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What is a Project Engineer?

By B. Turner
Updated May 21, 2024
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A project engineer is an individual who leads the engineering design on a specific project. He may be the sole designer on the job or may be the leader of a large design team. There are various levels of project engineers at different firms, and a senior engineer may manage several individual project engineers, who may themselves manage other designers, draftsmen, and assistants. The term "project engineer" should not be confused with the licensing designation of Professional Engineer.

There are a number of different types of project engineer, and each relies on different training and skills to produce designs. Civil and geotechnical engineers perform site designs, study soil composition, and create plans for roads and other municipal structures. Mechanical engineers design heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, as well as machines used in manufacturing and industry. Electrical engineers may create municipal utility systems or calculate appropriate power supplies for buildings and homes. Structural engineers use weights and loads of materials to design safe buildings and other projects.

To perform these specialized tasks, a project engineer will usually have a graduate-level degree, as well as several years of experience as an assistant or draftsman. He or she may pursue the title of Professional Engineer (PE), but this designation is not required of all engineers. Most countries and states require that building plans and other technical documents be reviewed and stamped by a PE, but generally don't require that all designers obtain this title. To use the title of Professional Engineer, an individual must obtain a graduate degree as well as several years of experience, then pass a licensing exam.

The daily routine of a project engineer is ever-changing. He may meet with architects and other engineers on a project to coordinate design issues or may spend the day determining the best system to meet the technical and functional needs of a new building. He might walk the job site to inspect a project as it progresses and help contractors with questions or problems related to the engineering design. Alternately, he may simply spend the day in the office, reviewing schedules and budgets, selecting materials, and managing his fellow team members.

In the construction industry, the title of project engineer is given to new project managers or job site assistants. Many individuals who enter this field have engineering or construction management degrees, though the responsibilities of those in construction differs significantly from a designing engineer. Construction project engineers typically work out in the field, representing the general contractor and managing the day-to-day project activities. They do no design work, and instead help guide tradesmen on the job by interpreting the project's building plans. After several years of increased responsibility, the project engineer is usually promoted to project manager and is given his own projects to run.

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Discussion Comments

By anon963205 — On Jul 28, 2014

I've been working as an entry level project engineer at GP for two years. I didn't know the position existed until I got the job. At GP, a project engineer essentially encompasses the role of project manager; we are not just the technical lead on the project.

Many industries have project engineers who work under the project manager for the Job. My job consists of scopes, schedules and estimates. I get to go all the way from concept to actual scope (project).

On smaller efforts, it's mostly electrical since my degree is electrical. I get to do some design work myself, which is a nice change of pace from time to time.

By anon291715 — On Sep 16, 2012

Project engineers decide what is in included in the frame of the project. Also, they do execute and plan the project and can recognize the risks of the project. They also define the scope of work and break down the check list. They study the lessons learned from the other similar projects and they make sure the project is completed on time.

By afterall — On Jan 24, 2011

Project engineering jobs are getting more competitive, similarly to everything else. While I think many engineers used to achieve Master's Degrees and no more, many fields might require a Doctorate degree for lead engineering roles.

By Leonidas226 — On Dec 02, 2010

Attention to detail is vital in public projects, so a project manager must have considerable experience and a great work ethic. Different regions of the world vary in the importance they place on keeping the public safe and comfortable, and therefore standards will vary. Project managers in the US can be fired if their work is not up to tight specifications. Any small leak in a tunnel can lead to ice on tunnel roads, creating devastating crashes. The project manager's job requires intense accountability and foresight.

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