Most professional prototype designers are also engineers, though the type of engineering discipline differs depending on the kind of prototypes being built. To become a prototype designer, you need a creative, yet logical, mind, the ability to work with your hands, and a degree in engineering or industrial design. Once you meet these qualifications, you can begin to apply for jobs to become a prototype designer.
Prototypes are created in many industries and can be done as virtual or physical designs, which is why there are many disciplines in engineering that you can enter into. Mechanical, computer, and electrical engineering programs can all lead you to eventually become a prototype designer. In order to be accepted into an engineering program, which is often very competitive, you need a strong background in mathematics and the sciences. A high grade point average (GPA) during high school and your first year of undergraduate work will help show the admissions department that you are capable of handling the rigorous courses associated with an engineering degree.
Industrial design is another field that you can choose to enter into to become a prototype designer. This type of program is slightly less vigorous than engineering and focuses more on the design concepts associated with prototypes than the physics and technology involved with making them work. A bachelor's degree in engineering or industrial design is the minimum education required to become a prototype designer, but there are also graduate degrees available if you are interested in advancing your career more quickly.
To become a prototype designer, you have to have the ability to be creative with both designs and engineering. This means that you are able to think of interesting and new ideas, but have the logical ability to make them come to life virtually or physically. Physical modeling requires the use of your hands, often with small tools and equipment. You need to have the ability to do all of these things to become a prototype designer.
Once you have finished your education and determined that prototype design is the right field for you, based upon your personal characteristics, you can begin looking for jobs in the field. There are jobs for prototype designers in just about every industry that you can think of, so it is important to choose an area that interests you. The job application process generally requires that you send in a resume and meet for an interview before you will be hired for a position.