Mechanical engineers are involved with the design, development, and testing of mechanical and other devices. They may work in a variety of industries, designing products that range from aircraft to appliances.
The work of mechanical engineers is very diverse. They design products, such as computers, cars, and refrigerators. They also design tools, such as the machinery used to make products. In addition, mechanical engineers are involved in the planning and operation of manufacturing plants.
Mechanical Engineer Job Duties
Mechanical engineers are responsible for a wide range of duties:
- Developing and designing mechanical devices, such as engines, turbines, or power transmission equipment.
- Designing tools and machinery to help create other machines.
- Conducting research to advance product development and improve industrial processes
- Collaborating with other engineering disciplines to ensure that designs are functional and comply with applicable regulations
- Researching emerging technologies to determine their impact on the field.
- Directing and managing the work of junior staff and contractors
- Supervising the work of engineering technicians and junior engineers.
- Evaluating the performance of machinery or equipment, to assess wear and tear or to recommend improvements
- Presenting engineering design concepts to clients or the public.
Mechanical engineers use their creativity and ingenuity to solve problems in the world around us. Whether they’re designing medical devices or 3D printers, they’re always looking for ways to make life easier for people everywhere.
Mechanical Engineer Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for mechanical engineers was $90,160 in May 2020. The highest 10% of workers earned more than $141,060.
The job market for mechanical engineers is expected to stay steady between 2019-2029. This is because of an expected decline in manufacturing sectors coupled with a rise in demand for engineers to work on the development of new sustainable energy, communications, transportation and other technologies.
Mechanical Engineer Job Requirements
The requirements for mechanical engineers are as follows:
Education: To be eligible for a position as a mechanical engineer you must have a bachelor’s degree in the field. You should take classes that provide a foundation in mathematics, sciences, physics and chemistry. Some employers prefer candidates who have a master’s degree
Certification: You will need to pass both the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) and Principles of Engineering (PE) exams to receive licensing. The FE exam tests your understanding of math, science and technology. You will also learn about engineering ethics, safety and professional responsibilities. The PE exam tests your understanding of engineering principles, design processes, materials, environmental issues and health and safety concerns.
Experience: After graduating from college, successful mechanical engineers will undergo on-the-job training during their first few weeks or months of employment. This training period helps them learn about their company’s processes, procedures and policies, so they can effectively contribute to its success. During this time, they’ll also work closely with experienced engineers who can help them troubleshoot problems and improve their knowledge of the field.
Aspiring mechanical engineers should seek out internships while they are earning their undergraduate degrees. Companies often look favorably on these opportunities and consider them proof that graduates have done independent research while studying. Internships also give students valuable real-world experience in a professional environment.
Mechanical Engineer Skills
A mechanical engineer needs to have a variety of skills in order to be successful. These include:
Mathematical skills: A mechanical engineer must be able to work with numbers and solve problems.
Computer skills: A mechanical engineer should have computer skills, such as knowledge of computer-aided design (CAD) software.
Time management: Mechanical engineers must manage their time well, since they are often working on several projects at once.
Critical thinking skills: In this job, you need to use critical thinking skills to figure out how best to solve a problem or create a new product or process.
Communication skills: Mechanical engineers need to be able to convey information about their designs and products effectively both verbally and in writing.
Mechanical Engineer Work Environment
Mechanical engineers work in a variety of settings, such as a manufacturing plant, office building, construction site, or research laboratory.
Mechanical engineers must spend much of their time working with their hands, building models and prototypes and designing products. They also work with computer-aided design (CAD) programs, and are at risk for eyestrain and hand-related injuries.
Mechanical Engineer Career Advancement
Mechanical engineers can advance to many different positions within a company. From a technical standpoint, they might eventually become a Mechanical Engineering Director or Senior Mechanical Engineer. In these roles, they’ll oversee a group of mechanical engineers and assist with the design and implementation of manufacturing systems. If a mechanical engineer wants to advance to a management position, he or she can become a Plant Manager, a Plant Supervisor, or a Production Manager.
If a mechanical engineer wants a change of pace, a new industry, or a pay bump, a move to a different engineering field is possible. For instance, mechanical engineers can transition to the chemical, biotech, or nanotechnology industries.
Mechanical Engineer Trends
Here are three trends influencing how Mechanical Engineers work. Mechanical Engineers will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Rising Interest in Renewable Energy
The need for more renewable energy sources has led to an increased interest in sustainable energy. Many of the skills required to engineer clean, renewable energy systems will be similar to those already used by mechanical engineers, such as the ability to construct and design machines and structures. However, they will also require new skills like computer programming and photovoltaic solar cell technology, which is only recently becoming more accessible and affordable.
The Value of Soft Skills
As the economy becomes increasingly service-oriented, soft skills are becoming increasingly important for mechanical engineers to excel in their careers.
Today’s mechanical engineers need to be able to work well with others, both within their own team and across different departments, as well as work effectively on teams that are distributed around the world. Furthermore, this trend is likely to intensify in coming years as more companies look towards outsourced models for product development—a trend that will only continue as 3D printing becomes more accessible and affordable.
Rise of Robotic Design
Robots are a common sight in manufacturing, but they have now begun to take on a larger role in the design process as well.
Robots can now help designers with everything from prototyping to drafting, which is opening up new opportunities for mechanical engineers and architects.
How to Become a Mechanical Engineer
1. Planning Your Career Path
Like many other professions, the experience you gain in school and during your first few years of employment can be crucial to your success. In most cases, you will start out as an intern or junior-level engineer before moving into more senior roles with greater responsibilities. Even after reaching the highest levels of the profession, you will want to continue to update your skills through continuing education to stay relevant in your field.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for mechanical engineers highlight their ability to create innovative solutions to difficult problems. To do this, you’ll need to discuss how you approached a particular project and what your approach entailed. You can then use this information to explain how you were able to create an effective solution.
3. Applying for Jobs
The best way to find mechanical engineering jobs is to network with as many people in the field as possible. Join professional organizations like the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Get involved in these groups, and make it your goal to meet as many other engineers as possible. Search for people on LinkedIn and reach out to them about job opportunities. I’ve heard from engineers at many companies that they often find good candidates by word of mouth. As you meet more people in the industry, make it your goal to find a mentor.
4. Ace the Interview
Prepare for the interview by researching the company and job position. Be prepared to talk about your technical skills, and any experience you have with previous work or internships. Be sure to also be familiar with the type of industry you are interviewing for.
During the interview process, try to make a good first impression by dressing professionally. You will also want to demonstrate knowledge of industry trends or best practices relevant to the job at hand; so come up with a few examples ahead of time.