Sales Engineers

Summary

sales engineers image
Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses.
Quick Facts: Sales Engineers
2015 Median Pay $97,650 per year
$46.95 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education Bachelor's degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Moderate-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2014 69,900
Job Outlook, 2014-24 7% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 4,900

What Sales Engineers Do

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

Work Environment

Sales engineers often work under stressful conditions because their income and job security depend on successfully completing sales. Some sales engineers may work additional and irregular hours to meet sales goals and client needs.

How to Become a Sales Engineer

Sales engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field. Successful sales engineers combine technical knowledge of the products or services they are selling with strong interpersonal skills.

Pay

The median annual wage for sales engineers was $97,650 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Employment of sales engineers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. As a wider range of technologically sophisticated products comes on the market, sales engineers will be in demand to sell these products and services related to these products.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for sales engineers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of sales engineers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about sales engineers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Sales Engineers Do About this section

Sales engineers
Sales engineers specialize in technologically and scientifically advanced products.

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.

Duties

Sales engineers typically do the following:

  • Prepare and deliver technical presentations explaining products or services to existing and prospective customers
  • Confer with customers and engineers to assess equipment needs and to determine system requirements
  • Collaborate with sales teams to understand customer requirements and provide sales support
  • Secure and renew orders and arrange delivery
  • Plan and modify products to meet customer needs
  • Help clients solve problems with installed equipment
  • Recommend improved materials or machinery to customers, showing how changes will lower costs or increase production
  • Help in researching and developing new products

Sales engineers specialize in technologically and scientifically advanced products. They use their technical skills to explain the benefits of their products or services to potential customers and to show how their products or services are better than their competitors'. Some sales engineers work for the companies that design and build technical products. Others work for independent sales firms.

Many of the duties of sales engineers are similar to those of other salespersons. They must interest the client in buying their products or services, negotiate a price, and complete the sale. To do this, sales engineers give technical presentations during which they explain the technical aspects of the product and how it will solve a specific customer problem.

Some sales engineers, however, team with salespersons who concentrate on marketing and selling the product, which lets the sales engineer concentrate on the technical aspects of the job. By working as part of a sales team, each member is able to focus on his or her strengths and expertise. For more information on other sales occupations, see the profile on wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.

In addition to giving technical presentations, sales engineers are increasingly doing other tasks related to sales, such as market research. They also may ask for technical requirements from customers and modify and adjust products to meet customers’ specific needs. Some sales engineers work with research and development (R&D) departments to help identify and develop new products.

Work Environment About this section

Sales engineers
Some sales engineers have large territories and travel extensively.

Sales engineers held about 69,900 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most sales engineers were as follows:

Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 24%
Manufacturing 21
Computer systems design and related services 18
Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers 10
Telecommunications 7

Some sales engineers have large territories and travel extensively. Because sales regions may cover several states, sales engineers may be away from home for several days or even weeks at a time. Other sales engineers cover a smaller region and spend only a few nights away from home. International travel to secure contracts with foreign clients is becoming more common.

Sales engineers may encounter stress because their income and job security often depend directly on their success in sales and customer service.

Work Schedules

Most sales engineers work full time, and about 1 in 3 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2014. Some may work additional and irregular hours to meet sales goals and client needs. However, many sales engineers can decide their own schedules.

How to Become a Sales Engineer About this section

Sales engineers
Successful sales engineers will have a combination of technical knowledge of the products they are selling and strong interpersonal skills.

A bachelor’s degree is typically required to become a sales engineer. Successful sales engineers combine technical knowledge of the products or services they are selling with strong interpersonal skills.

Education

Sales engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field. However, a worker without a degree, but with previous sales experience as well as technical experience or training, sometimes holds the title of sales engineer. Workers who have a degree in a science, such as chemistry, or in business with little or no previous sales experience, also may be called sales engineers.

University engineering programs generally require 4 years of study. They vary in content, but all programs include courses in math and the physical sciences. In addition, most programs require developing strong computer skills.

Most engineering programs require students to choose an area of specialization. The most common majors are electrical, mechanical, or civil engineering, but some engineering departments offer additional majors, such as chemical, biomedical, or computer hardware engineering. However, some undergraduate programs offer a general engineering curriculum; students then specialize in a particular area either on the job or in graduate school.

Training

New graduates with engineering degrees typically need sales experience and training before they can work independently as sales engineers. Training covers general sales techniques and may involve teaming with a sales mentor who is familiar with the employer's business practices, customers, procedures, and company culture. After the training period, sales engineers may continue to partner with someone who lacks technical skills yet excels in the art of sales.

It is important for sales engineers to continue their engineering and sales education throughout their careers. Much of their value to their employers depends on their knowledge of, and ability to sell, the latest technologies. Sales engineers in high-technology fields, such as information technology and advanced electronics, may find that their technical knowledge rapidly becomes obsolete, requiring frequent retraining.

