Automotive Designer: Job Duties, Career Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Research what it takes to become an automotive designer. Learn about potential salary, job outlook, and key skills needed 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 is an Automotive Designer?

Automotive designers are industrial designers that specialize in designing automobiles and automotive components. The design process starts with consulting clients or supervisors to identify what the requirements of a design are. This is followed by an extensive amount of research regarding the uses of a particular design and its production. Once these details are determined, a sketch is drawn and recreated using CADD software. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Industrial Design
Key Responsibilities Draft layouts of automobile components and systems, determine factors that may affect design proposals by using previous car models, develop innovative designs for automobiles
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% for industrial designers
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $67,130 for commercial and industrial designers

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as an Automotive Designer?

As an automotive designer, you'll draft layouts of automobile components, assemblies and systems using sketches, models and prototypes. You'll also determine factors that may affect design proposals by using previous car models, understanding manufacturing limitations and collaborating with automotive engineers. Based on detailed calculations, mathematical formulas and computerized work aids, you'll develop innovative designs for automobiles that fit consumers' needs and reflect a company's image and values.

What Can I Expect for the Career Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), positions in industrial design, an industry that includes automobile designers, were expected to increase two percent from 2014 to 2024 (, which is considered slower-than-average growth. Consumer-and business-based demands for updated and newer vehicles is the major contributing factor for growth. Additionally, emphasis on quality, comfort and pricing will create a need for new automotive designs and employment opportunities.

In May 2015, the BLS reported that the median annual salary for industrial and commercial designers was $67,130. The BLS reported that the majority of jobs in this sector were based in the states of Michigan, California, New York, Illinois and Ohio. As cars become more technologically complex and fuel efficient to meet consumer demands, prospective designers should be prepared to compete fiercely for jobs in the industry.

What Education Do I Need?

There are different ways in which you can learn the necessary skills required of automotive designers. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design or another relevant design-based degree is typically required for you to enter this field. Institutions accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design provide relevant coursework, such as design, sketching, computer-aided design, industrial materials, manufacturing methods, engineering, physical science, mathematics and other related courses.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are a number of industries outside of the automotive industry that offer employment for industrial designers. These industries include the production of electronic products, bicycles, and just about anything else you may find on the market. Other careers related to industrial designing include drafters, industrial engineers and architects. In all three of these alternative careers professionals must be able to draw out plans for products or structures and put into computer data banks using CADD software.

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