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

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

If you’re interested in a career in engineering, you may be wondering what the difference is between a project engineer and a design engineer. Both roles are important in the engineering field, but they have different responsibilities. In this article, we compare and contrast the job duties of a project engineer and a design engineer, and we provide information on the education and skills you’ll need for each role.

What is a Project Engineer?

Project Engineers are responsible for planning, scheduling, coordinating and managing engineering projects from start to finish. They work closely with clients to ensure that their needs are being met and that the project is proceeding according to plan. They also oversee the work of contractors and other engineers on the project team. Project Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in engineering and several years of experience in the field. They must be able to effectively communicate with both clients and project team members to ensure that the project is completed on time and within budget.

What is a Design Engineer?

Design Engineers are responsible for the conceptualization, planning, and creation of engineering designs. They work with other engineering and non-engineering staff to ensure that the designs meet all required specifications and regulations. Design Engineers use computer-aided design (CAD) software to create 2D and 3D models of their designs. They also create prototypes of their designs and test them to ensure they meet all functional requirements. Design Engineers typically specialize in a particular engineering discipline, such as mechanical, electrical, or civil engineering.

Project Engineer vs. Design Engineer

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

Job Duties

Although project and design engineers share some of the same duties, they also have other responsibilities that are unique to their specialty. As a project engineer, you may manage teams and delegate tasks. You might also research client needs and requirements and develop project schedules and budgets. Design engineers typically focus solely on the engineering aspect of projects, including the technical specifications and requirements. They often work alone or with small teams to brainstorm ideas and create detailed blueprints.

Job Requirements

Design engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering, although some employers may prefer candidates with a master’s degree. Design engineers should also be proficient in computer-aided design (CAD) software and have experience using it to create models or prototypes.

Project engineers usually need at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering as well. They might also benefit from pursuing a project management certification through the Project Management Institute (PMI). To earn this credential, project engineers must pass an exam that tests their knowledge of project management principles.

Work Environment

Design engineers typically work in offices, where they can use computers to create and edit designs. They may also travel to construction sites to oversee projects as they’re being built. Project engineers often work outdoors on construction sites or in factories, where they can apply their knowledge of engineering principles to ensure that machinery is working properly.

Both types of engineers may work long hours during the design and building phases of a project. Design engineers may spend more time in an office than project engineers, but both types of engineers may need to work overtime when deadlines are approaching.


Both project engineers and design engineers need to have excellent problem-solving skills. This is because they are both responsible for coming up with solutions to challenges that may arise during a project. For example, a project engineer may need to find a way to complete a project on time and within budget if the original plan is not working out. A design engineer may need to come up with a new design for a product if the original design is not meeting the needs of the customer.

Both project engineers and design engineers also need to be excellent communicators. This is because they often need to interact with other members of a team, such as designers, manufacturers and customers. They need to be able to explain their ideas clearly and concisely so that everyone understands what they are trying to achieve.

Project engineers tend to focus more on the logistical side of things, such as making sure that materials and resources are available when they are needed and that the project stays on schedule. Design engineers tend to focus more on the creative side of things, such as coming up with new designs for products or improving existing designs.


Project engineers earn an average salary of $81,905 per year, while design engineers earn an average salary of $83,091 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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