If you’re a bit of a petrol-head and get your kicks from the smell of burning rubber, getting into automotive engineering could be just the thing for you.
You’ll need to know your stuff, have a great mind for coming up with innovative ideas and some serious technical sense. If you’ve got all this and a natural passion for automobiles, you may well have found your future career path.
First and foremost, it’s worth mentioning that most people in this industry are car or bike nuts. However, this area of engineering might involve working on all kinds of automobiles, including: cars, bikes, buses, three-wheelers, four-wheelers, fast vehicles, small vehicles, HGVs, vans, mopeds and cars with ridiculous spoilers.
Do I need an automotive engineering degree to work in the industry?
A great stepping stone into this industry is to do an automotive engineering degree. However, this is by no means essential. After all, you could also do a mechanical engineering or electrical engineering degree to gain the skills required for a career in this exciting industry.
However, if you don’t want to take the uni route, you could undertake a vehicle engineering apprenticeship. These schemes will train you in anything from vehicle maintenance, to the design and manufacturing side of things.
What are the different branches of automotive engineering?
If you want to become an automotive engineer, you can focus your efforts on a wide range of specialisms. You could get involved with the research and development side of things; you could be designing the individual parts of cars; you could be in charge of overseeing the technical side of automobile manufacturing; or you could be getting stuck into some testing and maintenance duties.
You don’t necessarily have to specialise in a specific area of automotive engineering. You could be a generalist and do a bit of everything. In fact, when you start out, you will most probably spend a bit of time in each specialist area.
If you’re an automotive engineer who focuses on research and development, you’ll be taking innovative designs and figuring out how they can be turned into actual car parts. This will involve racking your brains, conducting research and finding appropriate solutions.
Throughout this engineering process, you’ll be developing the constituent parts, refining them and making them devastatingly effective. You could be working on all kinds of interesting things, such as rain-sensing wipers, those divots you see on BMW bonnets, environmentally friendly exhaust pipes or something crazy and innovative that we don’t even know about yet.
Alternatively, you could be focusing your efforts on the actual design of new cars and their various features. These guys are the ‘creatives’ of the automotive engineering world. They’ll use their imagination, technical knowledge and computer aided design (CAD) skills to design new cars and car parts – a bit like when Homer designs a car for his brother Herb in The Simpsons, but probably a bit more professional.
You could also focus your career on testing automotive parts to make sure they function effectively and comply with rigorous safety regulations. This could even mean fooling around with crash test dummies to ensure that cars are safe enough for passengers (actual crash test dummies though, not the Canadian folk/rock band of the same name).
Finally, you could become a manufacturing engineer. These guys are responsible for determining how the development and design ideas are actually put into action. They’re essential for making sure that car parts can be produced and assembled effectively.
Another option is to specialise in automobile maintenance and after-sales support. In this area, you’ll be providing a technical service to clients and customers once the vehicles have been released into the big, wide world.
As you can imagine, each role comes with huge responsibility and you could literally be changing the face of the way we travel for years to come! If you think this could this be the career path (or should we say career road!) for you, go check out our jobs board.