What Is a Product Engineer? Skills, Requirements and Salary

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 10 October 2022

Published 4 October 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A product engineer is part of the product design and manufacturing process. They possess a combination of technical skills, creative skills and manufacturing knowledge. If you're currently considering potential career options or contemplating a career change, finding out more about the role of a product engineer can help you determine if it's a good fit for you. In this article, we answer the question, 'what is a product engineer,' describe some of their key responsibilities and essential skills, state their average salary expectations and outline the steps to take to become a product engineer.

Related: What Do Mechanical Engineers Do? (FAQs and How To Become)

What is a product engineer?

A product engineer is typically a qualified mechanical engineer who designs products and also organises their manufacturing procedures. A product engineer may work in any industry that involves manufacturing. They usually work at a manufacturing plant to oversee the development of products, though some may also work in a corporate office environment.

Related: What Does a QA Engineer Do? (And How To Become One)

Product engineer job description

Product engineers are vital to product development. They carry out an essential role at every stage in the creation of a product. Here are some of the daily tasks and responsibilities that product engineers can expect to carry out in their role:

  • Apply their industry knowledge to develop new and distinctive ideas for products

  • Coordinate with the product development team to decide on final ideas for products

  • Use computer-aided design (CAD) software for product development

  • Test prototypes for new products for any faults and make any necessary adjustments to the design

  • Evaluate the product prototype to find any possible safety hazards

  • Consult with distribution managers and logicians to establish cost-effective manufacturing procedures and materials

  • Oversee the beginning of the manufacturing process to guarantee productivity and safety

Related: What Does an Engineer Do? (Roles and Responsibilities)

Important skills for a product engineer

The role of a product engineer can vary depending on their work environment. To succeed in this role, they often possess skills in a variety of areas to carry out their diverse job responsibilities effectively. Here are some important skills for product engineers:

Teamwork

It's essential that product engineers can work effectively as part of a team, as they often work with product development teams and other engineers to come up with new ideas for products. This process typically involves group brainstorming and working together for product design and creation. Effective team working skills allow product engineers to carry out the responsibilities of their role successfully.

For example, if a product engineer is working on a battery-powered fan and detects a defect in the prototype, they might alert other members of their team and work together to come up with a solution. Due to their emphasis on collaboration, the team can rectify the problem quickly.

Creative thinking

The ability to think creatively is an important skill for a product engineer. Their role requires that they design prototypes and develop a solution for any defects. Product engineers use creative thinking skills to select the most suitable, yet cost-effective, materials for constructing the product.

For example, if a product engineer develops an office desk that can convert to a standing desk with a remote control, manufacturing the remote control could slow down the production time because it's an additional component the team builds. Also, it may cost extra money. The product engineer may redesign the desk prototype to include a feature with a built-in control instead. This not only curbs manufacturing spending but can also improve the user experience.

Related: 10 Best Skills To Include on a CV

Interpersonal communication

Interpersonal communication skills refer to how well an individual can adapt their style of communication to communicate with others effectively and build relationships with a variety of people. It's important for product engineers to possess excellent interpersonal communication skills, as they often communicate with other professionals, such as shipping managers, logicians and corporate executives, who may not have the same level of engineering knowledge.

For example, a product engineer might employ their interpersonal skills to give a presentation to key stakeholders about a prototype they developed. They might tailor their presentation to align with their audience's interests. For example, the engineer might use slides that focus on the market value of the proposal, rather than the engineering and design aspects, as these topics may be irrelevant to a group of management professionals. Tailoring the presentation can help the engineer break down complex topics into the most crucial facts. This way, they can use their time and resources effectively to get the necessary approvals.

Maths

It's helpful for product engineers to possess excellent maths skills, especially in linear algebra and statistics. This can enable them to better establish the size that they need to make the prototype and the parts that it requires to function effectively.

For example, a product engineer and their team may employ statistical methods to measure the successes or failures of a cordless vacuum cleaner. This can help them identify detects efficiently to avoid costly product recalls and poor customer reviews.

Prototype software proficiency

Another important skill for a product engineer is being proficient in prototype software. Product engineers use prototype software programs when designing blueprints and to make 3D images of prototypes prior to the construction of a product.

For example, a product engineer may use computer-aided design (CAD) software to generate comprehensive images of prototypes and their parts. Whereas, they may use computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software to create instructions for computer numerical control (CNC) machines to cut, drill or assemble the product during the manufacturing process.

Average salary for product engineers

The salary of a product engineer can vary depending on several different factors. The average salary for a product engineer in Hong Kong is $16,239 per month. Product engineers with a lot of experience and qualifications can benefit from a higher earning potential.

How to become a product engineer

If you're interested in the role of a product engineer, you may wonder how to embark on this career. An important first step is to gain an understanding of the educational requirements and professional experience that employers may be looking for in product engineering candidates. Here are some tips on how to become a product engineer:

1. Earn an undergraduate degree

For those who wish to embark on a career as a product engineer, it's necessary to complete an undergraduate degree in a related field, such as mechanical engineering, quality engineering, product design engineering or general engineering. Before enrolling, it's a good idea to look at the courses offered by the college or university you're considering in close detail.

2. Gain work experience in a related role

It's helpful to gain a few years of work experience in a related role before you find a job as a product engineer. You may wish to apply for roles such as an entry-level product engineer or quality control specialist. These positions provide you with the necessary skills to take on the technical and leadership responsibilities of a senior product engineer.

Related: What Is Quality Assurance? (With Skills and Job Prospects)

3. Gain optional industry certifications

Certifications are optional for product engineers, but they can demonstrate to employers that you're passionate and knowledgeable about industry topics. Industry certifications may also help you gain expert knowledge in a particular area of product engineering. This may lead to improved job performance or opportunities for promotion.

4. Apply for product engineer roles

Once you have gained the education, professional experience and industry certifications required for this role, you may start applying for product engineer positions. It's a good idea to tailor your CV, cover letter and other application documents to each company and the specific role that you apply for.

Use the job description as a guide to highlight your relevant skills and qualities which can make you stand out as a suitable candidate. This can also really benefit you if the employer in question uses an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to review candidate applications. This software selects applications for review based on the presence of important keywords. By highlighting certain keywords on your CV, you may help get your application noticed by the hiring manager.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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