Anatomy of a Product Design Engineer: What Makes a PDE an Innovative, Sought-After Professional?

Product Design Engineering is a field that’s both challenging and rewarding. But what makes a Product Design Engineer tick? What makes a professional stand out among the crowd in this highly competitive field? What skills and expertise do aspiring PDEs need to obtain to increase their odds of landing roles with some of the world’s most influential companies – such as Microsoft, Toshiba, Johnson & Johnson, Samsung, and others?
What makes a top product design engineers the best at what they do? These are precisely the questions we aimed to answer when we decided to take a deep-dive into the anatomy of a top product design engineer. We’ve also created this infographic to highlight the top skills, traits, and characteristics necessary for success in the highly competitive product design engineering field. In this guide, we’ll examine:

Read on to find out what the data reveals about the characteristics of the most successful product design engineers, where top talent goes to school, some of the most prominent companies where PDEs work, earnings potential in the field, and much more.

An Overview of Product Design Engineers

There aren’t an abundance of statistics on the field of product design engineering specifically, but we can gain some insights by looking at comparable fields. According to, 92% of mechanical engineering majors are male. Electrical engineering has a similar split: just 9% of electrical engineering majors are female, while 91% are male. also examines the gender gap in common STEM fields, noting that the electrical and electronics engineering field is dominated by 87.7% men.
A bachelor’s degree is required for a career in product design engineering, and some employers prefer graduate degrees. While it’s possible to get into the field with an associate’s degree, these professionals often serve as technicians and designers, with the engineering designation reserved for those with a four-year degree who have passed requisite certification and licensure exams (such as a Professional Engineer license), which may vary by state.
According to, the median salary for product engineers in 2015 was $68,382. Some PDEs earn less, while others can earn substantially higher salaries with advanced degrees and experience, particularly those who secure employment in more lucrative industries.

Educational Background and Work Experience

Many product design engineers hold bachelor’s degrees, although some pursue higher education to advance their careers or to gain specialized expertise. Some PDEs obtained bachelor’s degrees in a more general area of study such as mathematics or physics, then obtained a master’s-level degree in an engineering-related field. The Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET accredits many degree programs suitable for students pursuing careers in product design engineering.
There are a variety of degree programs that suit the needs of students wishing to pursue careers in the field of product design engineering, with a great deal of overlap but rarely identical. Most of these programs focus on some combination of manufacturing, industrial design, product design, and engineering/technology. Here’s a look at a few of the fields of study pursued by today’s top product design engineering professionals.

Manufacturing and Design Engineering

Degree programs in Manufacturing and Design Engineering typically focus on process and product design, manufacturing systems, and manufacturing management, equipping graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to integrate design and manufacturing processes into comprehensive, effective systems. You can find Manufacturing and Design Engineering and similar programs at institutions such as:

Industrial Design and Engineering and Industrial Design

“Industrial design aims to develop concepts and specifications of products and systems, optimize functionality, to improve appearance, which provide value and other benefits for users and manufacturers,” explains “Industrial designers must not only look into product functionality and appearance, but also they have to ensure user attractiveness and satisfaction of the product. Bachelors in industrial design involve gaining expertise in design, research, innovation and innovative solutions.” A few institutions offering degree programs in engineering and industrial design and similar programs of study include:

Product Design, Product Design Engineering, and Product Design Engineering Technology

You’ll find a variety of product design-focused degree programs, typically encompassing some variation of product design, product design engineering, and product design engineering technology. These degree programs emphasize technology applications and the management of technology applications, the integration of manufacturing principles in product design, conceptualizing design layouts, and the creation of design layouts, models, and prototypes. Schools offering product design, product design engineering, and/or product design engineering technology degree programs include:

Graduate Programs

Professionals are not limited by bachelor’s-level degrees in the field of product design engineering. Those who wish to pursue advanced studies have many degree programs to choose from, including both masters and doctoral-level options. Graduate programs such as the Master of Science in Engineering – Manufacturing & Design at UCLA Engineering and the Master of Engineering in Advanced Manufacturing & Design at MIT, for instance, provide students with advanced education in the manufacturing and design field.
There’s also a trend toward innovation among advanced degrees in this field, which is fitting given the need for fast-paced innovation across a broad range of product categories today – not limited to electronics design. For example, the Master of Integrated Innovation for Products & Services offered by Carnegie Mellon University is a robust program empowering students to become elite innovators with an ability to identify opportunities and create new products and services to capitalize on those opportunities.
The above-referenced learning institutions and degree programs are just a few examples of the many educational paths available to up-and-coming product design engineering professionals. We browsed Product Design Engineers on LinkedIn to gain some insight into the educational background and other trends among top PDEs by analyzing the data from the first 100 professionals listed. Note that this doesn’t constitute a random sample – as it’s dependent on LinkedIn’s algorithm, network connections, and so on – and it shouldn’t be considered representative of the field at large, considering that participation on LinkedIn is voluntary and information is provided by self-reporting. That said, here’s what we discovered:

