How to Become an Automotive Designer in 5 Steps

Research what it takes to become an automotive designer. Learn about job duties, education requirements and job outlook to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Engineering & Technology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does An Automotive Designer Do?

Automotive designers create designs for the appearance and/or operation of motor vehicles. They work hard to make their designs both functional and aesthetically pleasing. They may begin by sketching out new designs, using computer software programs to make the designs come to life, and then creating prototypes. They work closely with other automotive specialists to make sure the vehicle is functional and meets the needs of possible consumers. Finally, they will evaluate the overall finished design of the vehicle, taking into consideration safety concerns. Take a look at the following chart for an overview of how to enter this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, master's degree for advancement
Education Field of Study Industrial design, industrial engineering, automotive engineering
Training Required Internship recommended
Key Responsibilities Develop new ideas for vehicle appearance and operation, make improvements to existing vehicle concepts, illustrate ideas and provide design instructions
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for all commercial and industrial designers)*
Median Salary (2015) $67,130 (for all commercial and industrial designers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is an Automotive Designer?

An automotive designer is an industrial and design engineer who develops new ideas or improves existing concepts for the physical appearance or operation of vehicles. For example, as an automotive designer, you may design the exterior structure of a car or the car's engine. You use an array of tools, ranging from ink sketches to computer design programs, to illustrate ideas and provide design instructions.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Baccalaureate programs related to the field of automotive design include industrial design, industrial engineering and automotive engineering. An industrial design program usually includes coursework in subjects such as design research methods, design materials and physics. It also usually contains a design studio course. The curriculum in industrial engineering programs may cover topics such as computer science and electronics technology. An automotive engineering program may provide instruction on subjects such as prototype and operational testing and vehicular systems technology.

Step 2: Complete an Internship

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), internships may be helpful when seeking a job as an automotive designer ( Most bachelor's degree programs offer internship opportunities that can be completed during the school year or over the summer.

Developing a portfolio may also be helpful for future job searches. Design studios and internships may allow you the opportunity to create a portfolio of work to show to potential employers during interviews.

Step 3: Acquire Work Experience

As an automotive designer, you could work for a vehicle manufacturer that produces cars, trucks, buses, vans, sports utility vehicles, or multiple types of vehicles. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment for commercial and industrial designers is projected to increase two percent between 2014 and 2024.

Step 4: Consider Earning a Graduate Degree

While a graduate degree is not usually required for entry-level automotive design positions, it may help you advance in your career. Master's degree programs related to the field include industrial design, industrial engineering or automotive engineering.

However, the BLS reports that a growing number of industrial designers have been obtaining master's degrees in business administration. A graduate level business degree program may teach you how to blend product designs with a company's global business plans.

Step 5: Join a Trade Association

By joining a trade association, you may receive regular industry updates and have access to networking opportunities. The Industrial Designers Society of America and the Automotive Design Organization are trade organizations related to the field of automotive design.

Additionally, staying current on industry guidelines, technologies and initiatives may be important for your career. Continuing education and updates about industry changes may be provided by some employers, but are also available through trade associations.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several related careers individuals who are interested in automotive design may be interested in. If they wish to stay within the automotive industry, they may wish to pursue careers as automotive and mechanical engineers or manufacturers. For those with a special aptitude for design, they could apply their skills in other fields like architecture, drafting, graphic design, or interior design.

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