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Director of Engineering

Education and Training: Advanced degree preferred
Average Salary: $115,000
Job Outlook: Fair

Education and Training Requirements

Directors of engineering usually earn the managerial position after years of work as an engineer or scientist. One must possess strong technical knowledge to direct the work of subordinate engineers, and be able to communicate the highly-technical work to superiors and the public.

Directors of engineering should have a college degree in an engineering field, the sciences, or math. Masters degrees in engineering management (MEM) or in business administration (MBA) are preferred. Engineers usually must major in a specialty area, where they will gain the invaluable experience that will allow them to rise into a management position like director of engineering. Since directors are also expected to be excellent communicators, it is suggested that people take classes in communications management. They should also be outstanding leaders of groups and teams.

Getting the Job

After spending many years in the field, engineers can have the option of moving into a managerial role, including becoming the director of engineering. One must start by studying engineering in school, where internships and apprenticeship positions can be obtained. With the necessary education and experience, it is not difficult to break into this field. However, obtaining a position as a director depends on many factors, including possessing many non-technical skills. Directors of engineering have many responsibilities, so it can be a challenging job-interview process to obtain the position.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

Director of engineering positions are expected to grow about 8 percent by 2018. Positive growth factors include exceptional opportunities in growing specializations like environmental and biomedical engineering. However, there are slower growing areas, like electrical and mechanical engineering. There is concern in the engineering field about the increasing reality of having research and development outsourced to specialized firms. This could mean less engineers are hired, and with that comes less of a need for directors of engineering to supervise them, and possibly the consolidation of management positions.

Directors of engineering can have the opportunity to advance to higher positions within the specialties. There are also opportunities to advance in roles in different areas of companies, like marketing, human resources, or sales. Directors of engineering that possess other critical skills like financial, production, management, or marketing also have the opportunity to move into CEO and other executive-type positions.

Working Conditions and Environment

Directors of engineering typically work in an office. Some directors work in labs, conducting research alongside their subordinates. Though a 40-hour work week is the norm, directors of engineering are expected to work whatever hours needed to meet the deadlines for projects. Being a director of engineering can be a stressful position. Meeting deadlines for projects and managing budgets for research can be challenging.

Salary and Benefits

In 2008, the median annual salary for directors of engineering was $115,270. However, pay and other factors, including potentially-lucrative benefits like stock options, bonuses, and expense accounts, along with higher salaries, can vary depending on the responsibilities of the position. Directors of engineering are usually entitled to a full benefits package. The pay scale for directors of engineering can also vary by specialty area. Directors of engineering in pharmaceuticals and medical manufacturing earn $144,000 on average.

Other specialties’ averages:

  • Scientific research and development $141,000

  • Navigational, measuring, electromedical and control instruments manufacturing $128,600

  • Semiconductor and electrical component manufacturing $127,000

  • Aerospace manufacturing $118,000

  • Architectural services $114,000

Where to Go for More Information

American Society of Civil Engineers
1801 Alexander Bell Dr.
Reston, VA 20191
(800) 548-2723

National Society of Professional Engineers
1420 King St.
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 684-2800

Society of Women Engineers
120 S La Salle St., Ste. 1515
Chicago, IL 60603
(877) 793-4636

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesEngineering, Science, Technology, and Social Sciences