  • The first 100 verifiable profiles included 87% men and 13% women.
  • Based on the educational information provided on individual profiles, 50% have earned a Bachelor’s degree, while 39% hold a Master’s-level degree.
  • Three percent hold a Ph.D., and another 3% hold an associate’s degree. Five profiles among the 100 we evaluated were excluded from this analysis as they either didn’t list their educational background or didn’t disclose specific degrees obtained through the universities they’ve attended.
  • Mechanical Engineering is by far the most-pursued field of study, encompassing 87 out of 164 degrees and courses of study listed, or 53%.
  • Other engineering fields and industrial design/engineering programs of study are a common thread, to a much lesser extent than mechanical engineering.
  • Fourteen of the 164 different programs, certifications, and educational pursuits listed (8.5%) specifically include product design or a close variant in the program or degree name. The main takeaway from this tidbit is that top product design engineers don’t necessarily hold degrees in “product design engineering.”

Overall, LinkedIn offers its own analysis with some informative breakdowns of data among product design engineers with LinkedIn profiles. The top universities for product design engineers according to LinkedIn include:

In our informal analysis of the first 100 verifiable profiles listed in our search, the top universities include (keep in mind that some of these institutions awarded more than one degree to an individual and are therefore counted twice in those instances):

Where PDEs Work

LinkedIn also analyzes its data to determine the top industries in which product design engineering professionals work, including:

  • Mechanical or Industrial Engineering – 13,024
  • Automotive – 9,989
  • Electrical/Electronic Manufacturing – 5,381
  • Design – 5,332
  • Semiconductors – 4,329

Most product design engineers work in the United States, although there are opportunities for PDEs in the U.K., India, Australia, and other countries to a lesser extent:

  • United States – 39,097
  • United Kingdom – 5,926
  • India – 5,888
  • Greater Boston Area – 1,856
  • Australia – 1,834

LinkedIn PDE Data
According to LinkedIn, the top employers among PDEs include:

Here’s a look at some of the major industries employing PDEs and some of the largest employers and most influential companies in each.

Medical and Healthcare Equipment

The healthcare industry is an early adopter of the latest technological advances that enhance the quality of patient care and streamline patient care delivery. Thus, medical and healthcare equipment design can be a lucrative career field for PDEs. Some of the major players and up-and-comers in the field of medical and healthcare equipment include:

Careers at SonoSite
“At SonoSite, you can build your future while working with people who are dedicated to growth and innovation and are passionate about a company that is changing the way medicine is practiced and how research is conducted. We make a difference to patients, doctors, and researchers around the world.”
Toshiba Medical

Careers at Toshiba Medical
“With our ‘Made for Life’ philosophy, Toshiba employees have worked to improve people’s lives for over 130 years. Want to make a true difference in your own career and future? We invite you to discover how you can with a diagnostic imaging equipment leader, Toshiba America Medical Systems, Inc.”
Zyno Medical

Careers at Zyno Medical
“Dr. Chaoyoung Lee founded Zyno Medical in 2006. The company received it first 510-K FDA clearance in October 2007. Zyno Medical’s market focus is the alternate care market where there is a need for durable, advanced technology infusion pumps designed specifically for the infusion needs that are unique for this market. Since its inception, the company has assembled a vast wealth of engineering talent, clinical experience, customer and market expertise. Zyno Medical’s headquarter location is in Natick, Massachusetts.”

Careers at B. Braun Medical, Inc.
“B. Braun Medical Inc. (B.Braun) is part of a global organization with 56,000 professionals.
“Our far-reaching family of companies includes over 64 locations worldwide, including manufacturing, marketing and sales firms in Asia, Europe, North America, the Pacific Rim and South America. We offer a positive work environment, competitive salary, benefit packages and a Sharing Expertise® culture that rewards performance.”

