By: Donagh Fitzgerald B.Prod Eng and Claire Wilson BSc. Last Updated: July 2024

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

A Project Engineer manages technical or engineering projects. They work with stakeholders at all levels, with direct responsibility for budgeting, personnel and project planning and making sure the project is finished on time and on budget.

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 managing the triple constraints of:

  1. cost  – the financial constraints of a project, or the project budget
  2. time – the schedule for the project to reach completion
  3. scope – the tasks required to fulfil the project’s goals) along with personnel 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 as 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.

BTW, if you are a project engineer and are thinking of retraining for the pharma industry, check out our Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Training Course.

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.

How do You Become 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 its 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 that 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.

You will need to know Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) if you are working directly for a pharmaceutical company on ongoing projects. Check out our GMP Training 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 and understand Equipment 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. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you are singing of on validation documentation you don’t fully understand.

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 Equipment Validation Training Course (ONLINE)

And finally, you could retrain and move into plant engineering roles. Check out our 18-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.

What is the Difference Between a Project Engineer and a Project Manager?

Within technical engineeirng projects, project engineers execute the necessary tasks of a project while a project manager is generally a project engineer that has a much more senior supervisory or management role.

Outide of technical engineering projects, a project manager is a catch all job title given to those who plan, execute, monitor, control, and close out projects. They would be accountable for the entire project scope, the project team and resources, the project budget, and the success or failure of the project. Typically you would find this job tile used healthcare, aviation, software development, real estate, publishing, financial, marketing, education, insurance, government, etc.

Project Engineer Salaries and 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 pharmaceutical jobs board for Ireland and our pharmaceutical jobs board for the UK and select Engineering in the “Jobs by Category” menu

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About the Author

Our Team

Donagh Fitzgerald

Head of Marketing & Product Development
Mechanical/Production Engineer

Donagh looks after the marketing and product development including the training and pedagogical elements of our programs and makes sure that all GetReskilled’s users can have a great online learning experience. Donagh has lived and worked in many countries including Ireland, America, the UK, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. Donagh has also served as the Program Manager for the Farmleigh Fellowship based out of Singapore.

Donagh holds Degrees in Production Engineering and Mechanical Engineering from South East Technological University, Ireland.

Image with Claire Wilison from GetReskilled Team

Claire Wilson

Content Marketing and Career Coaching

Claire runs GetReskilled’s Advanced Career Coaching Programme – our specially devised job hunting course that helps our trainees take that final step into employment by leading them through the job hunting process. She is extremely enthusiastic about helping people reach their final goal of employment in their new career path.

Claire has a BSc (Hons) in Medical Biology from Edinburgh University and spent 7 years working in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries.