Looking for a job as an automotive engineer? You’ve come to the right place.
This detailed guide provides all the necessary info to get automotive engineering jobs in the UK, including the latest available data concerning UK average salaries, top automotive engineering job titles, most in-demand skills, graduate training schemes, and much more.
But before we begin...
Automotive engineering is a branch of vehicle engineering that supports the development of new automobiles while ensuring that existing ones are efficient and safe.
The job of an automotive engineer involves designing, developing, manufacturing, testing, marketing, and selling different types of commercial vehicles, such as cars, motorbikes, buses, trucks, and their engineering systems.
An automotive engineer typically deals with components like body, chassis, engine systems, fuel technologies, security systems and, more and more frequently, the electronics and software that go into modern vehicles.
Given the complexity of today’s vehicle systems, automotive engineers collaborate with large teams. These include other technicians, as well as team members from non-engineering roles like finance, purchasing or sales.
The responsibilities of an automotive engineer vary based on their specialist area of work and across the different stages of the manufacturing process.
Automotive engineers who specialise in vehicle design carry out research and use software like CAD to develop detailed plans for new vehicle models or systems.
In the development stage, automotive engineers are responsible for building and testing prototypes of components, taking into consideration customer briefs and government emissions & safety regulations.
Automotive engineers involved in production manage production schedules, investigate mechanical failures and maintenance problems, redesign machinery parts, and inspect vehicle quality.
Senior engineers supervise team projects and handle supply chain issues, negotiating with suppliers and clients, while managing production schedules, budgets, resources, and quality control.
To make it in the Automotive Engineering job market, you will need to possess a specialised skill set based on your specific position.
Having said that, these are some of the main skills that any automotive engineer should have:
The great majority of automotive engineering jobs are provided by vehicle manufacturers.
Other types of Automotive Engineering employers include:
Self-employed work as a consultant or contractor is a career option for senior automotive engineers with several years of experience in the Automotive industry.
Seniority also gives access to strategic automotive engineering jobs in project team management, general management, and insurance damage assessment.
The salary of an automotive engineer in the UK ranges between £20,000 to £45,000 per year but salaries can rise to over £60,000 for more senior positions.
The UK is a key player in the global automotive industry, which comprises both vehicle design and manufacturing.
The UK is the world’s second-largest producer of luxury vehicles after Germany, contributing £67bn to the British economy and investing around £3bn in Research & Development every year.
In 2021 alone, more than 30 manufacturers in the UK built over 859,000 cars, 72,913 commercial vehicles and 1.6 million engines with the support of 2,500 component providers.
Automotive employers in the UK include suppliers such as GKN, Bosch and ZF, and manufacturing companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Bentley and BMW.
While some of these companies manufacture vehicles in the UK but have their engineering operations overseas, many of them conduct both design and manufacturing in the UK.
As of 2022, the UK Automotive industry employed 814,000 people, with 169,000 of them working in vehicle manufacturing.
While most automotive jobs are concentrated in the Midlands, there are many companies spread throughout the UK offering specialised services to the industry.
For example, Southern England hosts several motorsport businesses that conduct Research & Development activities.
Automotive Engineering jobs are constantly evolving due to new technological developments - the most recent being electrification.
The industry’s focus on electrification has led to considerable investments in battery technologies, which in turn has opened a whole new range of automotive engineering jobs.
Given the high voltage of the new batteries that go into electric vehicles, there is a need for automotive professionals with power electronics skills.
There are also new R&D opportunities as electric vehicle manufacturers keep searching for new solutions to reduce carbon emissions.
In particular, vehicle manufacturers are searching for engineers who can optimise efficiency by decreasing vehicle weight through lightweight materials like aluminium and composites.
In the premium automotive sector, infotainment systems are increasingly important, with growing demand for professionals specialised in graphics and software development.
The automobile industry offers a wide range of career prospects for engineers.
Below is a sample of automotive engineering careers, with each job description including information about average UK salary, main job duties and requirements.
Average UK salary: £22,218 per year
In automotive engineering, measurement lab technicians make sure that the final parts of a new distribution part or production process meet the specifications.
They typically certify sample components by computing the statistical process capability index, which is then reported to the designer for final approval.
Lab technicians are also responsible for maintaining and calibrating lab equipment, overseeing the acquisition of new equipment, managing equipment records and daily work logs, and supporting the work of other engineers in the research stage of the manufacturing process.
To get a job as a measurement lab technician, you will need to be able to read drawings, have an understanding of the CAN Interfaces between data acquisition equipment and the vehicle, and excellent planning skills to make sure that tools are calibrated according to quality standards.