Careers at Hill-Rom
“Hill-Rom and our affiliate companies; Welch Allyn, Aspen Surgical, Allen Medical, Trumpf Medical, Liko and Völker, all offer our employees challenging work experiences, a collaborative team environment, and a comprehensive benefits offering. The strongest motive for working with us is the opportunity to make a true difference in peoples’ lives by enhancing outcomes for patients and their caregivers.”
Johnson & Johnson

Careers at Johnson & Johnson
“The Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies is organized into three business segments— Consumer, Pharmaceuticals, and Medical Devices. We are the world’s most broadly based global health care business serving customers, patients and medical professionals through more than 275 companies in over 60 countries.
“Employees within our companies are empowered to leverage this global network to deliver solutions that better serve the needs of those who use our products and services. They have access to world-class programs for personal and professional development, and the potential to drive a dynamic career across businesses, segments and functional roles.”
G.E. Healthcare

Careers at G.E. Healthcare
“What do you envision for your future? At GE Healthcare, we strive to see life more clearly. Our ‘healthymagination’ vision for the future invites the world to join us on our journey as we continuously develop innovations focused on reducing healthcare costs, increasing access and improving quality and efficiency around the world.
“We are an $18 billion unit of General Electric Company (NYSE: GE), employing more than 52,000 people worldwide and serving healthcare professionals in more than 100 countries. We believe in our strategy – and we’d like you to be a part of it. As a global leader, GE can bring together the best in science, technology, business and people to help solve one of the world’s toughest challenges and shape a new age of healthcare.”

Careers at Medtronic
“Be part of a company that thinks differently to solve problems, make progress, and deliver meaningful innovations.”

Careers at Siemens
“At Siemens U.S. we are the team working to find answers to the most challenging questions of our time. We strive to create the sustainable systems and solutions that allow businesses to thrive, cities to grow and people to live longer, healthier lives. As part of a global organization of 360,000 employees operating in 190 countries, we are one of the top engineering and integrated technologies companies in the world.”

Careers at Baxter
“Our employees around the world are connected by an enduring commitment to save and sustain lives. This higher purpose binds us as a company in doing work that matters.”

Industrial/Heavy Duty Equipment (Industrial Controls)

Industrial engineers are systems designers and integrators, analyzing and designing anything ranging from buildings and facilities to material handling systems, manufacturing and production systems, group and individual workspaces, and information systems. PDEs working in the industrial and heavy duty equipment industries typically focus on equipment design, although depending on the role they may also be involved in larger systems design. A few leaders in this field include:
Lincoln Electric

Careers at Lincoln Electric
“Headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, Lincoln Electric has been the world leader in the manufacturing of welding products for over 120 years. We understand that we can only maintain our position as an industry leader if we attract and retain the very best candidates. Here are just a few of the reasons that our rich history, our company vision, and our and people make Lincoln Electric the place for you. As a new member of the Lincoln Team, you will learn about our rich history and will be given the opportunity to contribute to our strategic vision. In doing so, you will build relationships with colleagues locally and from all over the Lincoln world which will help you learn, develop, and grow your career.”
Multi Products Company

Careers at Multi Products Company
“At Multi Products Company, we pride ourselves on delivering high quality, dependable service – both in the field and in manufacturing. Because we design, build and inventory our own plunger lift systems, we can respond quickly to customer needs whether you require new systems or replacement parts.  Our in-house engineering team ensures that we are constantly innovating plunger lift systems and associated product lines so our customers get the latest and greatest plunger lift technology. Our comprehensive quality and inspection program offers full material traceability, ISO 9001 compliant procedures and processes, and testing/certification to API standards.”
OPW Retail Fueling

Careers at OPW Retail Fueling
“OPW is proud of a diversified workforce throughout the world. Our focus is on the hiring and development of people dedicated to providing the highest quality of products and services to our customers.”

