Project engineers manage many facets of engineering and technical projects, including management of personnel, budgets, and scheduling to deliver successful projects on time and within the established budget.
The best project engineers are a central point of contact for projects, dealing with stakeholders across all areas. They will interpret the needs, expectations, and limitations of all aspects of a project, communicate effectively and essentially solve problems all the time with the aim of successful project delivery.
The field is broad, and many different industries and types of companies need to hire project engineers.
Until about 1900, engineering projects were generally run and managed by engineers themselves. By as the industrial revolution advanced, engineering projects became more advanced as well, and project-management tools and techniques were needed to systematically manage complex engineering projects.
Project management became a distinct discipline in the 1950s and was applied to the engineering field to determine project planning, scheduling, cost estimating, cost management, and engineering economics.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected employment and the job market, however many sectors of the engineering field have played a critical role in combatting the virus.
National Academy of Engineering President John Anderson pointed out that “engineer” is an action-oriented verb, and engineers have been critical in so many areas of pandemic management. “Engineers consider themselves problem solvers and also creators. We create products, processes, and systems that address economic and societal needs,” said Anderson.
With this need for continued innovation in many industries, opportunities are not expected to decrease.
Recruiting the top project engineers will ensure your engineering projects are planned, managed, and completed on time and budget. While having engineering knowledge related to a particular industry is important, project engineers need specialized training and knowledge in the application of project management tools and systems.
The best project engineers are good communicators. Typically, project engineers don’t just work with other engineers. They will need to engage with almost every team across an organization, including finance, HR, risk management, procurement, technology, communications, and many more. The ability to communicate verbally and in writing to a variety of stakeholders across many levels of an organization is essential for this role.
The critical skills that an engineering project manager must have to be successful are a problem-solving, organization, management, and planning.
According to Inc.com, there are four common project management approaches and styles:
This is a common approach that is ideal for projects that involve large teams. Constant and effective communication is essential.
The agile approach breaks down projects into milestones and works best used for projects where the requirements are a little less defined and flexibility is needed as the project evolves.
This is the “big picture” approach, and success depends on the project engineer’s ability to effectively analyze, define and communicate the project goals, anticipate issues, and solve problems along the way to stay on the well-defined path to the end goal.
The scrum method entails frequent (but typically short) meetings for team communication, task prioritization, and to track the team’s progress within a specific timeframe. This method is best for innovative and complicated projects with well-defined roles and responsibilities.
Project engineering is typically the management of engineering and technical projects – this includes management of personnel, budget, and scheduling.
The person (or sometimes team) in this essential role puts all the operational details of an engineering project – from pre-planning all the way to delivery – into a system, then tracks and manages the plan.
The project engineer will act as a coordinator, dealing with stakeholders across all areas of the project. They will interpret the needs, expectations, and limitations of each, and bring them together with the aim of successful project delivery.
The project engineer needs to understand the principles of project management, including budgeting, people, vendor and team management, and timelines for deliverables.
Let’s take a closer look at the details of the role of a project engineer.
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Though some project engineer jobs require a master’s degree or doctorate, many project engineer jobs only require a bachelor’s degree, experience in the industry, and strong management skills.
U.S. News and World Report ranked the top 3 undergraduate colleges for engineering (those that also offer a doctorate).
These programs train students in the principles of engineering and offer specialized courses on the principles of project management. Armed with a degree, graduates have a multitude of opportunities working in the public or private sector.
Since the title of Project Engineer can be applied to several different industries, the data below is based on the position title of Project Engineer applied across aerospace, mechanical, and civil engineering disciplines.
Nationally, annual compensation for project engineers ranges between $62,000 for entry-level and $150,000 for seasoned project engineers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 960,000 project engineers employed in 2019, with just 11.4% of those employed being women. It is estimated the 12.8% are Asian, 5.8% Black or African American, 8% Hispanic or Latino, and 79.6% are white.
The median annual wage for project engineers was $103,000 compared with $94,500, the median annual wage for all engineers.
The average annual salary for project engineers in California was 115k in 2019. The hourly wage averaged $55.03.
For more detailed compensation information for project engineers in Irvine, download our free compensation/salary report below.
Do project engineers consider Irvine a great place to work? Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are recruiting for project engineers in Irvine.
Irvine, California is considered by most a great place to live and work, particularly if safety is at the top of your list. For 15 years in a row, the FBI has rated Irvine as the safest city of its size in the U.S. And directly bordering this city are some of Southern California’s most celebrated beaches, including Newport Beach, picture-perfect Laguna Beach, and the surfing capital of the U.S., Huntington Beach, also known as Surf City U.S.A.
The city of Irvine is considered a model city for master planning. Neighborhoods, streets, parks, and pretty much everything else looks very uniform due to stringent requirements and building codes. The upside?
“Every square inch of the city is well maintained and organized not one part of the city out of place,” commented one Quora reader.
However, like many Southern California cities, high real estate prices drive a high cost of living.
On the other hand, the city, like many others in Southern California, has a high cost of living and expensive real estate. This may affect a company’s ability to hire top candidates unless compensation is commensurate.
Not your city? View other cities where we place project engineers.
The employment of project engineers (along with architectural and engineering managers) is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
As technology inspires continuous innovation, industries are developing new products, services, and processes every year. Project engineers are at the forefront of these evolving industries, improving efficiency and cost-effectiveness, and providing the “north star” for project teams marching toward a goal.
The supply of candidates and demand for open positions have a direct correlation to a company's ability to hire. Download a free Supply and Demand report for project engineers in Irvine, California below.
Finding and hiring the best project engineer candidates can save you money right away and well into the future.
The costs of making a bad hire are well documented. The cost can run as much as 30% of the employee's first-year earnings according to the US Department of Labor. Bad hires can cost a whopping $240,000 in expenses related to hiring, compensation, and retention per The Undercover Recruiter. 74% of companies who admit they've hired the wrong person for a position lost an average of $14,900 for each bad hire according to CareerBuilder. These statistics support our long-held position that behavioral questions are the best way to get to know your candidates and past behavior is the best indicator of future performance.
The information below comes from the best practices Amtec uses for finding the highest quality candidates.
When defining the role you are creating, we recommend a position profile to fully evaluate the position you are hiring for. You must decide if the engineer can work remotely or must work in California. If working in Irvine is essential, make sure you include that in your job posting so candidates can decide how many miles they can commute.
When you are looking to source the best quality candidates for your open positions, make sure you have done the legwork to hire an "A Player". You can do this by making sure your company's perspective is aligned with the current market, you have taken into account the job responsibilities, as well as what type of characteristics you are looking for to fit your company culture. Then proceed to write a job posting to attract high-quality candidates.
Project engineering is a field that is evolving. And in the field, there are specializations and nuances. The lack of understanding of the subtle differences in project engineering or engineering project manager skillsets can cause recruiters to misidentify candidates and as a result, create a backlog in hiring. If you need to recruit the sharpest engineering professionals:
You wrote a job posting, posted the position online, and received a lot more resumes than you’d bargained for! Next comes the enormous task of sorting through those resumes to eliminate the ones that are clearly not a good fit. Now, you have a stack of resumes for candidates who have potential. So how do you go about screening the remaining candidates?
It starts on the phone! As a recruiter, the goal of your telephone screening is to learn more about your candidates. You can confirm that they have the educational qualifications and relevant experience, but you also need to determine if they would fit into your company's culture. To make this job easier, use a system to consistently evaluate results. This way you can equally and objectively compare candidates and evaluate their "soft skills", like communication and thinking process. Download Amtec's Professional Assessment Questionnaire below to help with screening candidates.
An individually customized questionnaire that helps assess a candidate's competence with written communication skills, thinking processes, and other relevant skills.
At Amtec, we believe in the power of behavoral interview questions to go beyond the experience and skills listed on the candidate's resume. Although you will want to confirm in the interview that the candidate does indeed have the experience listed on their resume, your assessment needs to go much deeper than that. An interview using behavioral questions can help you determine how well the candidate will fit with your company culture.
Download Amtec's best practices on conducting super effective interviews to find the best candidates and fill your open jobs.
Get the info you need to hire the best project engineers