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project engineer in a meeting with other project engineers standing around reading a piping and instrument diagram.

What is a Project Engineer?

A Project Engineer manages technical or engineering projects. They work with stakeholders at all levels, with direct responsibility for budgeting, personnel and project planning.

Let’s take a closer look at the details of the role of a Project Engineer.

Project engineering is typically the management of engineering and technical projects – this includes management of personnel, budget, and scheduling to deliver a successful project outcome that is fit for purpose.

In addition to these factors, a significant consideration of the work of project engineers is the safety of the project. They will work to minimize the risks associated with engineering projects.

The project engineer will act a coordinating figure, dealing with stakeholders across all areas of the project. They will interpret the needs, expectations, and limitations of each, and bring them together with the aim of successful project delivery.

What does a Project Engineer do?

The role of a Project Engineer can vary from project to project. Project Engineers can be the individual in charge of a project or they can be a co-lead or an assistant alongside a project manager, giving advice and supervision to the engineering aspects of the project.

Whatever the specific set up, the project engineer will likely be the one in charge of the technical considerations and team within a project.

As well as office-based time, a project engineer will likely spend a significant amount of time “on site” at the project.

Although specifics can vary, general tasks often include:

  • Interpretation of the desired outcome into a detailed plan that can be implemented by a project team
  • Planning and forecasting of the project
  • Acquisition of appropriate staff, materials, and equipment
  • Liaising with contractors, suppliers and internal company stakeholders
  • Keeping the project on schedule
  • Keeping the project on budget
  • Man management of the project team
  • Ongoing reporting of the project progress
  • Ensuring that all aspects of the project proceed while adhering to internal company SOPs as well as external regulations and laws – this includes maintenance of project documentation
  • Troubleshooting problems as they arise on a project – finding efficient and effective solutions
  • Commissioning and qualification responsibilities

Watch this Video on a Project Engineer’s Role

To hear more about the work of a Project Engineer role in the pharmaceutical sector, check out this video from Life Science Consultants.

What Skills Do I Need?

The ideal skill set for someone moving into project engineering includes:

  • Organisational Skills – this is a key requirement for a project engineering role. They must be able to prioritize workloads, problems and the needs of all members of their multidisciplinary team.
  • Communication Skills – is in regular communication and direct management of a multidisciplinary team. They have to be able to outline project deliverables, understand problems and convey effective workarounds to members of the team to ensure the project continues as intended. Also likely to have direct communication with stakeholders at all levels (including suppliers, management and project staff), have to be able to understand and adjust to the priorities of each.
  • Problem Solving Abilities – they are ultimately responsible for the engineering aspects of a project (or potentially the whole project), they must be able to find appropriate solutions for problems as they arise.
  • Keen Attention to Detail – in the management of a multidisciplinary team, they must be able to focus on many tasks at once while still maintaining close attention to the details of each.
  • Commercial Awareness – more than many other engineering roles, a project engineer must possess the commercial awareness to deliver project outcomes on schedule and on budget, while still maintaining its safety.
  • Decisiveness – will be required to make significant decisions on a routine basis. Must be able to assess and understand the facts involved before reaching an objective decision that they will be fully accountable for.

Becoming a Project Engineer

To manage any engineering project, you are going to need a deep and thorough understanding of its technical aspects combined with real-world hands-on experience. And so for this reason, project engineering is generally not considered a standalone engineering or academic discipline in and of itself. Rather, the techniques used are added on to an existing engineering qualification such as mechanical, civil, chemical, process, petroleum, electrical, automation, etc, or learned on the job. Lots of universities or colleges offer project management certificates through their existing management, business, or professional education programs.

In addition, there is a wide range of professional institutions and accreditation bodies that offer certification. Here is a selection so some of the most common certifications. But there are many others.

Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM)®
The program is administered by the Project Management Institute (PMI). The Certified Associate in Project Management is the precursor to the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification (See below). If you don’t have a college degree,  have limited project management experience or want to get PMP certification in steps rather than all at once, the CAPM is a stepping-stone to the more rigorous PMP.

Project Management Professional (PMP)®
This is one of the top project management certifications and is issued by the Project Management Institute. The certification process is a rigorous test that covers absolutely everything you need to prove your knowledge and skill in managing the “triple constraints”: time, cost and scope.

International Project Management Association (IPMA-B), (IPMA-C) and (IPMA-D)
IPMA  divided their accreditation levels into levels B, C and D. Level B is intended for larger, more complex projects where analytical project management techniques are a major part of the management of the project.  Level C is intended for small, less complex projects where project management often is more based on relationships than analytical methods. Level D is the lowest level and is the only one which does not require an on-site visit by IPMA-certified assessors

PRINCE2® Project Management Certifications
This is the main PRINCE2 certification, administered by Axelos in the UK. It is based on the PRINCE2 manual “Managing Successful Projects with PRINCE2.” The accreditation is broken into two levels. “PRINCE2 Foundation Examination” and the “PRINCE2 Practitioner certification”

What Kind of Jobs Can Project Engineers Get in Pharma?

As a project engineer, coming from outside this sector, your main opportunities would be managing capital projects within the pharmaceutical industry, medical device industry or the many engineering consultancies that focus on these sectors.

Depending on your background, you probably won’t need training in Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) while working on capital projects but it would absolutely bolster your qualifications. Check out our GMP for Beginners in the Pharmaceutical Industry to learn about the GMPs and the risk management techniques used in the FDA regulated manufacturing environment.

In addition, you should certainly consider learning how to populate IQ OQ PQ Validation Protocols as knowledge of them is a fundamental skill set of any engineer working in this sector and you are going to encounter them on a regular basis.

Apart from “Project Engineer” or “Senior Project Engineer”, here are some of the more common job titles we see advertised.

  • Project Automation (OEM) Engineer
  • Project Engineer, (Ops Readiness)
  • Project Engineer- Service & Maintenance
  • Engineering Projects Manager
  • Project Manager (Pharma)

Another career option would be to retrain for validation roles. Check out out our Validation Training Course (ONLINE)

And finally, you could retrain and move into plant engineering roles. Check out our 15-week online Conversion Course into Engineering Roles in Pharma to learn GMPs and how the purified water, steam, and clean air systems that underpin aseptic processing work.

Project Engineer Salaries & Job Growth

Check out our salary guide for Project Engineer salary information local to you.

Project Engineer Resume Tips

As with all resumes, it’s extremely important that you tailor your Project Engineer resume to reflect the language used within the job advert. Where you have relevant experience or skills, use the words and phrases that the employer has used to describe them. Do not assume that someone will read similar wording and know what you mean.

Project Engineer roles will typically be looking for the skills previously outlined:

  • Organisational Skills
  • Problem Solving Abilities
  • Keen Attention to Detail
  • Commercial Awareness
  • Communication Skills
  • Decisiveness

For more help with your resume, check out these templates and this list of 30 tips to improve your resume.

Project Engineer Job Vacancies in Pharma

For more information on currently available Project Engineering roles, head to our jobs boards and select Engineering or Engineering Projects in the “Jobs by Category” menu. We currently have jobs boards for Ireland and the UK.