Project Engineer – Duties and Salary

Travis
Ziebro

A project engineer leads the technical development of an engineering project. Depending on the size and responsibility afforded to the project engineer, he/she may also be charged with project management duties as well. The project engineer typically works closely with mechanical designers, electrical designers, drafters, purchasing agents, schedulers, and external vendors to meet project requirements and deliveries. In this article, you will learn project engineer’s job roles, software packages used, credentials, and potential employers of project engineers.

Job Role

A project engineer broadly assumes responsibility for the technical guidance and delivery of a project. In some cases, this may mean complete ownership of all technical elements on a project. In other cases, technical ownership means overall plant integration and support of other engineering and drafting functions.

Project engineers typically generate bills of materials and equipment datasheets. For projects that include P&IDs, they either generate the P&ID or sketch a P&ID that a drafter generates using computer-aided software.

engineer with slide rule and blueprints
Courtesy: Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Project engineers bear responsibility for any technical calculations that are not provided by other specialty engineers on a project. These calculations vary and may include beam, pipe, equipment, and various other sizing requirements. Project engineers also have chief responsibility for client specification reviews and compliance with regulatory standards. These regulatory requirements include, but are not limited to: NEC code, ANSI standards, OSHA requirements, state and local building laws, and environmental regulations.

Software Packages Used

Autodesk AutoCAD is the gold standard of 2D drawing software. Many project engineers use AutoCAD to draw schematics and P&IDS. In larger organizations, designers and drafters typically perform AutoCAD functions. Regardless, projects engineers should possess a degree of AutoCAD proficiency.

3D design packages are less standardized than 2D design packages. Common 3D design packages include PTC Creo, Solidworks, Revit, and CATIA. Designers typically perform 3D modeling. This holds especially true for package integrators where a project engineer oversees the work activity of professionals. For organizations that specialize in specific parts or products, engineers are more likely to take on the duty of modeling.

solidworks drawing of a helicopter
COURTESY: Solidworks

Project engineers also interface with enterprise resource planning software to initiate procurement requests and deliver mission-critical data to other stakeholders. Industry and function-specific calculators such as pipe sizing and vibration analysis tools are also used. Microsoft Excel commonly provides in-house developed calculation tools.

Credentials

Most project engineer jobs are held by graduates with at least a bachelor’s degree in engineering. Some companies may use the term “Project Engineer” for subject matter experts that do not possess an engineering degree. Effective project engineers must have the ability to explain commercial ramifications of technical decisions to business stakeholders.

Many project engineers seek continual education, a requirement that is mandated for professional engineers. Generally, a professional engineer certification is not required. Jobs that involve communal safety and a high degree of technical responsibility are more likely to require a professional engineer designation.

Firms That Employ Project Engineers

Project engineers find employment across a wide range of industries. Specific job duties vary across an industry’s value chain.

Equipment builders use a project engineers’ expertise to specify specific equipment or system detail for integration. Engineering houses employ project engineers to oversee and integrate electrical packages. The job role of an engineer at an operator typically has lots of responsibility. Project engineers at operators perform duties that are more associated with project management work at an equipment builder. Examples of these duties include, but are not limited to: subcontract management, scheduling updates, financial projections, and change order management.

In 2021, the medium wage for a project engineer was $74,082 a year. This detail can be highly subjective. Project engineer salaries at major operators can move past $200,000 whereas municipal and city engineering jobs can dip under $50,000 and below.