Information updated June 2015.
By Charles K. Green
What automotive engineers earn.
Automotive engineers help shape auto trends, by developing new or improved vehicle designs. Such planning can cover the car’s body, its powertrain system, and other vehicle systems. Engineers make use of computer-assisted technologies to build, modify and test vehicles and related components. These professionals numbered 258,000 in 2013, with most earning bachelor degrees and others obtaining master’s degrees in a bid to qualify for management positions. As of 2014, the median salary for automotive engineers was $83,060 reports the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. For statistical purposes automotive engineers are typically included with data for mechanical engineers.
The average pay for automotive engineers was $83,060 in 2014 according to the BLS. Those in the 10th percentile averaged $53,200 per year while those in the 50th percentile earned $83,100. Automotive engineers in the in the 90th percentile earned $126,400 per year annually.
According to Stony Brook University, most automotive engineers are employed directly by new car manufacturers. In the U.S., General Motors, the Ford Motor Company and the Chrysler Group are among the largest employers. Other manufacturers including Nissan, Honda, Toyota, BMW, the Volkswagen Group, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai and Kia also employ automotive technicians. Engineers can find work with industry supplies with such companies as Kongsberg Automotive, GreenTech Automotive, 3M, TRW Automotive and Tenneco hiring in recent years.
As of 2010, approximately one in eight automotive engineers worked in Michigan. Wages in that state were above the national average, with engineers earning $87,200 per year as of 2012 or $5,100 above the national median. Nearly as many automotive engineers work in California, earning an average wage of $93,800 in 2013 or $11,700 above the national median. Other larger pockets of automotive engineers can be found where car manufacturing plants are located including in Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama and Texas.
Automotive engineers typically complete a mechanical engineering program at a four-year college. Such programs often include a co-op program, enabling students to gain important experience before they graduate college. Most programs are accredited by ABET, the former Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. Students should have excellent mechanical and problem-solving skills, and have advanced math skills including trigonometry and calculus. All 50 states and the District of Columbia requires licensure for engineers that offer their service directly to the public. Certification is received through the American Society of Mechanical Engineers with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE International) offering certification directly related to the industry.
The BLS projects a 5 percent increase in automotive engineer jobs through 2022, coming in below the average growth rate for all jobs. Much depends on the long-term outlook of the automotive industry which is in transition. Those engineers with the desire to pursue advanced technologies such as electric vehicles are especially in demand. Engineers with a desire to relocate can find work across the United States and in some cases abroad.