Advancement

Promotions may include a higher commission rate, a larger sales territory, or elevation to the position of supervisor or sales manager.

Important Qualities

Interpersonal skills. Strong interpersonal skills are a valuable characteristic for sales engineers, both for building relationships with clients and effectively communicating with other members of the sales team.

Problem-solving skills. Sales engineers must be able to listen to the customer’s desires and concerns, and then recommend solutions, possibly including customizing a product.

Self-confidence. Sales engineers should be confident and persuasive when making sales presentations. 

Technological skills. Sales engineers must have extensive knowledge of the technologically sophisticated products they sell in order to explain their advantages and answer questions.

Pay About this section

Sales Engineers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Sales engineers

$97,650

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Sales and related occupations

$25,660

 

The median annual wage for sales engineers was $97,650 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $55,280, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $165,250.

In May 2015, the median annual wages for sales engineers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Telecommunications $109,880
Computer systems design and related services 109,220
Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers 94,370
Merchant wholesalers, durable goods 92,710
Manufacturing 88,360

How much a sales engineer earns varies significantly by the type of firm and the product sold. Most employers offer a combination of salary and commission payments or salary plus a bonus. Some sales engineers who work for independent sales companies earn only commissions. Commissions are usually based on the value of sales. Bonuses may depend on individual performance, on the performance of all workers in the group or district, or on the company's performance. Earnings from commissions and bonuses may vary from year to year depending on sales ability, the demand for the company's products or services, and the overall economy. In addition to their earnings, sales engineers who work for manufacturers are usually reimbursed for expenses such as transportation, meals, hotels, and customer entertainment.

Most sales engineers work full time, and about 1 in 3 worked more than 40 hours per week in 2014. Some may work additional and irregular hours to meet sales goals and client needs. However, many sales engineers can decide their own schedules.   

Job Outlook About this section

Sales Engineers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Sales engineers

7%

Total, all occupations

7%

Sales and related occupations

5%

 

Employment of sales engineers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. As a wider range of technologically sophisticated products comes on the market, sales engineers will be in demand to help sell products or services related to these products.

Employment growth is likely to be strong for sales engineers selling computer software and hardware. Strong overall industry growth is expected in computer systems design and related services, which is the top employing industry of sales engineers. This will contribute to employment growth for the occupation. Employment of sales engineers in computer systems design and related services is projected to grow 21 percent from 2014 to 2024.

Growth is also expected to be strong in independent sales agencies (companies that sell on behalf of manufacturers without taking title to the goods being sold). As manufacturing companies outsource their sales staff as a way to control costs, employment in these independent agencies should increase.

Job Prospects

Successful sales engineers must have strong technical knowledge of the products they are selling, in addition to having interpersonal skills and the ability to persuade. Job prospects should be good for candidates with these abilities.

Employment projections data for sales engineers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Sales engineers

41-9031 69,900 74,900 7 4,900 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of sales engineers.

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Aerospace engineers

Aerospace Engineers

Aerospace engineers design primarily aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. In addition, they test prototypes to make sure that they function according to design.

Bachelor's degree $107,830
Computer hardware engineers

Computer Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers. These engineers discover new directions in computer hardware, which generate rapid advances in computer technology.

Bachelor's degree $111,730
Electrical and electronics engineers

Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Electrical engineers design, develop, test, and supervise the manufacturing of electrical equipment, such as electric motors, radar and navigation systems, communications systems, and power generation equipment. Electronics engineers design and develop electronic equipment, such as broadcast and communications systems—from portable music players to global positioning systems (GPSs).

Bachelor's degree $95,230
Industrial engineers

Industrial Engineers

Industrial engineers find ways to eliminate wastefulness in production processes. They devise efficient systems that integrate workers, machines, materials, information, and energy to make a product or provide a service.

Bachelor's degree $83,470
Insurance sales agents

Insurance Sales Agents

Insurance sales agents contact potential customers and sell one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,200
Mechanical engineers

Mechanical Engineers

Mechanical engineering is one of the broadest engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers design, develop, build, and test mechanical and thermal sensors and devices, including tools, engines, and machines.

Bachelor's degree $83,590
Purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents

Buyers and Purchasing Agents

Buyers and purchasing agents buy products and services for organizations to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts, and review the quality of products.

Bachelor's degree $59,620
Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents

Securities, Commodities, and Financial Services Sales Agents

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies in search of investors, and conduct trades.

Bachelor's degree $71,550
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain product features, answer any questions that their customers may have, and negotiate prices.

See How to Become One $59,080
Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Sales Engineers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/sales-engineers.htm (visited August 27, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

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Work Environment

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How to Become One

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Pay

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State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

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Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.