Careers at IPS
“Superior is a strong, focused, global company offering its employees a stable and safe working environment.
“From dependable work schedules to personal safety guidelines and support, Superior cares about the well being of our team members.
“We are looking for loyal, dedicated, hard-working individuals who are ready to advance their careers.”
Will Burt

Careers at Will Burt
“We firmly believe that our employees drive the success of the company. With success in mind as the ultimate goal, we strive to create and provide an environment that offers challenging, stimulating and financially rewarding opportunities.
“Join us and discover a work experience where diverse ideas are met with enthusiasm, and where you can learn and grow to your full potential.”
Smiths Interconnect

Careers at Smiths Interconnect
“Smiths Interconnect’s success begins with our people. It is because of our employees’ innovative thinking, collaboration and drive for excellence that we can provide solutions to challenges in some of today’s most demanding industries.
“Smiths Interconnect is a leader in technically differentiated electronic and radio frequency products that connect, protect and control critical systems for the wireless telecommunications, aerospace, defense, space, data centers, medical, rail, test and industrial markets.
“If the time has come to put your talent, knowledge and experience to work in a global organization that can offer you professional growth and competitive benefits, use the links here to learn more about Smiths Interconnect’s available openings.”
Cimarron Energy

Careers at Cimarron Energy
“Cimarron Energy Inc. is a leading manufacturer of engineered production, process, and environmental equipment for the upstream and midstream energy industries.”

Telecommunications, Test, and Networking Equipment

Telecommunications and networking engineers are in high demand, with the telecom industry working to keep pace with technology and consumer demands. PDEs working in these fields typically focus on designing products with functional, ergonomic, and aesthetic requirements in mind, designing and developing devices and gadgets that will fuel communication, both on the front lines and behind the scenes, in the decades to come. A few leading employers in this field include:
Fluke Networks

Careers at Fluke Networks
“Fluke Networks is the worldwide leader in certification, troubleshooting, and installation tools for professionals who install and maintain critical network cabling infrastructure. From installing the most advanced data centers to restoring telephone service after a disaster, our combination of legendary reliability and unmatched performance ensure jobs are done efficiently.”

Careers at Megger
“Our strategy is to produce all our products with a single brand name, Megger. The advantages to you are that you know the products and software will work well together, and all the products have a similar yet distinctive ‘look and feel’ with their dark and light grey casings. We don’t waste colour on trying to make our test instruments pretty – we reserve it for useful functions such as range selectors and displays. Our design engineers come from many different nations, and they regularly exchange ideas and tips with colleagues from other countries. That means you get the latest innovations, one of the reasons that Megger products are so advanced. As more companies join the Megger family, you may find some test equipment sold by us that have not yet transitioned to the Megger identity system. Don’t worry – our top priority is ensuring that product quality is right. We’ll get round to making sure the colours are the same later.”

Diagnostic, Detection, and Measuring Equipment

Many industries rely on heavy equipment and complex machinery to produce products and provide services that make the world go ‘round. But when that equipment fails, services and production are interrupted, creating a domino effect that ripples throughout the supply chain. That’s why the design of diagnostic, detection, and measuring equipment is a crucial function in today’s society: it’s what enables businesses and communities to keep bustling. There’s some overlap here with the medical device design field, given that a fairly large percentage of diagnostic equipment is used in healthcare. Some examples of the biggest and most influential companies in this niche include:

Careers at TRACERCO
“Tracerco, part of the Process Technologies Division of Johnson Matthey, is a world leading industrial technology company providing unique and specialised detection, diagnostic and measurement solutions. Our goal is to drive technical innovation to bring significant benefits to our customers in the petroleum industry and in the security tagging niches we serve.”

Careers at Randox
“Randox Laboratories is passionate about improving global health and saving lives through the development of innovative and pioneering products.  Through our commitment and the skill of our people we have grown to be a world leader in diagnostics for clinical healthcare, toxicology, food security and providing quality solutions to over 145 countries.  In order to serve our growing international markets we require high calibre applicants with scientific, engineering, software and broader business skills – including sales, marketing, logistics, finance and many more.”
EKF Diagnostics

Careers at EKF Diagnostics
“EKF Diagnostics is a global medical diagnostics business with a long history in point-of-care testing and central laboratory manufacturing.  Our products have a hard earned reputation for ease of use, reliability and accuracy.
“Our core focus is the Point of Care market with over 80,000 hemoglobin, A1c, glucose and lactate analyzers in regular use in more than 100 countries running more than 50m tests every year.”
Nova Biomedical

Careers at Nova Biomedical
“Nova Biomedical is committed to continuing our technology leadership with advanced medical products that provide more accurate and faster diagnostic tests for patients. We also continue to innovate biotechnology instruments that allow for faster, more economical development of drugs and other therapeutic products.”
Molecular Devices

Careers at Molecular Devices
“By joining Molecular Devices, you will work with best-in-class teams — to empower our customers with innovative tools, systems and support — as they unravel the complexities of biological systems. From breakthrough experiments conducted 254 miles above the earth on the International Space Station, to research for lifesaving therapies at every major pharmaceutical company, the scientific tools made by Molecular Devices are used to make a real difference in the world.”

