If you enjoy managing a team of engineers, then a job as a chief engineer is likely a good fit for you. A chief engineer oversees construction projects, manages infrastructure and waterway developments, creates plans for extracting natural resources, supervises teams to develop efficient industry production methods and manages commercial real estate developments. She ensures engineering projects run smoothly. Chief engineers have engineering degrees and years of experience in the field, but many of their responsibilities require less technical ability and more supervisory skill, such as project and labor management.
Chief engineers negotiate contracts with individuals, private businesses and government organizations before work ever begins. One of their primary objectives is to develop productive working relationships with clients, contractors, marketing managers and material suppliers so there's no confusion as to cost, limitations and the time frame needed to complete projects. Most chief engineers hold degrees in a particular engineering field, such as civil, electrical, environmental, mechanical, chemical or petroleum, so they often consult other experienced engineers when projects require specialized skills in a field other than their own. As chief engineer, it's your responsibility to do the research so you can carefully negotiate contracts and prepare budgets according to the supplies, labor force, expertise and equipment necessary for project completion.
Plan, strategize and pull your resources together. A chief engineer must prioritize tasks, streamline the scope of the project and create short- and long-term goals. Part of the job requires leading research and development teams and coordinating work efforts to develop new products, production methods and designs. You must conduct feasibility studies and map your technical goals so you have an appropriate labor force and the necessary equipment in place to advance the project. Most engineering projects have benchmarks and due dates, so it's the chief engineer's job to ensure plans and resources align. It's advantageous to delegate tasks quickly and efficiently so subordinate engineers can help carry the workload.
Master in Command
A chief engineer's primary objective is to oversee projects and supervise engineers or laborers working under her. As the project leader, your word is the final say on production methods, technical requirements, progress and development. Tasks might include supervising your engineering team's work efforts, training personnel on new design methods, resolving conflicts between contractors and suppliers, holding technical meetings with workers and clients to discuss progress, or troubleshooting technical issues that require specialized skills or out-of-the-box solutions. A chief engineer keeps all the plates spinning without letting important details fall through the cracks.
Follow the rules. Even though a chief engineer has other well-trained, educated, experienced engineers working under her, it's her responsibility to ensure all aspects of the project meet local, state and federal codes and regulations. Adherence to these policies ensures the project isn't delayed due to bureaucratic red tape issues that could have been avoided. Your objective is to keep up with new construction and development regulations and sign off on all required paperwork to secure the necessary permits. It's your job to ensure the soundness of the methods your team of engineers uses. You might perform site inspections, host training, or safety seminars for your engineers or meet with city officials to discuss codes and regulations. Part of the job requires you to prepare reports that document your adherence to these regulations.
2016 Salary Information for Architectural and Engineering Managers
Architectural and engineering managers earned a median annual salary of $134,730 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, architectural and engineering managers earned a 25th percentile salary of $108,040, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $167,290, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 180,100 people were employed in the U.S. as architectural and engineering managers.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.