How Do I Become a Prototype Engineer?

C. Webb

A prototype engineer designs a product that has not yet been manufactured. Using specifications and blueprints, he or she makes a one-of-a-kind product that can be tried out before much time and manpower are invested into manufacturing it on a large scale. To become a prototype engineer, you should possess a natural curiosity, education, and experience.

A prototype engineer designs a product that has not yet been manufactured.
A prototype engineer designs a product that has not yet been manufactured.

Prototype engineers review the product design for feasibility. In addition, you will be expected to measure quality standards and the product's reliability. Preparing to become a prototype engineer should include practice in product design review. This experience can be gained in a classroom, on a job, or as a intern.

Prototype engineers review a product design for feasibility.
Prototype engineers review a product design for feasibility.

A bachelor's degree in engineering is generally required of prototype engineering applicants. Classes should include standard engineering work as well as courses in tool and die use. In addition to engineering classes, you must develop experience in model building, design, and creation. Other useful skills to become a prototype engineer include welding and assembly.

Computer skills are vital when you become a prototype engineer. You should be proficient in e-mail, word processing, spreadsheet creation, and database maintenance. Computer programs will help you with prototype organization and preparation. Cost estimations will be part of your job; therefore, knowledge of finance software is also helpful.

Perhaps the most important skill set to possess in your desire to become a prototype engineer is problem solving. You will not have a previous model to follow because you will build the first model of an invented product. This requires the ability to solve problems and improvise as needed during the prototype construction. In addition to problem-solving skills, you should have a strong working knowledge of many different materials. This will help allow you to apply in different industries as a prototype engineer.

Once you have acquired the necessary education, build a work history as an engineer. Several years in the workforce will give you the hands-on experience needed. Target jobs with increasing responsibilities to showcase your abilities. Check job boards, network with business friends, and contact headhunters to locate prototype engineering openings. Send resumes for those positions that interest you.

Before the interview, put together a portfolio of past projects. If you do not have much work experience, use projects you were part of in college or as an intern. Take your portfolio with you to the interview to illustrate your abilities. Relax, put your best foot forward, and become a prototype engineer.

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