Sales engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field. However, workers without a degree but with previous sales experience as well as technical experience or training sometimes hold the title of sales engineer. Also, workers who have a degree in a science, such as chemistry, or in business with little or no previous sales experience may be called sales engineers.
University engineering programs generally require four years of study. They vary in content, but all programs include courses in math and the physical sciences. In addition, most require developing strong computer skills. Some programs offer a general engineering curriculum; students then specialize on the job or in graduate school. Most programs, however, require students to choose an area of specialization. The most common majors are electrical, mechanical, or civil engineering, but some programs offer additional majors, such as chemical, biomedical, or computer hardware engineering.
New graduates with engineering degrees may need sales experience and training before they can work independently as sales engineers. Training 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.