Consumer Electronics

Consumer electronics is arguably the field many laypersons envision when the topic of product design emerges. As consumer electronics are the types of products that most people are exposed to in everyday life (aside from any products used in the workplace), this isn’t all that surprising. It’s also an exciting field for PDEs to work in. Many emerging professionals dream of designing the next groundbreaking consumer gadget. Leaders in this field include many recognizable names:

Careers at Sony
“At Sony, we strive to make this vision a reality, by creating breathtaking products, content and services that delight our customers, and move them emotionally. Throughout our history, we have not only created new lifestyles and experiences, but have changed the way people enjoy entertainment around the world.
“Over the years, we have extended the scope of our business beyond electronics to music, movies, games and network services – enabling us to provide unique experiences and emotion through our rich array of assets, in a way that only Sony can deliver.”

Careers at Toshiba
“Toshiba, based on our commitment to people and to the future, delivers technologies and products that enhance human life. We bring together the spirit of innovation to shape a thriving future society.
Join us and make a difference in the world.”

Careers at Panasonic
“Panasonic has an unyielding commitment to the society in which we operate and for international growth. We offer gratifying careers to self-motivated and talented individuals with globally oriented backgrounds for helping us to set new standards in our field. We are actively recruiting the best and brightest candidates to join our worldwide team.”

Careers at Samsung
“From smartphones to virtual reality, we are reimagining what’s possible. Our diverse team of leaders has made us a force in the industry. If you share our belief in the power of technology to change the world, let’s talk.”

Careers at LG
“At LG we are looking to hire those who will help us reach our goal of bringing innovation for a better life to our customers and community, come join the team!”

Careers at Microsoft
“We foster our pipeline of future leaders with 47 employee networks and 7 global employee resource groups, servicing an active community of thousands across Microsoft.”

Careers at Apple
“The people here at Apple don’t just create products — they create the kind of wonder that’s revolutionized entire industries. It’s the diversity of those people and their ideas that inspires the innovation that runs through everything we do, from amazing technology to industry-leading environmental efforts. Join Apple, and help us leave the world better than we found it.”
Intel Corporation

Careers at Intel Corporation
“Innovation isn’t easy. Or quick to come by. So ours is a challenging workplace where teams are diverse, competitive, and continually searching for tomorrow’s technology and the brilliant minds to create it.”

Careers at IBM
“IBMers work where their ideas make an impact. From developing software that transforms healthcare to designing next-generation sport stadiums, IBMers change the way that people experience the world.
“At IBM, every voice contributes. Together, our mathematicians, engineers, coders and designers outthink challenges and make discoveries that alter industries. Our innovation attracts impressive partners, too. We collaborate with global leaders like Apple, Twitter, Facebook and Box, using data analytics and cloud technology to build apps that help enterprises make smarter decisions.
“We invite you to be part of a diverse team of thinkers and doers. Work at IBM, where the world’s top business and technology professionals are always up to something new.”

Careers at Nokia
“Nokia is a global leader in creating the technologies at the heart of our connected world. Powered by the research and innovation of Nokia Bell Labs, we serve communications service providers, governments, large enterprises and consumers, with the industry’s most complete, end-to-end portfolio of products, services and licensing. From the enabling infrastructure for 5G and the Internet of Things, to emerging applications in virtual reality and digital health, we are shaping the future of technology to transform the human experience. A truly global company, we are 160 nationalities working in more than 100 countries.”

