What Are Some of the Job Duties of a Research Engineer?

Research engineering is as varied a field as engineering itself. Research engineers design new products and technology. Research engineer duties will depend on the branch of engineering in which they work, as well as the industry in which the research engineer works. Schools offering Computer Engineering degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Fields in which Research Engineers Work

A research engineer works in R&D (Research and Development), although R&D teams may be found in a variety of industries. Research engineers with backgrounds in mechanical engineering may work in the fields of product development and industrial design. Engineers who have trained in electrical engineering may work in hardware or software development. A bioengineering background may be useful for developing medical technology; aerospace engineers develop space technology.

Some research engineers develop optical systems, and others work with heating and thermodynamic systems. Some work to make cars safer; others find ways to improve hospital equipment.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Average Salary (2018) Mechanical engineers in scientific research and development earned $99,870; electrical engineers in R&D earned $108,130; aerospace engineers in R&D earned $124,430*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 9% (all mechanical engineers)*
Licensure Professional engineer license may be required for mechanical, aerospace and electrical research engineers
Work Environment Office or laboratory setting
Key Skills Testing and analyzing materials, systems or products; strong verbal and written communication skills

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties and Responsibilities

A research engineer may work in or supervise a research department. Some duties of a research engineer include:

  • Analyzing, implementing, and testing the materials developed in a research lab
  • Creating designs for instruments or devices based on innovative concepts so that they are functional
  • Writing research and grant proposals and maintaining contact with research sponsors
  • Coordinating a team of researchers and staff working on a project

Research engineers must also keep an eye out for other uses of the products upon which they are working. Dual uses of new developments - for example, in homes as well as in industry, or in medicine as well as in space technology - will increase earnings that stem from the development of a product.

Education and Skills Required

Research engineers need to have a bachelor's degree, a master's degree, or even a Ph.D. in Engineering, along with varying amounts of experience. Job listings for research engineers request strong communication skills (for grant writing) and supervisory skills when working with other lab personnel. They are often asked to be creative and innovative, while completing appropriate documentation of their ideas.

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