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

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

Design engineers and manufacturing engineers are both important positions in the engineering field. If you’re interested in a career in engineering, it’s helpful to understand the similarities and differences between these two positions. In this article, we discuss the duties of design engineers and manufacturing engineers, and we explain how these roles differ. We also provide information on the education and skills you’ll need for each position.

What is a Design Engineer?

Design Engineers are responsible for the conceptualization, design, and development of products. They work with other engineering disciplines to ensure that the products they create can be manufactured efficiently and meet all relevant safety and quality standards. Design Engineers use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create 2D and 3D models of products. They also use simulations to test how products will perform in real-world conditions. Once a product is ready for production, Design Engineers work with Manufacturing Engineers to ensure that the product can be manufactured according to the specifications.

What is a Manufacturing Engineer?

Manufacturing Engineers develop and implement processes and production methods to efficiently create products and components. They work with other engineers, production staff and management to optimize production processes and ensure quality control. They often use computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) software to create models and prototypes. Manufacturing Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, although some jobs may only require an associate’s degree or certification.

Design Engineer vs. Manufacturing Engineer

Here are the main differences between a design engineer and a manufacturing engineer.

Job Duties

Design engineers and manufacturing engineers share some of their job duties, but they also have unique responsibilities. A design engineer creates the plans for a product that other employees use to manufacture it. They consider factors like aesthetics, functionality and user experience when creating these plans. Manufacturing engineers oversee the production process, ensuring that products are made properly and efficiently. They monitor quality control and maintenance activities.

Job Requirements

Design engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, although some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree. Manufacturing engineers also usually need a bachelor’s degree, but their field of study is often industrial engineering. Both design and manufacturing engineers might benefit from pursuing certification through the American Society for Quality (ASQ). The ASQ offers several different certifications for engineers, including the Certified Six Sigma Black Belt, which teaches professionals how to use Six Sigma methodology to improve quality control in manufacturing processes.

Work Environment

Manufacturing engineers typically work in manufacturing facilities, where they oversee the production of goods. They may also travel to different locations to ensure that their projects are running smoothly and efficiently. Design engineers often work in offices or studios, but they may also visit clients’ sites to gather information about their needs and requirements.


Both design engineers and manufacturing engineers need to have strong technical skills. Design engineers use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create models and prototypes of products, so they need to be proficient in using these programs. Manufacturing engineers also use CAD software to develop plans for production processes, but they also use other types of software, such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing execution systems (MES).

Both design engineers and manufacturing engineers need to have problem-solving skills. Design engineers often need to find creative solutions to challenges that arise during the product development process, such as making a product more ergonomic or finding a way to reduce production costs. Manufacturing engineers also need to be able to solve problems that come up during the manufacturing process, such as fixing errors in the assembly line or improving the efficiency of the production process.

Design engineers typically work in office environments, while manufacturing engineers often work in factories or other industrial settings. This can require different sets of skills. For example, design engineers who work in collaborative environments may benefit from having strong communication skills so they can effectively share their ideas with colleagues. Manufacturing engineers who work in industrial settings may need to have strong mechanical skills so they can maintain and repair equipment.


The average salary for a design engineer is $83,091 per year, while the average salary for a manufacturing engineer is $86,882 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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