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Professional engineers develop innovative technologies and equipment that solve problems. How do those inventions get out of the laboratory or design studio and into the hands of the companies and consumers that can benefit them? Often, this requires the work of a professional who has both the education to understand what these devices do and how they work as well as interpersonal skills to connect with buyers and make sales. These professionals are called sales engineers, and they work predominantly in industries like durable goods wholesalers, manufacturing, computer systems design, wholesale electronic markets and telecommunications.
Sales engineers are part skilled salesperson and part college-educated engineer. These professionals create and give sales presentations that explain how a product works while simultaneously working to convince the audience to make a purchase. A sales engineer knows the technical details behind a product’s operations and is able to translate that technical knowledge in a way that makes sense to business professionals who might not have a science or engineering background. Some sales engineers even work with research and development teams to help with the creation of a new product or technology, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Sales engineers also handle the logistics of making a sale. They negotiate prices and write sales contracts.
The only way for sales engineers to develop the through engineering background they need to understand the technical functions of a product’s parts and operation is to study these principles and practices. A bachelor’s degree is the typical requirement for attaining a role as a sales engineering. Most sales engineers major in some discipline of engineering, such as:
- Computer engineering
- Electrical engineering
- Mechanical engineering
- Civil engineering
- Chemical engineering
- Biomedical engineering
- Computer hardware engineering
Other sales engineers start with a degree in chemistry or a different physical or natural science. Studies in business can also be helpful, particularly because sales engineers are increasingly being expected to handle tasks like market research, according to the BLS.
An engineering degree program will cover the mathematical, scientific and engineering principles required to design and develop new technologies, but it typically won’t offer any sales training. It’s common for entry-level sales engineers to undergo training in sales techniques. Some employers even match new hires with experienced sales engineers who can help them learn about company procedures and their prospective customers, the BLS reported.
Despite the need for an engineering education, sales engineer is primarily a sales job. The occupation’s $97,650 median annual salary makes sales engineer one of the highest-paying business careers, according to the BLS. Overall, the job outlook for this occupation is about average, with a seven percent increase in opportunities expected over a decade. However, the BLS predicts strong career growth for sales engineers who specialize in computer software and hardware. These sales engineers will see job opportunities grow increase by as much as 21 percent, the BLS reported.
Sales engineer is an exciting and lucrative job for candidates who are as interested in business and sales as they are in science and engineering. To succeed, candidates need both strong technological skills and effective interpersonal skills.