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Application Engineer vs. Design Engineer: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Application engineers and design engineers are both important roles in the engineering field. Though they share some similarities, there are several key differences between them. In this article, we discuss the differences between an application engineer and a design engineer, and we provide additional engineering professions you may be interested in pursuing.

What is an Application Engineer?

Application Engineers are responsible for the design, development, testing and deployment of software applications. They work with clients or customers to understand their needs and requirements, then they create custom solutions using various programming languages and software platforms. Application Engineers often work in teams with other developers, designers and project managers to complete large-scale projects. They may also be responsible for training users on how to use the applications they’ve created. Application Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field.

What is a Design Engineer?

Design Engineers are responsible for creating and developing new products or improving existing ones. They work closely with other engineers, marketing teams, sales teams and customers to understand the needs and requirements for a product. They use this information to develop a product that meets these needs while also being feasible to manufacture. Design Engineers use CAD software to create detailed models and drawings of their product designs. They also create prototypes and test their products to ensure they meet all safety and performance standards. Design Engineers typically work in the engineering department of a company, but they may also work in research and development or product development.

Application Engineer vs. Design Engineer

Here are the main differences between an application engineer and a design engineer.

Job Duties

Both application and design engineers have a variety of job duties. One of the primary tasks for both is to develop solutions to engineering problems. Another duty is to create plans for how to implement these solutions. Application engineers focus more on the creation of software programs that help users perform their jobs more efficiently. Design engineers concentrate more on the creation of physical products, such as machinery, vehicles or equipment.

Other duties that application engineers may perform include conducting user research to determine what features an upcoming product needs and working with programmers to ensure that their designs are feasible. Design engineers may perform other duties related to creating physical products, including working with machinists to make adjustments to their designs and troubleshooting issues with existing products.

Job Requirements

Application engineers and design engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, computer science or another related field. Additionally, many employers prefer candidates to have experience working with the specific software or hardware that they will be responsible for maintaining. For example, an application engineer who works with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software might need to have experience working with that software before being hired. Design engineers often need to be familiar with CAD software as well.

Work Environment

Application engineers work in a variety of environments, depending on the industry they’re working in. They may spend time in laboratories or offices to test their products and meet with clients. Design engineers typically work in manufacturing facilities where they can collaborate with other employees to build new machines.


Both application engineers and design engineers use technical skills to perform their jobs. However, application engineers typically have a more specific focus on how products are used by customers, while design engineers tend to focus on the development of new products.

Application engineers use their engineering skills to solve customer problems. They need to be able to understand customer needs and develop solutions that meet those needs. They also need to be able to communicate effectively with customers, as they will be working closely with them to identify issues and develop solutions.

Design engineers use their engineering skills to develop new products. They need to be able to conceptualize new ideas and turn them into tangible designs. They also need to be able to test their designs to ensure they meet all the necessary requirements and specifications. In addition, design engineers need to be able to communicate effectively with other members of their team, as they will be working collaboratively to develop new products.


The average salary for an application engineer is $87,975 per year, while the average salary for a design engineer is $83,091 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the type of company you work for, your level of experience and your location.


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