What does an auto engineer do?

The challenges facing personal mobility are endless. Automotive engineers work in every area of the industry, such as the look and feel of vehicles, and the safety and security of new forms of transport. While there is, of course, a focus to make cars reach high speeds, the modern day engineer needs to consider future sustainability and wider integration of advancing connected technologies. 

The work of an automotive engineer breaks down into three categories:

  • Design
  • Research and Development
  • Production

So what does an automotive engineer really do?

They study

One of the first steps in becoming an automotive engineer is going to university. Most automotive engineers start out by studying Mechanical Engineering, but increasingly more specific Automotive Engineering degrees are becoming available.

The automotive industry is truly international, and studying abroad might be your way into this popular job market. For a growing list of courses available worldwide please take a look at our International University Guide.

Taking an internship at university can be a really important step on your route into automotive. Having the right internship on your CV is an announcement to the industry how passionate and dedicated you are to your career. If you decide to take an internship abroad, don't forget to take advantage of the FISITA Travel Bursary.

They think big

The automotive industry represents some of the largest companies in the world, from car manufacturers to fuel specialists. As an engineer, you can expect to work for one of these industrial titans. FISITA’s Corporate Members are some of the most diverse and dynamic automotive companies, and if you are looking for a good place to start your career take a look at the graduate programmes offered by these companies.

We took the time to speak to some young engineers working across a broad range of automotive engineering jobs, from Ford to Nissan. You can view all the interviews on our YouTube channel.

They work in a global profession

Automotive engineers and automotive companies exist all over the world, in completely different cultures and speak totally different languages. The automotive engineer needs to know how to communicate on a global level and have a horizon broader than just their own culture.

A great way to be a part of this international community is to join an automotive engineering society in your county. FISITA exists as the global voice of the automotive engineering profession and aims to bring this community together and encourage the discussion and development of issues facing the international industry. To get involved and join your national society, take a look at FISITA’s list of Member Societies.

Work experience at an automotive company is highly desirable on a CV, and the FISITA Travel Bursary is designed to help fund such an endeavour.

They do more

Automotive engineers are forward-thinking people. They are dynamic, visionary, and are employed based on their ability to think outside the box. One way to expand your horizons, engage your passion, and to start thinking like an automotive engineer is to get involved with extra-curricular activities and competitions. We have collected information on a variety of programmes that you can get involved with here.

Additional skills and activities

The variety of skills and tasks automotive engineers get involved with are almost endless. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Developing new test procedures, using both conventional and innovative methods
  • Bringing new products to market and being involved in problem-solving and project management
  • Devising and organising tests, to answer questions from clients, consumers and other engineers involved in vehicle development
  • Anticipating vehicle or component behaviour in different conditions with computer modelling software
  • Analysing and interpreting technical data into reports or presentations and answering any queries about the results
  • Building an individual specialism within a larger team and working independently
  • Contributing to regular team meetings to update colleagues on progress, problems and new developments
  • Managing all details of projects, including projected costs
  • Recognising the benefits of engineering developments to related departments in order to market projects and secure internal funding
  • Negotiating costs of development and engineering work with commercial departments
  • Monitoring any related systems or engineering issues associated with the component and final product
  • Supervising technical staff, engineers or designers (dependent upon specific role) 
  • Operating in cross-functional or internationally-based teams to design experiments in order to test the validity and competence of new technology.