, you may begin applying for product engineer employment. Make sure to tailor your resume, cover letter and other application paperwork to the employers that you apply to. In case the company employs an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), highlight important job applicant qualities and talents stated in the job description and include them in your application materials. The ATS screens the presence of keywords to evaluate the suitability of applicants.

Read more: 14 Types of Engineering Jobs (With Salary Information)

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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