Automotive Equipment

The automotive industry is another space that’s benefiting from its fair share of innovation, making it one of the most intriguing fields for PDEs. From designing sleek body styles to the latest, most technologically-advanced dashboards and consoles, there are ample opportunities in automotive equipment design at companies such as:
Ford Motor Company

Careers at Ford Motor Company
“At Ford, we’re not just making cars. We’re making smarter technology, stronger communities and a more sustainable environment. Join us and make something that moves you.”
General Motors

Careers at General Motors
“Being made for more means always pressing onward. It’s a concept that reflects GM’s constant pursuit of fresh ideas and groundbreaking solutions. The automotive industry is quickly evolving and we’re determined to be at the forefront of change, leveraging our creativity to define the new era of mobility.”
Honda Motor

Careers at Honda Motor
“Honda is always on the lookout for talented visionaries who want to transform the world. Explore our current open positions below and discover your future with Honda.”
Volkswagen Group

Careers at Volkswagen Group
“Be a part of Volkswagen Group of America and see what sets us apart.
“Are you an innovator? Do you thrive as part of a committed team? Do you love to find creative solutions to old challenges? Do you want to make an impact and help your company and your career advance together? Are you passionate about helping customers go further, faster? If so, this just may be the kind of place for you.”
Toyota Motor

Careers at Toyota Motor
“We believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen. That’s what led us to great innovations like the Prius and the zero-emission, hydrogen-fueled Mirai. And it’s what’s driving us to deliver the next generation of mobility solutions to help everyone around the globe move freely and responsibly.
“Everything we produce is a result of the hard work and commitment of our team members. We strive to create a company with the best and brightest individuals who are empowered every day to innovate and share our know-how in ways that benefit people, society, and the planet. Let’s go places!”
FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Careers at FCA Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
“​​FCA is a global automotive group with operations in 40 countries serving the needs of customers located in around 150 national markets worldwide.
“Entering the world of FCA means getting a chance to work in a dynamic, multicultural context where people are valued for their aptitudes and their abilities, where one is gauged based on meritocracy and where dialogue, exchange and participation are a tool for sharing ideas and projects to reach ambitious worldwide goals together.
“Because of the guiding spirit and values that drive FCA, everyone in the organization has the opportunity to participate in a more certain and rewarding future and work in an environment where the exchange of cultures and know-how offers significant potential for professional and personal growth.​​”
John Deere

Careers at John Deere
“Looking for a career that matters? Looking for an opportunity that leads you in new and exciting directions? What about rewards that show you are welcomed and appreciated? Then here’s the information you need to make that life-changing choice. A choice that will bring you closer to top talent, offer you exceptional learning opportunities, and make you part of one of the world’s premier companies.”

Careers at Bosch
“Whether in areas of mobility, industrial technology, consumer goods, or energy and building technology, we continue to produce groundbreaking technology to improve lives. This is only possible with the help of a global network of more than 375,000 highly committed employees, who break new technical ground every day. So why not join us in starting something remarkable?”

Careers at Delphi
“At Delphi, we are dreamers who do. Our ideas inspire change. Our actions produce change. We collaborate, innovate, and execute with excellence, working hard to deliver a better drive today. And a better future, tomorrow.”

Careers at DENSO
“Our values guide what we make at DENSO, how we make it and where we’re headed. We’re committed to creating innovative solutions and helping out in our communities to create a better future for generations to come. It’s this commitment that drives us to continuously improve, fuels our passion and strengthens our company.”
Renault-Nissan Alliance

Careers at Renault-Nissan Alliance
“We love what we do. This passion filters into all aspects of our work, and is demonstrated by our commitment to the NISSAN WAY. This is our corporate DNA that frames our thinking (Mindset) and guides our professional behavior (Actions).”

Salary Information for Top PDEs

How much do today’s top product design engineers earn? There’s quite a variance in salary between industries, with the world’s most prestigious, innovative companies offering attractive salary and benefit packages to attract top-tier design engineering talent.
According to LinkedIn, the median salary for product design engineers is $79,000, a fair amount higher than’s 2015 median salary estimate of $68,382. It’s possible that LinkedIn’s data is skewed higher with higher-earners more likely to maintain LinkedIn profiles. In fact, according to Pew Internet, just 29% of online adults – and 25% of all Americans – use LinkedIn. Half of online adults with a college degree use the platform, and 45% of those earning more than $75,000 per year. More 18-to-29 year-olds use the social network than any other demographic, but barely: 34% of online adults in the 18-29 demographic use LinkedIn, while 33% of online adults 30-49 years old, 24% of 50-64 year olds, and 20% of those 65 and older have a LinkedIn profile.
Keeping those user demographics in mind for context, the full salary range for PDEs, according to LinkedIn’s data, ranges from $59,900 to $143,000. PayScale puts the median at $65,914 with a total salary range from $52,431 – $99,088, with bonus earnings falling between $1,057 – $9,557 and profit sharing between $980 – $6,183.
Like most career fields, the earnings potential increases with experience. According to PayScale, the median of all compensation (including bonus earnings and profit sharing) is:

