How Do I Become a Chief Engineer?

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  • Written By: Jessica F. Black
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 03 November 2019
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To become a chief engineer, you will usually be required to have at least a Bachelor of Science degree in the engineering field of your choice, preferably civil engineering. Many companies will require that you have a specific amount of experience in the field before you will be considered for a position of this magnitude. This career is also based on leadership skills and larger companies may require that you have at least 10 years experience in a similar position. Before deciding to embark on a career as a chief engineer, you should review various job descriptions and different engineering fields. Once you have chosen a specific field, you will need to research universities that offer a degree program that correlates with your career choice.

A four year undergraduate program will consist of prerequisite coursework and advanced courses that focus on your specified field. Before enrolling in courses, you should consult with a college adviser. Typically, an adviser can help you come up with a degree plan, and discuss the designated coursework needed to become a chief engineer.


Your prerequisites will most likely be heavily focused on mathematics and various sciences and you will need to successfully complete all necessary coursework before enrolling in advanced classes. Advanced coursework may vary depending on the type of engineering program you have chosen, but general classes may include introduction to engineering, engineering mechanics, and statics. You will also likely be required to study circuit analysis, fundamentals of engineering, and engineering analysis.

During your first two years of the undergraduate program, you should consider applying to internships in your field. These are excellent experience opportunities that allow you to receive hands-on training while closely observing the industry. Some students participate in several internships throughout their college career and these experiences will help you to become a chief engineer. Continuing your education to receive a master's degree in engineering can also improve your chances of entering this profession. Some students apply to entry level positions after receiving their B.S. and work their way through promotions to become a chief engineer.

When applying for this position, you will need to display characteristics that are needed to perform leadership duties including excellent communication skills, the ability to work with others, management skills, organization, and patience. Most companies may also provide in-house training in order to familiarize you with the specific workings of their company. There are also many continuing education courses, workshops, lectures, and reading materials that can keep you up-to-date on industry innovations.


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Post 2

@allenJo - I worked for a great chief engineer in the software industry once.

This guy started out as a developer and then moved into the software architect position, which for all practical purposes was a chief engineering role.

What I liked about him was that he never talked down to the other developers, even when they made mistakes, and he had a way of rallying a team together to get a project done. I agree – leadership is everything for this position.

Post 1

When I worked in telecommunications I noticed that seven years was the magic mark for people moving into senior (or chief) engineering positions.

It wasn’t an ironclad rule of course. You could get there faster than that or slower, depending on your personal ambitions; but in general it was seven years.

I also observed that while some people wanted the management responsibilities that went with the job title, not all of them were cut out to be managers.

You need some people skills; tact and diplomacy wouldn’t hurt. Some people, in my opinion, are better off staying in positions of seniority and focusing on the technical aspects of the work and not so much on management.

I agree with the article in that respect; without the leadership skills, it will be tough sledding as a chief engineer.

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