You will also need to demonstrate familiarity with Vector tools such as gateway, message formatting and translations.
Average UK salary: £35,773 per year
The role of a Quality Engineer (QA Engineer) in the Automotive industry is to ensure the quality of a manufactured vehicle, making sure that it is safe, reliable, efficient and that it meets customer expectations.
QA engineers are also responsible for overlooking the overall efficiency of the production process as they inspect raw materials, components, mechanical systems and final vehicles.
As they identify technical problems or malfunctions within the production cycle, QA engineers recommend solutions to the rest of the production team.
A QA Engineer should have experience overlooking quality management processes and procedures, excellent working knowledge of quality and regulatory standards such as ISO13485, FDA 21 CFR and Part 820, and familiarity with GxP standards and non-conformance root cause investigation and documentation.
Average UK salary: £36,686 per year
A test engineer is involved in all the stages of vehicle manufacturing, from early design processes to final release.
In the initial phase of development, test engineers work with design engineers to test the performance of early prototypes.
During the final steps of production, they ensure that the vehicle is ready for release by testing all the necessary standards.
Automotive test engineers also collaborate with process line engineers as they overlook the performance of every vehicle component.
To get a job as an automotive test engineer, you need to be confident working on a wide range of vehicle components, including circuit boards, electrical systems, hardware, mechanical systems, etc.
Automotive employers expect test engineers to be proficient in programming as a considerable part of the job involves data acquisition and analysis.
Finally, you should have experience carrying out failure analysis, using a variety of hardware and tools to troubleshoot test equipment failures.
Average UK salary: £37,500 per year
A Product Engineer is responsible for the design and development of vehicle components to meet customer requirements.
They are accountable for the analysis of components, testing the products to make sure they meet all specifications, and ensuring overall manufacturability.
Product engineers support the Lead Engineer defining vehicle design standards from conceptual sketch to production ready status.
To land a job as an Automotive Product engineer, you should have previous work experience in a relevant position, such as Design Engineer.
You also need to be skilled in executive blueprints creation problem-solving techniques (DOE, DFMEA, robust design, etc.) and have in-depth understanding of process & quality control procedures.
Some of the main tasks of a Product Engineer in the Automotive industry include:
Average UK salary: £39,005 per year
A robotics engineer designs and overlooks the creation of robotic prototypes and different machine-based processes.
In the Automotive industry, robotics engineers are involved in the initial steps of vehicle design and manufacturing, examining design drawings and evaluating the performance of robots in the assembly process.
They provide support to everyday production operations by assembling new robots, testing their performance, and repairing the ones that are malfunctioning or performing poorly.
Engineers specialised in robotics are also responsible for developing the very same software that enables robots to complete their manufacturing tasks.
Other duties may include:
To become a Robotics Engineer, you will need extensive knowledge of Artificial Intelligence and a good understanding of its uses in the automotive industry.
Besides being familiar with the main industrial robot manufacturers (ABB, FANUC, KUKA, etc), you also need working knowledge of hardware design and PLC software to interrogate programs for fault finding and introducing new equipment.
To become an automotive engineer, it is essential that you hold a university degree.
Relevant subjects include:
A postgraduate degree in Automotive Engineering is not a necessary requirement but it will give you an advantage.
Job candidates who only have an engineering foundation degree may access technician roles but they will need to study for further qualifications at a later date to achieve engineer-level posts.
It is also useful if your degree is accredited by a professional body such as the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
This will then allow you to achieve the status of incorporated/chartered engineer (CEng), which opens a wide range of opportunities across managerial and strategic positions within Automotive companies.
To land an Automotive Engineering job, it is extremely important that you have gained work experience during your studies.
Many manufacturing companies offer one-year undergraduate placement schemes, which will help you develop the right skills to land an Automotive Engineering job.
Common entry routes to the Automotive industry are graduate training schemes, which allow young engineers to choose a specialist area of work at the end of their training period.
You may want to start applying for automotive engineering jobs at the very start of your final year of study.
This may seem too early, but most automotive employers offer jobs well in advance of the official starting date.
The great majority of automotive engineering vacancies are managed by recruitment agencies, particularly for contract work.
It is essential that your job search is supported by professionals with a track record of successful recruitment in the Automotive Industry.
At European Recruitment, we scale teams to spearhead projects focusing on self-driving and electric vehicles, infotainment and advanced driver assistance systems.
Alternatively, if you wish to discuss current automotive job opportunities and vacancies, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or on +44 (0)1273 957 888.
Ruggero Galtarossa, Ph.D., is a bilingual technology writer with a professional background in online journalism and academic expertise in the Sociology of New Media. He has studied at prestigious UK institutes like the University of Cambridge and City University London.