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How to Become a Project Engineer

As a project engineer, you’ll help plan and coordinate schedules, manage technical problems or projects so they can be completed, interact with customers, monitor projects, be a mentor to your project team, and make sure that all projects meet the codes and quality assurance policies. Having effective communication is very important in this job because you’ll be responsible for the accuracy and quality of the final project from the beginning to the final phase of completion. 

To succeed as a project engineer, you must have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or in a different related field. Depending on the company, some employers require a master’s degree or Ph.D. for other positions. You may also need a professional engineer license. Qualities needed for this position include familiarity with engineering software, 1-2 years prior experience as an engineer, and strong interpersonal skills.

Sample job description

[Your Company Name] is hiring for a project engineer! Do you have an excellent collaborative spirit? Do you like handling the complex technical aspects of projects to ensure their success? If so, you might be our perfect fit! Project engineers use their technical expertise and understanding to assist with forecasting, resourcing, and managing the technical portions related to projects. These engineers are typically multi-disciplined masters of supervision with excellent time management and organizational skills. They’ll use a variety of equipment and programs to stay organized and properly account for all factors under their purview.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Prepare, schedule, coordinate, and monitor engineering projects
  • Ensure projects meet all codes, practices, QA/QC policies, performance standards, and specifications
  • Represent clients and stakeholders in the field to make sure projects meet their needs
  • Lead overall quality control of the work, including budgeting, scheduling, planning, and personnel performance
  • Report regularly on project status
  • Mentor project team
  • Communicate effectively with the project manager and other project participants
  • Review engineering deliverables and take corrective actions, if needed

Education and experience

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field. Some employers prefer job candidates with a master’s degree or Ph.D. for specific positions or career advancement. Many companies also require a Professional Engineer (PE) license.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Analytical, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
  • Teamwork and interpersonal communication skills
  • Project management and supervision skills
  • Skill in working with process engineering and computer-assisted design (CAD) software
  • Demonstrated ability in solving highly technical problems
  • Advanced knowledge of production machinery and processes
  • Expertise in computer technology and systems operations

Preferred qualifications

  • Familiar with project engineering software
  • 1-2 years of experience working as a project engineer
  • Excellent time management skills
  • Expert level in Microsoft Office and Google Suite
  • Master’s degree in engineering or a related field

Typical work environment

A large portion of a project engineer’s job is spent on a computer. They review codes, policies, and maintain proper supplies and review technical aspects of projects. You can expect this portion of the job to be long hours seated at a desk.

That being said, they may often find themselves on job sites, which vary widely and will have loud machinery, caustic chemicals, dangerous equipment, and inherently unsafe environments. They may also find themselves meeting with clients at any number of locations and commuting often as well.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for a project engineer are from 9 AM to 5 PM.

Available certifications

As project engineers work in a variety of industries, there are many institutions that offer certifications, including:

  • Engineer in Training. The EIT is the certification granted by a state’s engineering certification board after completion of the training exam. This is the first of two exams you must pass in order to move towards your goal of becoming a state-recognized engineer.
  • OSHA Safety Certificate. Little is more important than being able to demonstrate your ability to manage and supervise a safe working environment. This 40-hour program covers basic construction and engineering standards, how to interpret the Federal Register, and the recognition and prevention of health issues and physical hazards related to these projects.
  • Project Management Professional. The PMP designation demonstrates a solid foundational understanding of competently leading a project. After you meet specific educational and experience requirements, you can agree to adhere to a code of conduct and pass a rigorous exam to assess your abilities and knowledge.
  • Six Sigma Green Belt. The International Associate of Six Sigma offers the ICGB, which demonstrates a thorough understanding of the Lean Six Sigma Methodology, and shows a thorough understanding of all things management and interpretation of the tools and principles of effective leadership.

Career path

This position requires a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field. Some employers prefer a master’s degree or PhD for certain jobs or career advancement. Many companies also require a Professional Engineer (PE) license, which requires a passing score on the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, on-the-job experience, and a passing score on the Principles and Practice of Engineering Examination. Successful project engineers can advance into management and executive positions, or more responsible technical jobs such as program manager or chief engineer.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 17-2112

2020 Employment292,000
Projected Employment in 2030332,000
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 14% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift40,000 increase

According to the industry website Interesting Engineering, one trend that will affect all engineering sectors in the near future, including project engineering, is the increasing use of the Internet of Things (IoT). Smart devices are impacting the metrics by which factories’ productivity is measured. Another growing trend in engineering is the use of renewable energy. An estimated 19 percent of power in the U.S. will come from renewable sources like wind, solar, and hydropower in 2020, and renewable energy technology should become even more popular. This trend should lead to new battery technology as well as advances in power grid management.