  • Entry-Level (0-5 years’ experience): $65,000
  • Mid-Career (5-20 years): $68,000
  • Experienced (10-20 years): $79,000
  • Late-Career (20+ years): $95,000

PDE Salary Data - Glassdoor
Glassdoor offers another perspective on product design engineering salaries, using the average salary rather than the median and for specific companies in addition to national figures:

  • National Average: $81,042 (Range: $60,000 – $122,000)
  • Average Salary Reported for PDEs at Apple: $128,800 (Range: $78,000 – $188,000)
  • Average Salary Reported for PDEs at Ford Motor Company: $97,663 (Range: $70,000 – $120,000)
  • Average Salary Reported for PDEs at PMC-Sierra: $78,769 ($69,000 – $94,000)
  • Average Salary Reported for PDEs at Amazon Lab126: $117,439 (Range: $96,000 – $158,000)
  • Average Salary Reported for PDEs at Visteon: $99,712 (Range: $87,000 to $121,000)

PDE Salary Info - Indeed
Finally, Indeed offers its own analysis of product design engineering salaries based on the jobs posted on the Indeed platform, broken down by specific job title for U.S. jobs:

  • Product Design Engineer: $82,334
  • Design Engineer: $78,804
  • Product Designer: $90,096
  • Mechanical Engineer: $78,256
  • Product Engineer: $84,605
  • Mechanical Designer: $71,483
  • Product Development Engineer: $87,728

Given these various data points, product design engineers can expect to earn a salary between $60,000 and $80,000 in the early stages of their careers, with higher earnings potential with more experience.

Who Are Today’s Top PDEs?

Who are today’s most successful product design engineers? We pulled a few intriguing profiles as examples (by no means an exhaustive list of the top PDE professionals) from LinkedIn for more insights into what makes for professional success in the product design engineering field.
Grant Haug
Product Design Engineer at Apple
Grant Haug obtained his undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo and went on to pursue his Master’s degree in Industrial Engineering from the same institution. He worked as a Teaching Assistant at California Polytechnic State University in 2013 and was a Process Engineering Intern at Applied Medical later that same year before beginning his career with Apple.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Engineering
  • Manufacturing
  • Teamwork

Ariadne Smith
Product Design Engineer at Skydio, Inc.
Ariadne Smith earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010. Subsequently, Smith earned her M.S. in Technology & Policy, Engineering Systems Division and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, earning both in 2012 from MIT as well. She worked as a Product Design/Mechanical Engineering Intern at Boston Scientific in 2008, and after earning her M.S. degrees, worked for Apple, first as an Engineering Program Manager and then as a Product Design Engineer. In September 2016, she landed her current role as a Product Design Engineer for Skydio, Inc.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Product Design

Jon Hills
Product Design Engineer at Apple
Jon Hills earned a B.A. in Furniture Design from the Rhode Island School of Design and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Brown University. He first worked as a Mechanical Engineer in a part-time role for loft, LLC, later serving as a Mechanical Engineer for Ximedica from 2013 to 2016 before starting his career in Product Design Engineering at Apple.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Product Development
  • Product Design
  • Analysis

James Tarchala
Product Design Engineer at Aurora Bearing Company
James Tarchala earned an Associate’s Degree in Engineering from Waubonsee Community College in 2013. From there, he went to Northern Illinois University where he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2015. He’s worked as a Product Design Engineer for Aurora Bearing Company since September 2015.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Time Management
  • Customer Service

Paul Kwok
Sr. Product Design Engineer at Amazon Lab126
Earning a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Florida Atlantic University in 1992, Paul Kwok is an industry veteran who has held positions with companies like HP-Palm, Intel Corporation, and Huami, Inc., in addition to his current role with Amazon Lab126.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Product Development
  • Design for Manufacturing
  • Mechanical Engineering

Vikas Sharma
Senior Product Design Engineer at NVIDIA
Vikas Sharma earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Punjab University in 2001, followed by a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from San Diego State University in 2007. Sharma has held several roles with Entropic Communications prior to starting his career with NVIDIA in December 2014.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Engineering
  • Pro-Engineer
  • Finite Element Analysis

