A project engineer is an individual who leads the engineering design on a specific project. He may be the sole designer on the job or may be the leader of a large design team. There are various levels of project engineers at different firms, and a senior engineer may manage several individual project engineers, who may themselves manage other designers, draftsmen, and assistants. The term "project engineer" should not be confused with the licensing designation of Professional Engineer.
There are a number of different types of project engineer, and each relies on different training and skills to produce designs. Civil and geotechnical engineers perform site designs, study soil composition, and create plans for roads and other municipal structures. Mechanical engineers design heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, as well as machines used in manufacturing and industry. Electrical engineers may create municipal utility systems or calculate appropriate power supplies for buildings and homes. Structural engineers use weights and loads of materials to design safe buildings and other projects.
To perform these specialized tasks, a project engineer will usually have a graduate-level degree, as well as several years of experience as an assistant or draftsman. He or she may pursue the title of Professional Engineer (PE), but this designation is not required of all engineers. Most countries and states require that building plans and other technical documents be reviewed and stamped by a PE, but generally don't require that all designers obtain this title. To use the title of Professional Engineer, an individual must obtain a graduate degree as well as several years of experience, then pass a licensing exam.
The daily routine of a project engineer is ever-changing. He may meet with architects and other engineers on a project to coordinate design issues or may spend the day determining the best system to meet the technical and functional needs of a new building. He might walk the job site to inspect a project as it progresses and help contractors with questions or problems related to the engineering design. Alternately, he may simply spend the day in the office, reviewing schedules and budgets, selecting materials, and managing his fellow team members.
In the construction industry, the title of project engineer is given to new project managers or job site assistants. Many individuals who enter this field have engineering or construction management degrees, though the responsibilities of those in construction differs significantly from a designing engineer. Construction project engineers typically work out in the field, representing the general contractor and managing the day-to-day project activities. They do no design work, and instead help guide tradesmen on the job by interpreting the project's building plans. After several years of increased responsibility, the project engineer is usually promoted to project manager and is given his own projects to run.