Refrigeration Engineers: Job Description & Career Info

Refrigerators may seem like a mundane fixture of everyday life, but refrigeration engineering requires a well-rounded skill set and solid grasp of thermodynamics. With a four-year bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, potential refrigeration engineers can enter the job market to design, create, and refine refrigeration systems for a wide variety of uses.

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Career Definition

Refrigeration engineering involves planning, designing, and project management of refrigeration systems for commercial manufacturers. Refrigeration engineers are expected to develop designs for, oversee fabrication of, and troubleshoot problems with complex refrigeration systems for residential and industrial use, including restaurant units, refrigerated healthcare equipment, and insulated trucks and trailers. For those with knowledge of thermodynamics (the use and transfer of energy), an interest in hands-on engineering work and a respect for safety procedures, a career in refrigeration engineering may be the perfect fit.

How to Become a Refrigeration Engineer

Required Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most engineering jobs require a bachelor's degree in an engineering discipline, which for refrigeration engineers is the field of mechanical engineering. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits thousands of programs throughout the United States. With a degree from an accredited program, engineers qualify for the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam, the first of two exams administered by the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES), www.ncees.org, to certify them as Professional Engineers. The second exam, Principles and Practice of Engineering, may be taken after passing the FE exam and gaining the amount of work experience required by the state in which they work (www.abet.org). To bolster their career growth, some refrigeration engineers pursue a master's degree in mechanical engineering with a focus in thermodynamics or thermo-science.

Skills Required

The BLS describes engineers as creative, methodical workers who enjoy a challenge, love to problem-solve, and collaborate well with a team. Refrigeration engineers should have particular knowledge of thermodynamics, computer-aided design (CAD) systems, and appropriate handling procedures for potentially hazardous materials like Freon. A thorough understanding of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) codes and regulations for refrigeration systems is also essential.

Career Outlook

The mechanical engineering field, including refrigeration engineering, is estimated by the BLS to increase employment by 5% from 2012-2022, which is slower than the average. Salaries range from $52,000 or lower to $121,000 or higher, depending on experience and employer size; the BLS reported the median to be $80,580 as of May 2012. Mechanical engineers interested in management and looking to offset slowed career growth might consider earning an Engineering Management Certification International designation from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Alternate Career Options

Sales Engineer

Normally needing a bachelor's degree in a field related to engineering, sales engineers sell technological and scientific services and products to business.The BLS predicts average employment growth of 9% for this career during the 2012-2022 decade and reports an annual median wage of $91,830 in 2012.

Petroleum Engineer

With a bachelor's degree in a relevant area of engineering, petroleum engineers then seek employment developing ways to extract gas and oil from underneath the surface of the earth. Earning a median annual salary of $130,280 in 2012, according to the BLS, these engineers could look forward to much faster than average job growth of 26% from 2012-2022.

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