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How do I Become a Senior Project Engineer?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2016
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The path to become a senior project engineer requires dedication, discipline, and professional skill, and takes at least 10 to 15 years of work after graduation to achieve. A project engineer is responsible for coordinating engineering projects. A senior project engineer is typically responsible for supervising project engineers, engineering technologists, and engineering staff.

All senior project engineers have a university degree in engineering. There is a wide range of engineering disciplines, but most senior project engineers are mechanical or civil engineers. In order to qualify for admission to an engineering degree program, candidates must have high marks in high school calculus, algebra, physics, technology, and English courses. Additional courses and a written examination are part of the process to obtain a professional engineer designation (P.Eng), which is required to work as a project engineer.

There are two areas of related work experience necessary to become a senior project engineer: engineering experience and project management experience. Typically, senior project engineers have at least 10 years of experience as a project engineer. This role requires significant knowledge and good judgment, as poor decision making can have dire consequences.

Engineering experience is typically focused within a specific industry. This provides an opportunity for developing the breadth and depth of knowledge essential to success in this role. The senior project engineer is expected to play a leadership role, providing guidance and support to other staff.

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Project management is a specific skill set, which requires time and effort to learn. Although there are training programs and courses, actual project management experience is central to becoming a senior project engineer. This type of experience can be gained outside the engineering field, and then applied to this role.

Engineers who worked within their discipline in a role other than project engineer can still qualify to become a senior project engineer. However, they may need to complete additional courses in project management or complete a master's in business administration (MBA). These courses should be combined with work experience that incorporates project management skills and engineering training.

The standard career path to become a senior project engineer is to obtain a position as a project engineer. Working under the supervision of the senior project engineer, he or she is responsible for providing assistance to the administrative processes required for a large project. Over time, the level of responsibility increases, so that the engineer is eventually given a section of the project to manage.

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MaPa
Post 3

@bigjim - Yes, we're pretty small and specialized. We really only have two or three senior guys at any one time, and they act as mentors for the guys coming up under them.

I have no quarrel with formalized training, but it really depends on the program and the teachers. It can be really worthwhile, or it can be a total waste of time.

bigjim
Post 2

@MaPa - Do you work for a small company? The reason I ask is that I am an engineer for a Fortune 500 company and we have a whole formal program to train our senior project engineers. You have to have 10 years experience (doesn't need to all be with us) and the classes take about two years, with you spending about a quarter of your working time in the classes, or one week out of four.

It works out pretty well in that most of our senior guys seem to know what they are doing, but I think the amount of training is somewhat overkill.

MaPa
Post 1

In my office, becoming a senior project engineer is really just a function of experience. Once you have worked on a bunch of projects over the years you will have likely had more and more responsibility in the various tasks you performed. From then it's just a question of waiting until a project opens up that needs a senior person. It's usually 8-12 years with us. Most people do it for a few years and then move on to project manager jobs or other management positions.

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