Automotive Design Career Info and Education Requirements

Automotive design is generally an undergraduate program that combines engineering and design. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Essential Information

Automotive designers - sometimes referred to as industrial designers - develop different elements of cars, trucks, motorcycles, buses and other vehicles. Design elements can include exterior and interior style, color, trim and graphics. Many automotive designers hold at least a bachelor's degree in industrial or automotive design. Students who earn an associate's degree in a relevant field can find work as automotive or mechanical drafters.

Career Automotive Designer Automotive Drafter
Required Education Bachelor's degree Associate's degree
Projected Job Growth (2012-22) 4% (industrial designers)* 5% decline (mechanical drafters)*
Median Salary $79,074 (2014)** $51,520 (mechanical drafters, 2013)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

Career Options

Automotive designers and automotive drafters work on drawings and layouts of automobile parts. They also prepare models, sketches and prototypes for prospective vehicles. Typical everyday duties can include using computer-aided design programs to test the safety and dependability of designs, interpret technical data, conduct tests on prototypes and address engineering and design problems. Automotive designers are also known as industrial designers, and automotive drafters are also referred to as mechanical drafters.

Industrial Designer

Industrial designers design manufactured products, including automobiles and other vehicles. They work with clients, engineers and manufacturing personnel to make sure their design will work and is cost effective. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for industrial designers are expected to increase 4% between 2012 and 2022. As of November 2014, PayScale.com reported that the median salary for automotive designers was $79,074.

Mechanical Drafter

Mechanical drafters take designers from engineers and create drawings from them that can be used to create a mechanical product. They also sometimes create molds to be used during manufacturing. The BLS predicts that jobs for mechanical drafters will decrease by 5% between 2012 and 2022. The BLS also reports that, as of May 2013, mechanical drafters made a median salary of $51,520.

Education Requirements

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available for aspiring automotive designers. The Society for International Automotive Engineers offers additional training and education options, including courses and seminars on topics like automotive fastening and hybrid vehicle technologies.

Associate's Degree

Prospective automotive drafters can earn an Associate of Applied Science in Engineering Drafting and Design Technology. In an associate's degree program, students learn how to build a variety of 3D prototypes and design layouts by using computer-aided systems. These systems are useful for working on parts, tools, machine and electrical components. Coursework may include computer-aided manufacturing, computer-aided drafting, finite element analysis, geometric dimensioning and solid modeling. Graduates can work as junior mechanical designers, product design assistants or junior mechanical drafters.

Bachelor's Degree

Aspiring automotive designers can earn a Bachelor of Science in Automotive Technology. This degree program may include courses like automotive engineering technology basics, product development and design and computer-aided design. Students also learn about mechanics of material, automotive dynamics, engine design, industrial safety and performance testing. Prerequisite courses include calculus, physics, programming and chemistry.

Graduates of an automotive technology bachelor's degree program can go on to work for automotive companies in vehicle dynamics control, mechanical design, product design and drafting, operations research and safety engineering. This degree is also useful for those hoping to work in upper-management positions in the automotive parts industry.

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