I have recently been made aware of my role change from an electronics and software engineer at a medium size company to that of their new product engineer. From the outset the change in role seems to imply a promotion stemming from my previous work on independent projects in the company. However dwelling on the change of responsibilities from designing new products and software to purely working in documentation/product support, it has caused me to re-evaluate my position and if my new role is a promotion at all. Alas that I have never heard of this job title before professionally and never met with any others who hold this position.

From research on glass-door and job search websites it appears that Product Engineering has less room for wage improvement than Design Engineering (with the median Product Engineer salary staying at 50k Euros compared with the Median 75k for Design). In perspective, My current wage is 27k euros with a projected 1.5% increase with my new role.

I was wondering if being a product engineer would put me at a disadvantage if and when applying to other companies to further my career in design? Do companies value product engineers as a part of the design process and can a product engineer realistically progress towards project management and design leadership which is my career goal? If not, what kind of progression is realistic for a Product Engineer and should I consider seeking a change in employment?

  • Welcome new user, excellent question. I would guess that ultimately you could make more money as a "product engineer". But it's worth nothing that these terms are used very differently in different situations :O – Fattie Jan 2 '19 at 22:30

I started in microelectronic design and later became a technical marketer, which is similar to a product engineer. My salary then was equivalent to 90K euro. Unless European companies are very different from U.S. companies, I think the salary datapoint you provided is suspect. The two career paths, in my opinion, have similar salary paths.

But they are two different careers.

If what you want to do with your life is design, then being a product engineer will reduce the liklihood of obtaining design jobs in the future. This makes logical sense. You're not using your design skills as much and they will atrophy.

Oversimplifying outrageously (and not accounting for the fact that every company will define a product engineer differently)...

Designers are builders. They may be interested in the needs of customers, and may even talk to them from time to time, but that's not their main focus. Usually, they're given a list of desgin constraints and off they go, building something cool and amazing.

Product Engineers are communicators. PEs with design experience are very valuable communicators, because they can better understand customers and often "speak their language." But make no mistake, their job is to communicate.

Both jobs are needed for a product to be successful. The question is, what do you want? It sounds like you want to be a designer, but your question is vague. For example, do you prefer the safety of large companies or the excitement of start-ups? Start-ups adore cross-trained engineers so that they get all the skills when they need them (jack-of-all-trades). Large companies are less impressed because they need each engineer to focus on his/her job and excel at it (master-of-one-trade). I've known designers who were completely satisfied by their jobs and passed up more lucrative opportunities that required stepping away from them (e.g., design management). I've also known people that changed careers frequently and became wonderfully wealthy (they became CEOs). Your personal goals are very much a part of this issue.

As a final comment: you made a curious statement, "I have recently been made aware of my role change...." Did it sneak up on you? Was your role changed without your knowledge or your consent? Does the company see skills and abilities in you that you don't recognize in yourself? Or was this statement simply a polite way to introduce your question? If your company is redirecting your responsibilities without discussing your career path with you... that's kinda weird.

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