Nicholas Byrd
Product Development Design & Release Engineer at Ford Motor Company
Nicholas Byrd earned a B.M.E. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Detroit – Mercy in 2013. He went on to obtain his Master of Mechanical Engineering from the same institution in 2014. Byrd has held a variety of previous roles with Ford Motor Company before his current role as a Fuel Meter Design & Release Engineer.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Engineering
  • Microsoft Office
  • Mechanical Engineering

Kathy Spriggs
Product Design Engineer at Apple
Kathy Spriggs earned her B.S. in Engineering – Product Design from Stanford University in 2011. She went on to earn her MSME (Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering), with a Mechatronics Specialization, from the same institution in 2013. Spriggs has taken advantage of several valuable internships with companies such as Volkswagen Group of America’s Electronics Research Laboratory, Tesla Motors, and Apple, and she also worked as a Teaching Assistant in the Stanford Product Realization Lab from 2011 to 2013. She’s been working in her current role as a Product Design Engineer for Apple since August 2013.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Product Design
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Design for Manufacturing

Braxton Lathrop
Sr. Innovation & Product Design Engineer at Intel Corporation
Braxton Lathrop is a “Sr. Product Design Engineer with 27+ years’ experience designing and delivering products for a variety of markets including consumer electronics and medical devices.” Lathrop earned his B.S. in Product Design from Stanford University in 1985 and has held roles in mechanical engineering and product design for companies such as Nike, Welch Allyn, Inc., and others prior to his current role as Sr. Innovation & Product Design Engineer at Intel Corporation.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Product Design
  • Product Development
  • Design for Manufacturing

Sharvil Talati
Product Design Engineer at Oculus VR
Sharvil Talati earned a Bachelor of Technology degree in Engineering Physics from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi in 2011. He then attended Cornell University where he earned a Master’s Degree in Applied Physics in 2013. In addition to working as a Teaching Assistant at Cornell University, Talati worked as a Mechatronics Engineer for Carbon Design Group in 2013-2014 prior to taking his role with Oculus VR (Samsung) as a Product Design Engineer in August 2014.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Mathematical Modeling
  • Matlab
  • Optics 

Peter Mulqueen
Senior Design Engineer, Interiors at Tesla Motors | Product Design Engineer
Peter Mulqueen is “a creative design engineer, with experience bringing ideas to life in consumer products, furniture, and automotive design, with a focus on fundamental engineering and design principles.” He received his education at Swinburne University of Technology, where he earned a B.Eng. in Industrial and Product Design in 2002. He’s currently working as a Senior Design Engineer, Interiors at Tesla Motors.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Product Design
  • Industrial Design
  • Design for Manufacturing

Alan Luu
Product Design Engineer at Microsoft
Alan Luu attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 2009. Luu has served in Product Design Engineering roles for companies like Nokia, Microsoft, and Amazon Lab126.
Top Skills Endorsed:

  • Design for Manufacturing
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Product Development

What Makes a Product Design Engineer Great?

We’ve created an infographic to highlight the most common skills among the Product Design Engineers highlighted above as well as the most common traits and characteristics necessary for success in this competitive field (discussed in more detail the section below). Feel free to share it, but please credit Pannam as the source.
What makes a PDE Great?

Traits and Characteristics of the Most Successful PDEs

What lands product design engineers the job? According to and other sources, there are a few essential skills and characteristics that increase a PDE’s odds of getting a lucrative job offer including:

  • A Bachelor’s degree (typically a minimum requirement)
  • Familiarity with products in the target industry
  • Proficiency with design software applications such as AutoCAD and SolidWorks as well as general-purpose applications such as Microsoft Office and Adobe Acrobat
  • Empathy (which aids in usability design for target users), flexibility (the ability to roll with the punches), and an innovative mindset (thinking in non-linear ways to envision better product design)
  • Project management and production design skills, as well as problem solving skills
  • A collaborative mindset (for working in teams) and multi-disciplinary knowledge (for interfacing with other key stakeholders, departments, etc.)

There are no shortage of leading learning institutions that arm students with the skills and know-how to become tomorrow’s innovators. Whether they choose to pursue education in mechanical engineering or take advantage of programs of study focused specifically on product design, students can take a variety of paths to achieve their dreams. But to truly make a mark in today’s most innovative companies, product design engineers require more than the technical expertise it takes to get the job done; they need to be independent thinkers who can find the balance between thinking outside the box and collaborating within teams, maintaining the empathy needed to envision the needs and challenges of end users, and above all, a willingness to dare to dream of what’s never been done before.

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