Learn About Being a Project Engineer
What does a project engineer do?
A project engineer manages a team during the entire lifecycle of a technical or engineering project. This professional ensures the design, consistency and functionality of a project throughout its execution. While their duties and responsibilities vary depending on the industry, project engineers typically perform the following tasks:
Preparing, scheduling, coordinating and monitoring all assigned projects
Communicating effectively during daily interactions with clients to interpret their requirements and needs
Maintaining quality control in every area, including team dynamics, personnel performance, planning, scheduling and budget
Submitting reports on project status
Monitoring compliance in all aspects of the project
Communicating effectively with the project manager and other team members to provide assistance and technical support
Reviewing engineering deliverables and initiating appropriate corrective actions throughout the project lifecycle
Project engineer salaries vary depending on several factors, such as their level of education and experience, their region, the level of responsibility involved in the job and the size of the company.
- Common salary in the U.S.: $78,813 per year
- Some salaries range from $30,000 to $150,000 per year.
Project engineer requirements
The career path for project engineers involves a combination of the following:
While their education varies by field, most project engineers hold a bachelor’s degree in engineering, business management or construction management. Some project engineers choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering management. The courses offered within an engineering management program include an introduction to controllers, basic business practices, manufacturing processes, industrial motors, technical communications and accounting.
Project engineers can also obtain a master’s degree in engineering management or business administration to advance their careers. This program is ideal for project engineers who are interested in moving into management positions. It includes advanced instruction in entrepreneurship, safety management and leadership.
Many project engineers learn the specific methods and technology related to their role during on-the-job training, which usually lasts for six to 12 months. Some project engineers take training courses to learn more about overseeing specific engineering projects, managing complex information systems and supervising a crew of professionals.
During schooling, project engineers may get hands-on training through internships. Students can choose to complete an internship in a specific field to learn more about the different processes, software and techniques involved in project management and engineering roles. Some master’s programs require students to undergo at least one internship to prepare them for careers after graduation.
Project engineers can obtain a certification to demonstrate their career commitment, showcase skill, build credibility and expand job opportunities available to them. The following are some of the most common certifications for this profession:
Professional Engineer certification
The PE certification signifies that an engineer has mastered the critical elements of their job. It’s also proof of their ability to provide engineering services directly to the public. To obtain a PE certification, engineers must have a four-year college degree, complete four years of qualifying engineering experience (usually under the supervision of a professional engineer), pass two competency examinations and obtain a license from their state’s licensure board. To retain their licenses, professional engineers must apply for a renewal based on their state’s regulations.
Project Management Professional certification
Project engineers can obtain a PMP certification from the Project Management Institute that signifies they understand the principles of project management. To earn a PMP, project engineers need a combination of project management experience and education. They must also pass an online exam and renew the certification every three years.
Certified Professional in Engineering Management
Offered by the American Society for Engineering Management, the CPEM recognizes experienced engineers for their knowledge and skills in technical operations management. To obtain the CPEM credential, candidates must hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, Technology or a related field. They must also have at least four years of professional experience and pass an examination. The CPEM credential is valid for three years and requires certification of continuing education for renewal.
Certified Associate in Engineering Management
The CAEM is another certification offered by the ASEM. Young technical professionals can earn a CAEM in preparation for early supervisory assignments or technical management. Like the CPEM credential, the CAEM certification is valid for three years and requires verification of continuing education for renewal. To obtain this credential, candidates must hold a bachelor’s degree in a related engineering or technology field and pass an examination.
An individual needs several hard and soft skills to become a successful project engineer, including:
Project engineers must be able to prioritize the workloads, needs and challenges of all team members. The ability to remain organized allows a project engineer to make decisions quickly and help their team stay on schedule.
Because project engineers are responsible for the engineering aspects of a project, they must be good at developing appropriate solutions for problems as they arise. Project engineers should be able to gather all the data and facts related to an obstacle to create an informed solution.
Project engineers must be good at determining the feasibility of plans, especially regarding safety, financial costs and quality concerns.
Project engineers must be excellent at communicating with other professionals, such as financial analysts, senior management, project developers, team members and subcontractors. They must be good at providing clear instructions and writing reports that people without a background in engineering can understand, as well as presenting findings, plans and recommendations clearly.
Project engineers must understand the principles of trigonometry, calculus and other advanced topics in math for design, analysis and troubleshooting in their work.
Because project engineers are ultimately responsible for the design and implementation of the project, they should be able to supervise all people involved to implement the plan successfully.
Project engineer work environment
Project engineers occasionally work in an office environment during regular business hours, though they spend most of their time at the construction sites. Because they travel at times to consult with contractors and clients, they sometimes work overtime, especially when commuting and as the deadline approaches. Project engineers typically act as the point of contact for clients regarding technical aspects of the job.
While in the office, project engineers may sit for extended periods in front of a computer or reviewing construction plans. On construction sites, they will stand or move around while inspecting the progress of the project.
Project engineers may work in a variety of companies and institutions, including:
- Government agencies
- Architecture firms
- Construction companies
How to become a project engineer
Here are the most common steps to follow in becoming a qualified project engineer for a company:
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree
You can earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering, Engineering Management or Construction Management. Courses in any of these programs will help you gain management and engineering knowledge needed for this role. Many engineering firms or construction management companies offer internships that allow you to gain experience as you work toward your bachelor’s degree. Internships also enable students to develop valuable connections with project engineering professionals who may be able to help them obtain a job after graduation.
2. Apply for entry-level jobs
Since project engineers can work in a variety of fields, carefully consider which industry you’d like to pursue a career in. After determining which field you’d like to work in, begin applying for entry-level jobs so you can gain relevant experience. Make sure to customize your application materials for each job you apply to so you can distinguish yourself from other candidates.
3. Gain experience
Project engineers typically have at least three to four years of experience in an engineering role. Gaining work experience in a specialty field such as civil, mechanical, electronic, aerospace or electrical engineering helps you build your credibility in project engineering.
4. Obtain a Professional Engineering license
Project engineers with PE licenses usually enjoy higher earnings and advancement potential compared to noncredentialed peers. To become a licensed professional engineer, you must pass the PE examination and renew your license based on your state’s requirements.
Project engineer job description example
Our company is looking for an experienced and dedicated project engineer to assist with the planning, scheduling, managing and resourcing of technical activities to ensure project quality and accuracy. The successful candidate will be responsible for establishing project inspection criteria to make sure all the elements of a project are appropriately implemented. A bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, at least five years of experience and an active PE license is preferred. If you can handle multiple-discipline projects and demonstrate outstanding supervision and project management skills, we encourage you to apply.
The following careers may involve many of the same responsibilities, competencies and skills as a project engineer: