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What Does A Research Engineer Do?

Research Engineers are responsible for a wide range of duties, including researching and developing new technologies and prototypes, and finding solutions to improve techniques, procedures, and technologies.

Here are examples of responsibilities from real research engineer resumes representing typical tasks they are likely to perform in their roles.

  • Prepare research proposals for the synthesis of small molecules to attain designate department goals.
  • Hire and manage PhD materials scientist, laboratory technicians, and college interns to staff the lab.
  • Lead inhalation drug delivery part of Pearl/Astrazeneca MDI preclinical inhalation GLP studies.
  • Develop several LabVIEW applications used for data acquisition and logging.
  • Develop and install custom data acquisition systems including hardware and software to monitor mechanical presses from remote locations via modem.
  • Web pages contain HTML and JavaScript.
  • Utilize high dexterity to assemble fuel cell hardware.
  • Supervise a co-op through the development of the windows application.
  • Verify oxidative temperature and crystallinity of polymer with TGA and DSC.
  • Manufacture hydrofoils by using CNC machining and carbon fiber pressure molding.
Research Engineer Traits
Listening is an important part of the communication process as it allows you to understand information.
Mechanical skills refers to one's ability to work with specific machinery related to their industry.
Creativity involves thinking about a task or problem in an entirely new or different light.

Research Engineer Overview

Between the years 2018 and 2028, research engineer jobs are expected to undergo a growth rate described as "as fast as average" at 4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So if the thought "should I become a research engineer?" Has crossed your mind, maybe you should take the growth rate into account. In addition, the number of research engineer opportunities that are projected to become available by 2028 is 12,800.

On average, the research engineer annual salary is $85,593 per year, which translates to $41.15 an hour. Generally speaking, research engineers earn anywhere from $62,000 to $116,000 a year, which means that the top-earning research engineers make $56,000 more than the ones at the lower end of the spectrum.

It's hard work to become a research engineer, but even the most dedicated employees consider switching careers from time to time. Whether you're interested in a more challenging position or just looking for a fresh start, we've compiled extensive information on becoming a product development engineer, mechanical design engineer, design engineer internship, and product design engineer.

Research Engineer Skills and Personality Traits

We calculated that 18% of Research Engineers are proficient in Python, Hardware, and R. They’re also known for soft skills such as Listening skills, Mechanical skills, and Creativity.

We break down the percentage of Research Engineers that have these skills listed on their resume here:

  • Python, 18%

    Learned basic Python programming language to achieve aquatic drone autonomy.

  • Hardware, 7%

    Developed and installed custom data acquisition systems including hardware and software to monitor mechanical presses from remote locations via modem.

  • R, 6%

    Developed a scheduling service using .NET to automate R code and other back-end processes.

  • Data Analysis, 5%

    Performed calibration, efficiency tests, and thermodynamic data analysis for gas-fired heating units; data used to develop governmental standards.

  • Research Projects, 5%

    Participate in vehicle safety related research projects including pedestrian safety, vehicle compatibility, and side impact vehicle crashes.

  • Software Development, 5%

    Pursued funded research into distributed, networked computing with the emphasis on innovative software development and debugging tools.

Most research engineers list "python," "hardware," and "r" as skills on their resumes. We go into more details on the most important research engineer responsibilities here:

  • The most important skills for a research engineer to have in this position are listening skills. In this excerpt that we gathered from a research engineer resume, you'll understand why: "mechanical engineers often work on projects with others, such as architects and computer scientists" According to resumes we found, listening skills can be used by a research engineer in order to "involved in event/listener effort using java.util.eventlistener. "
  • While it may not be the most important skill, we found that many research engineer duties rely on mechanical skills. This example from a research engineer explains why: "mechanical skills allow engineers to apply basic engineering concepts and mechanical processes to the design of new devices and systems." This resume example is just one of many ways research engineers are able to utilize mechanical skills: "prepared laboratory equipment and specimens for bio-mechanical testing. "
  • Creativity is also an important skill for research engineers to have. This example of how research engineers use this skill comes from a research engineer resume, "mechanical engineers design and build complex pieces of equipment and machinery" Read this excerpt from a resume to understand how vital it is to their everyday roles and responsibilities, "maintain laboratory equipment, specimen records, inventory, standard operating procedures in accordance to laboratory safety and compliance. "
  • A thorough review of lots of resumes revealed to us that "math skills" is important to completing research engineer responsibilities. This resume example shows just one way research engineers use this skill: "mechanical engineers use the principles of calculus, statistics, and other advanced subjects in math for analysis, design, and troubleshooting in their work." Here's an example of how this skill is used from a resume that represents typical research engineer tasks: "utilized matlab, simulink, minitab and other software for mathematical modeling and control of manufacturing processes. "
  • Yet another important skill that a research engineer must demonstrate is "problem-solving skills." Mechanical engineers need good problem-solving skills to take scientific principles and discoveries and use them to design and build useful products. This is clearly demonstrated in this example from a research engineer who stated: "provide solutions using dod architecture framework (dodaf) guidlines. "
  • See the full list of research engineer skills.

    After discovering the most helpful skills, we moved onto what kind of education might be helpful in becoming a research engineer. We found that 31.4% of research engineers have graduated with a bachelor's degree and 42.3% of people in this position have earned their master's degrees. While most research engineers have a college degree, you may find it's also true that generally it's impossible to be successful in this career with only a high school degree. In fact, our research shows that one out of every ten research engineers were not college graduates.

    Those research engineers who do attend college, typically earn either a mechanical engineering degree or a electrical engineering degree. Less commonly earned degrees for research engineers include a chemical engineering degree or a biomedical engineering degree.

    Once you've obtained the level of education you're comfortable with, you might start applying to companies to become a research engineer. We've found that most research engineer resumes include experience from Ford Motor Company, Micro Focus, and Facebook. Of recent, Ford Motor Company had 15 positions open for research engineers. Meanwhile, there are 12 job openings at Micro Focus and 10 at Facebook.

    Since salary is important to some research engineers, it's good to note that they are figured to earn the highest salaries at Comprehend Systems, Zoox, and Qeexo. If you were to take a closer look at Comprehend Systems, you'd find that the average research engineer salary is $149,549. Then at Zoox, research engineers receive an average salary of $147,281, while the salary at Qeexo is $146,323.

    View more details on research engineer salaries across the United States.

    We also looked into companies who hire research engineers from the top 100 educational institutions in the U.S. The top three companies that hire the most from these institutions include IBM, Lockheed Martin, and Motorola Solutions.

    In general, research engineers fulfill roles in the technology and manufacturing industries. While employment numbers are high in those industries, the research engineer annual salary is the highest in the telecommunication industry with $107,589 as the average salary. Meanwhile, the technology and manufacturing industries pay $103,785 and $91,176 respectively. This means that research engineers who are employed in the telecommunication industry make 26.0% more than research engineers who work in the automotive Industry.

    The three companies that hire the most prestigious research engineers are:

      What Product Development Engineers Do

      A Product Development Engineer is responsible for creating and testing new product designs. They collaborate with market researchers to evaluate market needs, existing competition, and potential costs.

      In this section, we compare the average research engineer annual salary with that of a product development engineer. Typically, product development engineers earn a $6,870 lower salary than research engineers earn annually.

      While their salaries may differ, one common ground between research engineers and product development engineers are a few of the skills required in each craft. In both careers, employees bring forth skills like r, data analysis, and c++.

      As far as similarities go, this is where it ends because a research engineer responsibility requires skills such as "python," "c #," "hardware," and "research projects." Whereas a product development engineer is skilled in "product design," "prototype," "fea," and "ul." So if you're looking for what truly separates the two careers, you've found it.

      Product development engineers really shine in the technology industry with an average salary of $84,575. Whereas research engineers tend to make the most money in the telecommunication industry with an average salary of $107,589.

      Product development engineers tend to reach lower levels of education than research engineers. In fact, product development engineers are 5.9% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree and 18.7% less likely to have a Doctoral Degree.

      What Are The Duties Of a Mechanical Design Engineer?

      A mechanical design engineer specializes in designing various mechanical devices that will be vital in developing machinery or large structures. One of their primary responsibilities revolves around conducting thorough research and analysis, establishing layouts and prototypes, producing progress reports, and working alongside fellow engineers and skilled professionals. Typically assigned in an office setting, a mechanical design engineer must visit construction sites or factories to test and observe equipment qualities. Furthermore, during production, there are instances when a mechanical engineer must coordinate with suppliers, contractors, and clients.

      The next role we're going to look at is the mechanical design engineer profession. Typically, this position earns a lower pay. In fact, they earn a $9,906 lower salary than research engineers per year.

      A similarity between the two careers of research engineers and mechanical design engineers are a few of the skills associated with both roles. We used resumes from both professions to find that both use skills like "r," "system design," and "cad. "

      In addition to the difference in salary, there are some other key differences that are worth noting. For example, research engineer responsibilities are more likely to require skills like "python," "c #," "hardware," and "data analysis." Meanwhile, a mechanical design engineer might be skilled in areas such as "engineering design," "engineering drawings," "creo," and "gd." These differences highlight just how different the day-to-day in each role looks.

      On average, mechanical design engineers earn a lower salary than research engineers. There are industries that support higher salaries in each profession respectively. Interestingly enough, mechanical design engineers earn the most pay in the technology industry with an average salary of $96,656. Whereas, research engineers have higher paychecks in the telecommunication industry where they earn an average of $107,589.

      In general, mechanical design engineers study at lower levels of education than research engineers. They're 13.3% less likely to obtain a Master's Degree while being 18.7% less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      How a Design Engineer Internship Compares

      When it comes to a design engineer internship, an intern is primarily responsible for performing support tasks while under the supervision and directives of a manager or a more experienced engineer. Their duties typically revolve around processing documents, updating records and populating databases, responding to inquiries and correspondence, running errands, sharing insights, and even participating in designing projects. Furthermore, as an intern, it is essential to report to the supervising manager and adhere to the company's policies and regulations.

      The third profession we take a look at is design engineer internship. On an average scale, these workers bring in lower salaries than research engineers. In fact, they make a $50,513 lower salary per year.

      By looking over several research engineers and design engineer interns resumes, we found that both roles utilize similar skills, such as "python," "r," and "data analysis." But beyond that the careers look very different.

      As mentioned, these two careers differ between other skills that are required for performing the work exceedingly well. For example, gathering from research engineers resumes, they are more likely to have skills like "c #," "hardware," "research projects," and "software development." But a design engineer internship might have skills like "engineering design," "verilog," "powerpoint," and "engineering drawings."

      Interestingly enough, design engineer interns earn the most pay in the manufacturing industry, where they command an average salary of $63,038. As mentioned previously, research engineers highest annual salary comes from the telecommunication industry with an average salary of $107,589.

      Design engineer interns typically study at lower levels compared with research engineers. For example, they're 23.3% less likely to graduate with a Master's Degree, and 21.2% less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree.

      Description Of a Product Design Engineer

      A Product Design Engineer designs new products that customers will want to purchase. They are responsible for designing, modeling, and testing prototypes for products.

      The fourth career we look at typically earns lower pay than research engineers. On average, product design engineers earn a difference of $9,201 lower per year.

      While their salaries may vary, research engineers and product design engineers both use similar skills to perform their jobs. Resumes from both professions include skills like "r," "system design," and "cad. "

      While some skills are shared by these professions, there are some differences to note. "python," "c #," "hardware," and "data analysis" are skills that have shown up on research engineers resumes. Additionally, product design engineer uses skills like engineering design, gd, creo, and engineering drawings on their resumes.

      Product design engineers earn a higher salary in the technology industry with an average of $104,466. Whereas, research engineers earn the highest salary in the telecommunication industry.

      The average resume of product design engineers showed that they earn lower levels of education to research engineers. So much so that the likelihood of them earning a Master's Degree is 10.5% less. Additionally, they're less likely to earn a Doctoral Degree by 20.9%.